What motivates the pushy puritans we’ve come to know as the Nanny State? Last week, we shared our thoughts with three other “anti-nannyists” on a KBDI-TV (PBS Denver) roundtable hosted by The Independence Institute. And as panelist Radley Balko pointed out, H.L. Mencken had a good sense of what’s behind the “we know what’s best for you” mentality.
According to Mencken, “the urge to save humanity is almost always only a false face for the urge to rule it.” Fat bans, restaurant ordinances, and liquid “sin” taxes are among the many products of busybody bureaucrats that have proven Mencken right.
But as fellow panelist David Harsanyi of The Denver Post pointed out – and reiterated in his column this week – nutrition zealots are delaying the inevitable. Everyone’s time on Earth is limited, and some of us are perfectly willing to make trade-offs. It’s a decision that should be ours to make.

A few years ago, I heard a highly educated and successful author maintain that a life without cigarettes and copious amounts of alcohol is a life not worth living. There exists no warning label, no bone-chilling study, no crafty public service announcement that is going to separate me from my sour cream- and cheese-infested burrito.
At this point, anyone who doesn’t comprehend that french fries aren’t a suitable vegetable substitute will not be aided by preventive health care—unless it includes the cost of a cerebral transplant.

Take away all the rhetoric about “externalities” and what might buy us five more years in the nursing home, and what you have left is pure dietary puritanism. And, in Mencken’s words, “the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.”
Or happily enjoying a cheeseburger and fries.
Watch “Independent Thinking” in three segments on YouTube: Part One, Part Two, and Part Three.