Don’t worry Mister Blue, we’ll take good care of you. Just think of it as sense and not surrender. But never think again, that you can think again, or you’ll get something you’ll remember. What will it take to whip you into line? A broken heart? A broken head? It can be arranged.
Tom Paxton was one of the great protest singers of the 1960s. A time when people were not allowed to vote – or eat in a diner – because of their skin color, a time when young men were being drafted against their will to help save Vietnam from the Vietnamese, a time when homosexuals were worried for their lives not whether or not they could stamp on a glass. In other words, it was a time when protesting meant something.
It was also a time when you could smoke up if you had um, when the three martini lunch meant well three martinis, and a time when nobody would have the audacity to tell someone that they could not have a cola, eat salty food, or for gosh sakes drink water.
Today’s Mr. Blue faces a different, but no less important challenge. The nanny state has become all encompassing and is now taking away people’s liberties not because of their sexual orientation or skin color, but to take good care of us. In my humble opinion that is simply nonsense. The nanny state is not about taking care of people it is simply about control. Since the nanny’s can’t pass laws to control people because of their race, they will simply pass laws to control perfectly innocuous behavior.
Nanny Bloomberg, the mayor of my fair city (in spite of term limits I might add) is the master of this, in part because there is no separation of powers in New York, but also because the population lets him. But Mr. Bloomberg’s decision to whip the people of Gotham into line by keeping us from – forbid – drinking refreshment beverages, is just one salvo in a increasing crescendo of similar events across the country.
Emboldened by the sheepish response to smoking bans, the nannies have gone forth banning everything from hydrogenated vegetable oils, to dogs, to salt to now in Concord Massachusetts for some strange reason that totally eludes me, bottled water.
I admit that since I came out of the tobacco industry I have a burr in my butt about this stuff. When I was the only economist publishing papers on how smoking bans had negative effects on businesses and communities, people working in other industries were not really supportive. I can’t remember how many times I was told, well, we’re not tobacco. In fact I still hear it today. But to paraphrase John Kennedy, Ich bin ein tobaccoer.
The fact of the matter is that the exact same people and the exact same methods that were used to vilify smoking and tobacco companies are now being used to vilify soft drinks, salt, cookies, beer, water, canned food. You name it. We are all tobacco now, and we need to recognize that the nannies are not looking out for the good of the people, but rather for the good of their special interests in the public health community, the trial bar and the regulatory bureaucracy.
Like the antagonist in Mr. Blue, the nannies are coming to whip us all into shape. A broken heart, a broken head – it can be arranged.