Chesterton and Lewis on the Tyranny of Bloomberg

G. K. Chesterton’s assessment of fundamental liberty:

“The free man owns himself. He can damage himself with either eating or drinking; he can ruin himself with gambling. If he does he is certainly a damn fool, and he might possibly be a damned soul; but if he may not, he is not a free man any more than a dog.” – Broadcast talk 6-11-35

Nanny Bloomberg is now going after popcorn and milk products, because he’s very enlightened, as is our self-congratulatory and appallingly smug 21st century.

And everything he is doing was understood in the 19th century as a fundamental tyranny. Particularly by Chesterton and C.S. Lewis, two pretty damned enlightened men.

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their consciences.” –C.S. Lewis”

Two Englishmen warning us from the early 20th Century, that to give up our freedom “for our own good,” is not freedom. It is acquiescing to tyranny with thumb in the mouth, iPod buds in the ear and the tv set on an endless loop of Dancing with the Stars and Say Yes to the Dress reruns.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Win Nelson

    Mayor Bloomberg will meet someone exactly like himself one day and will be surprised what it’s like if the person in charge doesn’t agree with you.

  • shana

    http://reason.com/blog/2012/06/06/we-have-evolved-to-need-coercion” target=”_blank”>Apparently, we’ve evolved to NEED a nanny.

  • http://jenniferfitz.wordpress.com Jennifer Fitz

    I think I’m going to make some popcorn right now. A giant stock pot full of it, to counter-indoctrinate my children.

  • dry valleys

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2012/jun/11/why-our-food-is-making-us-fat

    The observant will notice that the government had a malign role in the first place, because it intervened to support farmers (a favoured group, as are all landowners), as it now turns out at the cost of everyone else.

    The fact is, a lot of what government does causes more harm than good, for example its misguided efforts on the war on drugs, smoking bans (which I never supported- it disproportionately working-class men who have few enough pleasures without another one being banned), and now this. I’d agree with any libertarian that a lot of existing government spending is wrong, I just think it should be spent elsewhere, on areas that are now underfunded.

    (see also salt, butter, and the unpasteurised milk sold at farmers’ markets)

  • leahlibresco

    Were we less free when the top size of soda was 12oz? We live in a retail environment created for the good of companies, not our physical or moral well being. It’s not surprising that restaurants offer us drinks we ought not to want any more than Madison Ave offers us oversexualized ads we ought not to desire. What’s wrong with Bloomberg rolling back the soda sizes to the way they used to be? Is it that we prefer the companies suddenly acquire a moral concern and do it voluntarily?

    [Speaking only for myself, Leah, it's not about the size, it's about the dictate. But then again, I'm a non-smoker who still thinks a pub-owner ought to be able to decide for himself whether he will or will not cater to a smoking clientele. It seems to me that if we're really free, we have the right to decide something like that. Why can't a pub owner say, "in my pub we allow smoking, but if you would prefer a non-smoking pub, I can make these suitable recommendations." Likewise, I can say, "hell, no, I don't need a Big Gulp, but I would like that choice, if I did want it. There is a scene in the moving Moscow on the Hudson, where Robin Williams, playing a Soviet refugee, goes to buy coffee, and he is confronted with so many choices that he passes out. There is an argument to be made about "how many choices do we really need" (and I frankly wish we had fewer choices of toothpaste, because it's dang hard to find MY favorite hidden among the scores of them) but on the other hand, I don't like precedents saying "we the government will make that decision -- of how many choices we need -- and will provide the selection for you. -admin]

  • TXRed

    Regulating sodas is one thing, but if he thinks he can regulate New Yorkers lattés and get away with it, Hizonor has another think coming. Does he really want to face down tens of thousands of coffee-deprived journalists, stock-brokers, bankers and cabbies?

    However, if the State (however defined) is going to pay for everything, then the State is going to regulate everything related to whatever it pays for. That may be one of the most important warnings for those who do not care to have the State regulating certain aspects of life and of death.

  • dry valleys

    Has anyone here read the book “Nudge”? It’s a bit over-optimistic about bipartisanship, common goals and niceness than I am, but ok as far as it goes, and possibly relevant to this subject.

    [Have never heard of "Nudge" but in its own odd way, this is kind of relevant http://io9.com/5916970/the-22-rules-of-storytelling-according-to-pixar -admin]

  • dry valleys

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2008/jul/20/politics.society1

    A nudge is not enough. But they have got further than Friedmanite hallucinations, at least.

    Afraid I don’t grasp what that link is for- could you explain? I don’t really generate much content of my own, you see, I’ve never been the creative type.

  • Dad of Six

    Dittos to your comments to leahlibresco, dear admin person. I detest the odor of cigarette smoke, but if a bar owner wants to offer smoking as an option, that’s his business decision. Fries taste best when cooked in lard, and I will patronize the restaurant that does them that way. If I want a 22 oz Guinness, instead of a paltry 16 oz, I know what bars will serve them up.

    To paraphrase Reverend Wright, I am sick and tired of governments telling me, a 53 year old male, what I can eat and drink, how many gallons I need to flush a toilet and to take a shower, or what kind of light bulbs to burn. If I can afford it, and it’s not immoral, I should be able to do it.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Leah, do you really think the government—as opposed to those supposedly evil corporations—”cares” about you? Do you really see no dangers in it taking choices away from us? Do you really see no dangers in the state deciding—backed up by the power it wields—what people can, and can’t, eat and drink, and sell to others?

