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The future of the Individual Mandate

A NewsCore report published by Fox News today reveals that a group of scientists thinks sugar should be classified as a controlled substance, like alcohol or cigarettes, because the Little People are clearly too stupid to stop ruining their bodies by consuming it:

Researchers from the University of California-San Francisco said Wednesday that the public’s excessive consumption of sugar not only is contributing to a global obesity pandemic but also is critically altering people’s hormones, metabolism and blood pressure and causing “significant damage to the liver.”

In an article entitled “The Toxic Truth About Sugar,” published in the journal Nature, the scientists said that sugar consumption tripled worldwide over the past 50 years and now is contributing to 35 million deaths a year.

“As long as the public thinks that sugar is just ’empty calories,’ we have no chance in solving this,” Dr. Robert Lustig said. “There are good calories and bad calories, just as there are good fats and bad fats, good amino acids and bad amino acids, good carbohydrates and bad carbohydrates. But sugar is toxic beyond its calories.”

Once Demon Sugar has been properly classified alongside Demon Rum, these super-nannies recommend “using taxation, controlling access to sugary products and tightening licensing requirements to sell sweet snacks and drinks in schools and workplaces.” 

But don’t worry – they say they’re “not advocating a major imposition of the government into people’s lives.”  They will be “gentle” when they set about making “sugar consumption slightly less convenient.”

This soothing example of soft tyranny put me in mind of an argument often raised against the “individual mandate” concept at the heart of ObamaCare, namely that if it withstands Supreme Court scrutiny, there’s no reason the government could not require people to purchase healthy foods.  The hard work of the Sugar Police will be the sort of evidence introduced to make the case that Americans are simply incapable of managing their own diets, and their obesity is putting even more stress on our limited collectivist health-care resources than their wide posteriors place upon their much-abused couches.

This would be entirely consistent with the logic of ObamaCare, which compels transactions between private individuals and companies – under the penalty of severe fines – to address the problem of “free riders” consuming health care resources.  People with poor dietary habits can be made to buy healthy food under the same reasoning.

This won’t end with health-care-related purchases, though.  There are lots of other ways individual mandates could be used to compel private transactions for the public good.  Mandatory gun purchases, for example.  You certainly won’t be seeing that one from the Obama crowd, but why couldn’t the next Republican president point to the “free riders” who are overstressing police resources by refusing to take responsibility for their personal defense, and compel the purchase of firearms?

There are two more immediate areas in which Obama and his fellow travelers might make the case for mandated commerce, in the name of the public good.  The first is using “green energy.”  The free market has passed absolutely brutal judgment on Obama’s madcap “investments” in the green energy operations run by his top contributors.  They’re going bankrupt with the speed of dominoes ticking over. 

And yet, the President reiterated in his 2012 State of the Union address that the compulsory “transformation” of American to a “green” energy system remains one of his top priorities.  There clearly isn’t enough “stimulus” money to prop up these failed operations… so why not take the ostensibly “cheaper” route of simply requiring that Americans do business with them?  Compulsory use of mass transportation, compelling businesses to purchase Obama-approved energy resources, and similar exercises involving coercive power with relatively little immediate “spending” are the only way to complete the task of creating political markets that cannot survive in the free market.

The other mandate would be even simpler, and address what Obama claims is his other “top priority,” namely job creation.  Why not mandate that businesses have to hire a certain number of people, based on their gross sales?

At a stroke, this mandate would address many problems of keen interest to the Class Warrior In Chief.  Jobs would be created, while excessive compensation for Evil Rich management would be reduced, in order to fund all those new hires.  No longer would hated industries be able to scurry off with huge profits, without doing something for the public good – namely, hiring a lot of people.

Big Government spending would be greatly stimulated, as harried businesses would be looking for all sorts of government assistance with the flood of mandatory hires, including training and placement.  They’d be desperate for help just making sure they could find enough warm bodies to avoid paying big fines for failing to meet the Jobs Mandate.  And when they failed to comply with the mandate, those fines would create a new revenue stream for our all-knowing betters in Washington, to address other important concerns we peons are too stupid to attend to, such as suppressing the consumption of sugar.

If you like the health-care mandate, you’ll love those to come.  And there will be more to come.  When has the government ever acquired a new power without endlessly searching for exciting new ways to use it?

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Written By

John Hayward began his blogging career as a guest writer at Hot Air under the pen name "Doctor Zero," producing a collection of essays entitled Doctor Zero: Year One. He is a great admirer of free-market thinkers such as Arthur Laffer, Milton Friedman, and Thomas Sowell. He writes both political and cultural commentary, including book and movie reviews. An avid fan of horror and fantasy fiction, he has produced an e-book collection of short horror stories entitled Persistent Dread. John is a former staff writer for Human Events. He is a regular guest on the Rusty Humphries radio show, and has appeared on numerous other local and national radio programs, including G. Gordon Liddy, BattleLine, and Dennis Miller.

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