Today columnist John Leo has written an interesting article about the great nany state. There is no field haven from these people, from their war on smoking to their fight against junk food, from their attack on "distracted" driving to their meddling with Major League Baseball's steroid problem (this requires congresional testimony why?). The problem with this kind of legislation is that it tells people what they can and can't do outside of the simple capacity of doing what is right for society: in other words, it infringes on people's freedoms without doing anything to necessarily benefit society. "Animal House" character Dean Vernon Wormer at one point stated that "Fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life," but that doesn't mean that the government should be stepping in to prevent me from living in that way.
This kind of interventionism does several things, all of which are actually detrimental to both society and to individuals. The first is that it tries to prevent people from making mistakes. However, legislators should heed well the old addage: "Every time something is made more idiot-proof, God makes a better idiot." By preventing people from making little mistakes, the government is ultimately doing little more than setting them up to make bigger mistakes. Also, people once learned from their mistakes; however, as the government eliminates the "little things" for people to learn from, people have nothing to build their experiences on. Who do people then turn to for advice? You guessed it: the government.
Worse still is that a government's interventionism leads to a weakened sense of personal responsibility among its citizens. Why take responsibility for your own actions if it is easier to blame someone else? The directresult of this is manifested in the number and frequency of frivilous lawsuits. The cigarette industry then pays for people's health care expenses and the firearms industry is blamed every time a psycopath opens fire in a crowded school hall. The effect of this is that guns are far harder to obtain and every "sin" from cigarettes to junk food gets taxed. To see this another way, look at one of the hardest-hit industries: the medical one.
Once the concept of a "country doctor" was fairly common, but now is becoming increasingly less so due to the prohibitive costs of medical malpractice insurance. Meanwhile, many people (mostly on the left) clamor for a national healthcare plan to pay for drugs (also hard-hit by lawsuits, but expensive also becasue of the unholy alliance between HMOs and drug companies) and medical services; such a plan would, of course, spill ruin for everyone left in the medical field while bankrupting the federal government.
This lack of responsibility has more effects on our society. Most notable is that it has a tendency to spread,until nobody can be held responsible for anything. Indolent workers can't be fired, incapable teachers can't be replaced, and incompetent students can't be taught. And all of this is (at least in part) because the government doesn't think that we can be trusted to take care of ourselves. If this kind of thing continues at this rate, it won't be too much longer until they're right.