Home
In this issue
April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Dec. 11, 2006 / 20 Kislev 5767

Oh, brother

By Jeff Jacoby

Jeff Jacoby
Printer Friendly Version
Email this article


http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Big Brother has been busy.


New York City's board of health voted last week to ban the use of trans fats in restaurants, a step that will force many of the Big Apple's 26,000 eating establishments to radically alter the way they prepare food. The prohibition is being called a model for other cities, such as Chicago, where similar bans have been proposed.


Is it a good idea to avoid food made with trans fats? That depends on what you consider good. Trans fats are said to raise the risk of heart disease by increasing levels of LDL ("bad") cholesterol. They also contribute to the appealing taste of many baked and fried foods, and provide an economical alternative to saturated fats. As with most things in life, trans fats carry both risks and benefits. Do the possible long-term health concerns outweigh the short-term pleasures? That's a question of values — one that scientists and regulators aren't competent to answer.


Different people have different priorities. They make different choices about the fats in their diet, just as they make different choices about whether to drive a Toyota, drink their coffee black, or get a tattoo. In a free society, men and women decide such things for themselves. In New York, men and women are now a little less free. And since a loss of liberty anywhere is a threat to liberty everywhere, the rest of us are now a little less free as well.


But the slow erosion of freedom doesn't trouble the lifestyle bullies. They are quite sure that they have the right to dictate people's eating (and other) habits. "It's basically a slow form of poison," sniffs David Katz of the Yale Prevention Research Center. "I applaud New York City, and frankly, I think there should be a nationwide ban."

Donate to JWR


Yes, why go through the trouble of making your own decision about trans fats or anything else when officious bureaucrats are willing to make it for you? Liberty can be so messy. Who wouldn't rather have Big Brother prohibit something outright — smoking in bars, say, or cycling without a helmet, or using marijuana, or gambling, or working a job for less than some "minimum" wage — than be allowed the freedom to choose for oneself?


"A nationwide ban," says Katz wishfully. It's an old temptation. New York's interdiction on trans fats was adopted on December 5 — 73 years to the day from the repeal of Prohibition, the mother of all "nationwide bans."


But Big Brother doesn't always appear as a hectoring nanny. Sometimes he comes disguised instead as a victim of the bullies.


Consider the plight of Scott Rodrigues, a Cape Cod man who lost his job with the Scotts lawn-care corporation when a drug test showed that he had violated a company rule against smoking at any time — on or off the job. Scotts no longer hires tobacco users, since they drive up the cost of medical insurance, and Rodrigues, a former pack-a-day smoker, knew about the policy and was trying to kick his habit. He was down to about six cigarettes daily when he was fired.


Now he claims that Scotts violated his privacy and civil rights, and is suing his ex-employer in Superior Court. "How employees want to lead their private lives is their own business," his lawyer told The Boston Globe. "Next they're going to say, 'you don't get enough exercise'. . . . I don't think anybody ought to be smoking cigarettes, but as long as it's legal, it's none of the employer's business as long as it doesn't impact the workplace."


It's hard not to feel a measure of sympathy for Rodrigues . Many activities endanger health and can drive up the cost of health insurance, from drag-racing to overeating to promiscuous sex. Yet none of those appear to be grounds for termination at Scotts. It seems capricious to treat only smokers so harshly.


But capricious or not, Scotts is entitled to condition its employment on any criteria it wishes. (With the significant exception of the "protected categories" — race, religion, etc. — itemized in civil rights statutes.) Rodrigues has not been cheated. No one forced him to take a job with an antismoking employer. Scotts is a private firm, and if it chooses not to employ smokers — or skiers, or Socialists, or "Seinfeld" fans — that choice should be legally unassailable. Rodrigues is free to vent his disappointment, of course. He can criticize Scotts publicly, even organize a boycott. (He can also go to work for one of Scotts' competitors.)


But forcing the company to defend itself against a groundless lawsuit goes too far. That is an abuse of governmental power — an assault on the liberty of employers to operate freely in the market. It is a different kind of bullying than the ban on trans fats, but it's an act of bullying nonetheless.


The price of liberty, Thomas Jefferson warned, is eternal vigilance. But too few of us have been vigilant. And the bullies keep gaining ground.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

Jeff Jacoby is a Boston Globe columnist. Comment by clicking here.

Jeff Jacoby Archives

© 2006, Boston Globe

Columnists

Toons

Lifestyles