Leonard Pitts Jr.: Freedom to make stupid decisions

BY LEONARD PITTS JR. Published: March 15, 2013
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Apparently, if you send two people venturing out, one to the extreme left, and the other to the extreme right, of our political spectrum, they will end up face to face. Because the distinguishing characteristic of extreme liberalism or extreme conservatism is the extremism; itself, the fact that some people just don't know when to quit.

Obviously, the state is sometimes obliged to impose restrictions. One shouldn't be allowed to sell Camels to kindergartners. Or do 90 on a residential street. Or discriminate by race, creed, gender, condition or sexual orientation.

But there is a difference between those restrictions the state imposes to protect the health, welfare and property of those around us from us or defend the vulnerable from exploitation and those the state imposes to regulate behavior that is simply unwise. The latter reflects a lack of faith in the wisdom of people, their ability, when properly informed, to make the right choice.

Yes, obesity is a crisis impacting our health, our economy and even, some have argued, our national security. We are a lard-butt nation waddling toward demise. Got it.

Yet if Americans kicked their cigarette addiction by a public campaign that educated them to the dangers thereof, what reason do we have to believe they would not be able to kick sugary soft drinks by the same means? None.

So Bloomberg is wrong, and Captain America was right. If one is not free to make one's own bad or stupid decisions, then one is not free. It is an abiding truth of which we seem to need constant reminders.

Perhaps you remember the axiom about eternal vigilance being the price of freedom. If so, you will not be surprised to hear that Dr. Doom, as he escaped, said he was only defeated “for now.” Or that Mayor Bloomberg has vowed to appeal.

TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES



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