Yesterday Walt Williams published a brilliant article in which he contrasts good ideas with the role of government in our lives. Without letting on that he is being sarcastic, Williams explains all the benefits to individuals and America of a rigorous 4 day per week exercise program, mandated by Congress.
As evidence that my exercise regimen is a good idea, my doctors tell me that at 78 years of age, I’m in better health and conditioning than most of their male patients many years my junior. My question to you is whether these commonly agreed-upon good ideas should become the law of the land. To be more explicit, should Congress enact a law requiring every able-bodied American to lift weights four times a week and bike 40 to 60 miles each week? Just look at all the benefits of such a law. Americans would be healthier, and that would mean lower health care costs. People would have a longer working life. Men would have the strength to protect their women and children folk from thugs. In a word, there would be no downside to the fitter population that would come from a congressional law mandating physical fitness programs. We might title such a law the “Improving American Health Act.” The law would impose fines and penalties on any able-bodied person not found to be in compliance. What congressman would have the callousness to vote against such a beneficial measure?
And can’t you hear the media’s response to those “obstructionists” in Congress who would block such an obviously beneficial proposal? They must just want Americans to die! They must be connected to the monied interests of the coffin and liposuction industry! Or they are simply too stupid to see the benefits, and deny the science of exercise keeping us healthy!
And more, there would be no way, under the current rationales, to say that this proposal would be unconstitutional.
Our Constitution’s Article 1, Section 8 says, “The Congress shall have Power To … provide for the … general Welfare of the United States.” Our Constitution further empowers Congress to enact the Improving American Health Act by its Article 1, Section 3 — sometimes referred to as the commerce clause — which grants Congress the power “To regulate Commerce … among the several States.” After all, good health lends itself to more efficient interstate commerce and a larger gross domestic product. Sick Americans adversely affect interstate commerce and are a burden on economic activity.
So what kind of monster would argue against such an obvious proposal to improve American health?
Which type of America do you want? Do you want a country where there is no limitation to have good ideas forced on you? We could outlaw cigarettes and mandate condom use (without a conception permit). We could ban dangerous sports like boxing, and mandate daily cleanliness protocols. What is the down side to forcing all Americans to eat healthy, and punishing junk food eaters?
Or do you want to live in a country where you have the freedom to kill yourself slowly with carcinogens? Where you can make the decision of whether to wear a helmet when biking, and suffer the personal consequences of concussions? I think that freedom is being able to make a bad decision. They say that ignorance is bliss, but I think it is only the numbing bliss of a drug that makes you equally receptive to lying in the gutter on concrete as to sunbathing in a green soft field. I see people–when I leave Massachusetts–who ride their motorcycles without a helmet. This is insane to me that an adult would make the decision to not protect their brain while traveling on two wheels at 70 miles per hour. But it is their decision to make, as stupid as it may be.
To many this is not an obvious choice. A controlled, organized society sounds like utopia to some, with the state eliminating human suffering. But even if the state was infallible, I would not choose to live in this “perfect world” where all good ideas become law. We would be robots, not striving for happiness but for tranquility. We would all be surviving, we would not be living. To quote Aerosmith “You’ve got to lose to know how to win”. If you’re never sad, can you know what happy feels like?
This question breaks into philosophical grounds, and I cannot say succinctly what is the meaning of life. But I can say with certainty that I would rather fight for my next meal in the wild, than be a well fed zoo animal in a cage.