The Nation's Pulse

Freedom Worth Its Salt

What will Big Brother outlaw next? Salt shakers?

By 4.28.10

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The Food and Drug Administration has announced that it will soon require the manufacturers of many food products to use less salt. They assure us that the changes will be calibrated so that consumers will barely notice them. That raises the question: Is there anything (other than sex) that the government can't regulate?

If people want less salt in their food, manufacturers will respond to their desires. As in fact they have already done. Stroll down your supermarket aisles and look at the number of products that come in a low-sodium variety. Soups. Juices. Peanuts. Crackers. Soda water. Cereals. Snacks. Cheese. Unsalted tops on Saltines! Frozen chicken Parmesan, cheese ravioli, chicken picatta. Chili. Vegetable enchiladas. Even sodium-free salt!

Why so many? Because consumers -- the market -- demanded them, and manufacturers responded.

But that's not good enough for Big Brother. He wants everybody to use low-sodium products, and he wants more of them. BB says it's healthy.

Maybe it is. But whose choice is it to be healthy? The individual citizen's or nanny government's? Ah, says BB, but some people are … well, you know, too stupid to realize that less sodium may be better for them.

The result is that we will all have to live in a society regulated for the stupidest among us. Is that really what America is all about?

And of course, requiring manufacturers to use less salt has to be just the beginning. The resulting product will be so easy to alter. Just -- add salt! What will Big Brother do then?

He will outlaw salt, that's what he'll do. Perhaps not in the home, but in restaurants. You laugh? In New York City, Big Brother Bloomberg (the mayor) outlawed trans fats in restaurants in 2006. Two years later, California banned trans fats in all restaurants in the state. And this spring Assemblyman Felix Ortiz, a Democratic from Brooklyn, introduced a bill into the New York State legislature banning any and all salt in public eating places in the state.

You say you will bring your own? Please. Big Brothers Bloomberg and Ortiz will be waiting for you. It will be a misdemeanor to bring salt into a restaurant, as it is, even now, illegal in many places to take an open bottle of wine out of a restaurant. That was easy.

But what about private eating places -- assuming the concept continues to exist in Big Brother's world? How will BB keep you from eating salt at home? Easy again. He will tax it. Look what BB did to cigarettes. Would $10 a pound cut into your salt habit? How about $20? Maybe $30?

The rationale is easy to understand -- if you put yourself in the shoes of a bright young Harvard man who knows much more about everything than someone like us will ever know. He will look out for me and you. As a McDonald's jingle of the 1970s went, "We do it all for you-ou-ou."

Why does the government want to regulate our behavior? There are at least two reasons, one stated, the other not.

The stated reason will be that since the government is paying for our health care, it has the right to make us behave in ways that are healthy in order to keep our medical bills down. It isn't fair for us to burden our fellow taxpaying citizens because we don't behave properly -- because we eat too much salt.

The other, and the real, reason is power: big-government types, like President Obama and his crowd, exist to control other people.

They have two goals: making the citizens utterly dependent on government (them), and managing every aspect of the citizens' lives. That is the leftist, progressive dream. And it is rapidly becoming a reality. In the land of the free.

Once upon a time, some people thought government might reach the end of regulating. Everything that could, reasonably, be regulated, would be regulated. Smoking prohibitions. Seatbelt requirements. Toilets that don't flush. Trans-fat-free restaurants. And the thousands of other regulations contained in the tens of thousands of pages of the Federal Register.

That is fundamentally to misunderstand the nature of Big Government People. There will never be an end to what the BGPs want to regulate. And as time goes on, the regulations will intrude more and more into the citizens' lives because the less intrusive regulations will already have been passed.

If the people really object to a regulation, the bright Harvard men will always fall back on the need to protect not just us, but also "the children," the permanent wards of that village Hillary the Lamp Thrower and her intern-molesting husband lectured us about.

Even if the bright Harvard men could protect us, the real question is: Do we want to be safe and healthy, or do we want to be free?

An old-fashioned American will answer, "Free." A progressive (a white-shoe socialist), having learned nothing from the history of the twentieth century, will prefer life in the Guiding State -- especially if he is doing the guiding.

What can the freedom-loving American citizen do? When is too much regulation too much to take? When should civil disobedience begin?

Surely not over salt.

But salt is not the issue. The issue is freedom. If it's okay to be civilly disobedient to demand freedom for blacks, why not also to demand not to have all of American life regulated, even if it's for the sake of the neglected children the progressives tell us it takes a village to raise? After all, the civil-rights movement began because some lady wanted a different seat on a bus.

But of course that fuss wasn't about the bus seat. It was about freedom. Now blacks can sit wherever they want on a bus. But soon they won't be able to eat salt.

In 1961, William F. Buckley Jr. expressed the hope that "when the Negroes have finally realized their long dream of attaining to the status of the white man, the white man will still be free …."

He won't be, unless he pays more notice to the deliberate, calibrated attenuation of his freedom.

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About the Author

Daniel Oliver is a Senior Director of White House Writers Group in Washington, D.C. He served as Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission under President Ronald Reagan.