    (And, no, I’m not saying that corporations are compassionate; I’m saying that big government usually isn’t—and the bigger, and more meddlesome, it gets, the less compassionate it becomes.)

    And who are you, or Mayor Bloomberg, to decide what we ought to desire, and what we should want? We can decide that for ourselves, thank you very much! A corporation can try to persuade us to buy its products by clever advertising, but, if we don’t fall for their spiel, it can’t force us to do anything. On the other hand, government can force us to do a lot, if we don’t go along with it.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Many restaurants beloved by upper-class foodies peddle far more fatty, greasy, sugary, unhealthy food that any place that sells big gulps—but no one’s going after them (at least not yet.)

    It’s a class thing. The elites adore quaint little bistros, where you can buy squid tacos, deep fried in bear grease with a garnish of pate de fois gras, accompanied by pommes frites, sizzled in genuine lard, and a chocolate fudge tsunami cake for dessert, all washed down with three kinds of wine, and a draft of genuine artisian beer, brewed by gnomes from the Catskill Mountains—but Big Gulps? Bacon cheeseburgers? The horror, the horror!

    It’s a class thing.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Sorry about the double post. I didn’t realize it had gone in twice!

  • kenneth

    Bloomberg’s approach is ludicrous, and anyone involved with public health knows it will fail, big. Government can incentivize certain things without mandating them. Bump up the sales tax on junk food and virtually eliminate it for healthier stuff. People could still eat the junk, but they’d tend to make it more of a treat over time, and the rest of us wouldn’t have to keep subsidizing the fools who abuse it and the companies that sell it.

  • http://mominapocket.blogspot.com Nancy

    It is fitting for a Chesterton quote today(1936) on his assessment of fundamental liberty. Your last paragraph says it all…” It is acquiescing to tyranny with thumb in the mouth, iPod buds in the ear and the tv set on an endless loop of Dancing with the Stars and Say Yes to the Dress reruns.” Many people are not LISTENING to what is going on!

  • SKay

    If Obama is re-elected and Obamacare is not repealed we can look for this and more nationwide in the coming years.

    Remember–New Yorkers re-elected this man.

  • dry valleys

    I, further, observe that Bloomberg has been a Democrat and a Republican, then became an independent and supporter of the idea of a third party. Perhaps this is the moment when the two main parties finally come together, against him and his ideas :)

    You can ruin food by not using salt in its preparation, which is another thing bansturbators don’t appreciate. That isn’t a deficiency that can be remedied by adding some at the table either, it’s too late by then.

    What I would support is some kind of disclosure, voluntary and if need be mandatory, of the amount of fat, salt, sugar etc. in foods. It already appears in some restaurants. And they’ve just brought in a scheme in Britain, I don’t know if there’s a US equivalent, whereby restaurants are given a hygeine rating out of 5. I would make that mandatory with regular inspections. Then choice will actually mean choice, for once.

    On Monday, I had a takeaway (takeout?) from a Southern Indian/Sri Lankan restaurant. It was vegetarian, but also carb central. I knew what I was doing.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Nancy, yes, LOL, I love that paragraph!

    Bumping up the sales tax on junk food would, I fear, simply make it harder for businesses to operate, forcing some of the smaller ones to close. They could offer carrot sticks, or broccoli instead of Big Gulps, of course—but I suspect no one would buy the latter.

    I also suspect that consumers wouldn’t go for the healthy stuff; they’d pay more for the junk food, and patronize those places that offered it—or, they’d whip up their own treats at home. Getting people to “Clean their plates”, “Eat their broccoli” and consume only what’s good for them is a problem countless parents have never been able to solve; I doubt the government can succeed where they failed.

    And, of course, no one should have to subsidize anybody else’s health care—which is why national, taxpayer subsidized healthcare is such a bad idea.

    And what, exactly, is healthy food? there seems to be no real consensus on this. Remember when oat bran was being pushed as a cure for cholesterol? Now, it seems it’s not that effective. In fact, there’s some debate as to whether or not cholesterol itself is actually bad! Coffee used to be bad for you; ditto chocolate. Now, they’re finding health benefits in both. And hamburgers are bad for you—-unless they’re served up in some swanky place with a name like “Le Petite Bistro”, with aioli mayonnaise, on a rosemary/heirloom tomatoe bun, with a side of sweet potatoe fries, broiled in Crisco—in which case they become the latest foodie craze!

    As I said earlier, I think a lot of this is a class thing. Certainly, many of the sugary coffee drinks at Starbucks are probably as bad for you (if not worse) than a Big Gulp—but Starbucks is considered hip, so they don’t go after it (at least, not yet.)

  • http://jscafenette.com Manny

    Don’t get me wrong with what I’m going to say. I completely agree it’s out of line for government to dictate the size of soda. I am definitely for liberty.

    But we do have an obesity problem and it only seems to get worse and I’m certainly concerned about my child’s eating habits. What do we do about it? I’m sympathetic to efforts to turn this around. You cannot have a great nation if it consists of fat people.

    (I apologize to any over weight people. My language is such to make a point.)


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