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Hornberger's Blog is a daily libertarian blog written by Jacob G. Hornberger, founder and president of FFF.
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Mired in the Socialist Muck

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A controversy over food stamps in New York City shows what happens when people plunge into the muck of socialism.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is trying to prohibit food-stamp recipients from using their food stamps to purchase sugar-sweetened beverages.

The mayor’s rationale?

You guessed it! Paternalism, the ism that goes perfectly with socialism. The mayor says that sugar is bad for people and, therefore, as mayor of New York he wants to serve as the daddy for every food-stamp recipient in New York. He wants the local government to prevent people from ingesting sugar because, he says, sugar is bad for people.

Not surprisingly, lobbyists have arrived onto the scene. They represent the soft-drink industry. They say that the government shouldn’t be in the business of telling people what they should and shouldn’t buy. (No, the lobbyists didn’t issue a peep about the drug war.) The lobbyists say that they’re fighting for “preservation of choice” in the food-stamp program.

Why are the lobbyists and their clients really so concerned? You guessed it! There is lots of money involved here. According to an article in the New York Times about the controversy, an estimated $75 million to $135 million is spent on sugared beverages in New York City each year.

Needless to say, no one is challenging the existence of the food-stamp program itself. Most everyone (libertarians excepted) has come to simply accept this socialistic program as a given (just as they do with Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, education grants, farm subsidies, corporate bailouts, and other socialistic programs).

How extensive is the food-stamp program? According to the Times, “More than 44 million people — one in seven Americans — receive aid through the program.”

Public-health groups and academics are also weighing into the controversy, taking the side of the mayor. Their argument? They say that government has a legitimate role in controlling people’s diet because obesity and diabetes cost taxpayers billions of dollars in Medicare and Medicaid expenses.

Are you getting a sense of how insidious socialism is? It’s like a cancer that continues to metastasize over the body politic.

Think about how many Americans have become dependent on Medicare and Medicaid (and Social Security), most of them unable to fathom life without these socialistic programs. It’s no different with those 44 million Americans on food stamps. Most of them (and their supporters) are convinced that they would die of starvation without the stamps.

The government then expands its paternalistic control over the food-stamp recipients, citing concern over their health, while statist supporters offer support for the paternalism by citing how obese or sick people place a burden on Medicare and Medicaid.

Meanwhile, the soft-drink industry sends its lobbyists into the fray, who purport to defend “freedom of choice” by fighting for the right of food-stamp recipients to spend their tax-collected loot on whatever they want. Of course, the last thing the lobbyists acknowledge is that their clients have become as dependent on the welfare-state largess as the food-stamp recipients themselves.

I’ve got a better idea: Let’s acknowledge that the welfare state has been one big miserable and immoral failure, one that has made millions of Americans dependent and frightened wards of the state and (in conjunction with the warfare state) sent our nation down the road to out-of-control spending, borrowing, debt, inflation, and bankruptcy.

Then, let’s just ditch this immoral way of life (along with the military empire) and embrace a way of life based on economic liberty, free markets, unlimited accumulation of wealth and capital, free enterprise, genuine freedom of choice, and a limited-government, constitutional republic.

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.