Life, liberty and the pursuit of doughnuts and Big Gulps

Can Americans have their doughnuts and their Big Gulps too?

It seems a timely question, what with Friday being National Donut Day -- and coming on the heels of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposal to limit the sale of super-size sugary drinks.

The Times’ editorial board weighed in Friday in its usual sober way. In a nutshell (OK, a fairly big nutshell, but put down your smartphone for a second and actually read something), here’s its take on the problem:

The move exemplifies the tension between individual liberty and societal responsibility that’s particularly acute in the field of public health. Americans cherish their freedom to live as they choose, without “nanny state” dictates from the government. But because they’re not willing to deny medical care to people who urgently need it, society has to pick up the tab for those who make heedless choices. Striking the right balance between the two will be one of the central challenges for government in the coming decades, as rising healthcare costs put an increasing strain on federal, state and local budgets.

Or, as you and I might put it: We want to eat and drink what we want, and when it makes us fat and sick and we can’t afford a doctor, we want someone else to pay for us.

Oh, and we don’t want the government telling us we have to buy health insurance.


This is sometimes called the Deliverance law, summed up as “stupid is as stupid does.” (OK, I just made that up; don’t Google it or anything.)

Except deep down, most Americans aren’t stupid. They know it’s unhealthy to be overweight; they know what foods are bad for them; they know healthcare costs money.

But we’re also human. We overindulge. We’re shortsighted. Sometimes, we plain mess up.

The Bloomberg solution, though, is just downright un-American. It’s as dumb as Prohibition. Though I might applaud its goal (toasting Hizzoner with a frosty 32-ounce cup of Mountain Dew), the method is madness.

That said, about now, everyone needs to grow up. You want to have a cigarette with the Krispy Kreme that you’re washing down with a Big Gulp? Then man up and admit that you also need health insurance. And admit that the healthcare reform law’s individual mandate isn’t some massive government attack on your freedom but a common-sense solution to the problem of rising costs.

Yes, you can have your doughnut and drink your bucket o’ soda too. But you have to pay for it -- and that includes health insurance.

Otherwise, that “nanny state” you fear is just sitting out there, waiting to spank us all.


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