Every day we see a new story about how the government is "intruding into our private lives." This so-called "nanny state" that libertarians detest so much has our leaders telling us what we can and cannot eat (trans fat, soda tax), where we can smoke (no public buildings) and what we can't do in our car (texting).
Is this the beginning of George Orwell's 1984 and "Big Brother," as The Rutherford Institute writes on OpposingViews.com, or is it one big overreaction? Is government simply looking out for our best interests?
Not to get all John Stossel on you, but here are a few recent cases where you could argue government regulations have run amok:
-- In Michigan, a woman is being threatened with a fine or even prison time for allegedly running an illegal day care center. What exactly is she doing? Watching her friends' children.
-- An Indiana grandmother was arrested for buying too much cold medicine. It seems you're not allowed to buy more than 3 ounces of anything containing pseudophedrine within a seven day period. Pseudophedrine is a key ingredient in making meth. There's no exception for buying medicine for sick grandkids.
-- New York City, where trans-fats are banned and they're threatening a soda tax, now wants to ban smoking in city parks and beaches. Research is sketchy on whether outdoor secondhand smoke causes harm.
-- President Barack Obama and Congress are considering a mandate on health insurance, meaning people would be forced to buy coverage, whether they want it or not, whether they can afford it or not.
The battle between government intervention in the lives of Americans has long been drawn along political lines. Democratic President Lyndon Johnson dreamed of a "Great Society" where the federal government was in nearly every aspect of life. Republican President Ronald Reagan echewed big government, famously saying at his 1981 inauguration, "Government is not the solution to our problem. Government is the problem:"
But lately those lines have blurred. A study by the Brookings Institute of the Clinton years found the Democratic administration left behind a smaller government, cutting some 700,000 federal jobs. Conversely, the George W. Bush Republican administration greatly expanded government, adding more than a million federal employees. That study, also by the Brookings Institute, found while much of the increase was in Homeland Security following 9/11, there was also growth in such areas as Department of Health and Human Services and the General Services Administration.
But what some call the government's intrusion, others call the true work of the government: Make our country better and keep us safe. Here are a few examples of regulations that have bettered society:
-- Laws that forced people to wear seat belts were resisted at first, but they have saved countless lives.
-- Smoking bans, while unpopular with smokers and many business owners, have absolutely saved lives, according to multiple studies.
-- The trans-fat bans that are sweeping the country are making foods safer, and are saving people from eating something harmful they probably didn't even know they were eating.
-- President Obama promises that a mandate on health insurance would actually lower health costs for everyone, since the rest of the country wouldn't have to carry the burden of paying for health care for the uninsured.
So what do you think? Is government getting in the way of us living our lives, or is it making it possible for us to live better lives?