Long suffering San Franciscans were thrilled with the Monday edition of that city’s newspaper entitled "S.F. Leaders Go on Binge to Legislate Good Health." At last, they told themselves, even the mainstream media’s biggest backer of nanny state intrusion is finally saying enough is enough. Readers of the story, however, had their hopes for a hard-hitting exposé of the fascism overrunning a city that once symbolized tolerance, respect for diversity and a live and let live attitude rudely dashed.
Exhorting the mob: San Francisco Health Commissar Mitch Katz knows what’s best for you and has the power to make you behave.
Countering the encouraging headline linking the heavy-handed "health" legislation with out-of-control binging, a mental disorder, the Chronicle offered a platform to the head nannies and their operatives to explain just why controlling behavior is not only necessary but is also a moral crusade. Dissent from the coercive health-first program comes from man-in-the-street observations by citizens fed up with the unbridled control inhibiting their lives. Not one word from the myriad of scholars, historians, libertarians or economists who would jump at the chance to explain to the reporter why San Francisco, and the country, are headed down a dangerous path that can only end in tragedy.
The "credentialed" experts weighing in on the subject start with a flack from the Stanford Health Improvement Program who touted the efficacy of legislation in changing behavior. He justifies cracking down on smokers because, so goes the myth, of their cost to society and celebrates that California has some of the strongest anti-tobacco measures in the nation. He also says those measures are responsible for California reaching the lowest rate of smoking, which is flatly untrue.
Moving along the reporter takes the reader to a University of California at San Francisco pediatrician and obesity expert. Requiring restaurants to list the caloric content of their meals, in all combinations, is a good thing he says. Removing bad choices, however, is a better thing since, "not also changing what they have access to is unlikely to change the obesity epidemic." No fast food joints, no obesity, just as the governing class in Los Angeles is hoping to achieve in the poor part of town.
Expert three is a professor in the School of Pharmacy at the above university and "an expert in tobacco cessation," a term as inane as the level of understanding demonstrated by today’s members of the press. Professor Expert is fully on board an anti-smoker agenda that includes smoking restrictions, limits on outlets where tobacco can be purchased and high cigarette taxes. She also is enthusiastic about smoker demonization:
"Patients have said in smoking cessation classes, ‘I’m tired of being a social outcast,’ " she said. "There’s a stigma of having to go outside, and now [policies and legislation] is going to go farther."
Lest these three paragons of the therapeutic state fail tip the scale in favor of stringent legislation designed to save us from ourselves, the reporter’s cozy tête à tête with San Francisco Director of Public Health dispels all pretense of impartiality. Dr. Mitch Katz is a man on a mission to promote "structural interventions," a concept prevalent in "public health" circles for making it harder to practice unhealthful, as defined by the elite, habits or practice healthy ones. Structural interventions go beyond mere education (persuasion) to changing people’s environments (force). Forbidding sales of cigarettes from particular stores, imposing menu labeling requirements on politically incorrect restaurants, restricting smoking from "public" places and the full panoply of government coerciveness are fine and dandy with Dr. Katz. He is sensitive to the charge that public health has gotten a bit too big for its britches so offers this jaw-dropping proviso:
"We’re not dictating individual behavior – it isn’t a nanny state. What we’re trying to do is make the world a place where it’s easier to be healthy."
Such is the overall message of this article, which ostensibly asks whether San Francisco and the social engineers that run it have gone too far. The answer, according to the paper and its gaggle of "experts", is a resounding no. Elevated as gospel is the preposterous premise that health, as the number one priority in society, is supreme. Engineering behavior, by any means, is appropriate to ensure that health becomes the number one priority for all citizens and that those who do know best must construct the nets that will capture one and all and funnel them onto the paths that lead to health and implied immortality. This article masquerades as a serious look at governmental intrusion into people’s lives and personal choices but is, in truth, a con job pretending that dissenting voices are welcome at the discussions about health policy. When one side is represented by a plethora of thoughtful and experienced experts while the other side is represented by a few disgruntled cranks the true purpose of the story cannot be more plain.