The World According to Nick
My take on Software, Technology, Politics, and anything else I feel like talking about.
Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Unintended Consequences 

Johah Goldberg poses an interesting question... What do fat people, and the Swift Boat Vets for Truth have in common? Oh, you know he's going somewhere with this one.

Take fat people. As you've no doubt heard, obesity is on the rise in the United States - its prevalence among adults has grown by 74 percent since 1991, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Obesity (and sedentary lifestyles) may soon outpace cigarette smoking as the No. 1 cause of preventable deaths in America. And that's the ironic part. The War on Tobacco has helped to create the need for a War on Fat.
Of course there are other factors. One of the amusing ones is feminism. The entry of millions of women into the workforce has left less time for mothers to cook nutritious meals at home. Instead, these harried super-moms pop Hot Pockets (mmm, Hot Pockets) into the microwave - or they just go out to McDonald's (mmm, Mickey Ds). One study finds that an increase in the hours worked by mothers can result in up to "one-third of the growth in obesity among children in certain families."
Take these allegedly pernicious 527s - the independent political organizations which offend liberals when they criticize Kerry's war record (but please them when they call Bush a Nazi). These 527s are the direct result of "reformers" trying to muzzle political speech. The basic story goes like this. Free people (and the groups they form) say unpleasant things about a popular politician or cause. Journalists and politicians don't like this, for many reasons, but mostly because they don't like free agents messing things up. So the political establishment decides to regulate who can speak in politics, to create a barrier to entry for the competitors who aren't already elected or who don't already have a voice through a newspaper, movie studio or TV show. It's a way to make politics tidier.

Read the whole thing and you'll find that he's not saying that you should start smoking and that women should get back home. But he is saying that the McCain-Feingold act was a piece of garbage that should be used as toilet paper (well, ok... I'm saying that, he just doesn't like that law).

The point is that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. The problem when it comes to so-called campaign finance reform is really three fold:

  1. Politicians will never completely shut the door on money coming into their campaigns. There will always be loopholes. Anyone who thinks otherwise is fooling themselves. They write the laws, and they're the ones who will most be affected by them, so you know there will be loopholes. Duh.
  2. We live in a society that (less and less these days) values free speech above all else. It's number one in the Bill of Rights for God's sake. Given how ingrained that idea is, people will always try to find ways of expressing their views, especially when it comes to politics. People expect to be able to do that.
  3. People ought to be able to do that.

It has often times been said that the freedom of speech isn't meant to protect speech we like, it's meant to protect speech we hate. Nothing has been vilified more of late than soft money ads by political groups. Well, guess what. You may not like it, but tough shit. People ought to have the right to give how ever much money to whomever they want, free and clear. Just be up front and honest about it. The more you try to prevent it, the more people will find back door, shadowy ways to do it, which makes it harder to see exactly what's happening by who... which is the exact opposite of what you wanted in the first place.

We've seen it over and over again in our history and we have yet to learn from it. Ban alcohol... we know how that turned out. Bad drugs... not going too well so far. The British have banned guns... ask a cop over there how safe he feels (I'll give you a clue, they still wear vests). Unintended consequences are a bitch.

Oh yeah, and I should probably add that I do like smokers even though I don't smoke. The reaons are various, and I won't discuss them here.


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Name: Nick
Home: Wauwatosa, WI, United States

I'm a Software Consultant in the Milwaukee area. Among various geeky pursuits, I'm also an amateur triathlete, and enjoy rock climbing. I also like to think I'm a political pundit.

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