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Nanny State and the Erosion of Liberty

  • Nanny State and the Erosion of Liberty

  • 20 March 2011 by 0 Comments

Nanny State and the Erosion of Liberty

By Richard Larsen

Published – Idaho State Journal, 03/20/11

James Madison, the “Father” of the Constitution, said, “I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.” His statement seems prophetic when we assess the encroachment on our individual liberty by what we could broadly classify as “well-intentioned” government officials.

This gradual elimination of personal choice and liberty, as well as our concomitant individual accountability, was partially delineated last week in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Kathleen Hogan, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency at the Energy Department was testifying to the committee when Senator Rand Paul inquired, “I was wondering if you’re pro-choice.” Hogan responded, “I’m pro-choice of (light) bulbs.”

The Senator responded, “Well, actually, that’s the point. The point is that most members of your administration probably would be frank and would be up front to characterize themselves as being pro-choice for abortion. But you’re really anti-choice on every other consumer item that you’ve listed here . Including light bulbs, refrigerators, toilets, you name it, you can’t go around your house without being told what to buy. You restrict my choices, you don’t care about my choices.”

“You raise the cost of all the items with your rules, all your notions that you know what’s best for me. Frankly, my toilets don’t work in my house. And I blame you and people like you who want to tell me what I can install in my house, what I can do. You restrict my choices. There is hypocrisy that goes on when people claim to believe in some choices but don’t want to let the consumer decide what they can buy and put in their houses. I find it insulting.

“I wish you would come here to extol me…to try to convince me to conserve energy. But you come instead with fines, threats of jail. You put people out of business who want to make products you don’t like. This is what your energy efficiency standards are.

“I find it really appalling and hypocritical and think there should be some self-examination from the administration on the idea that you favor a woman’s right to an abortion but you don’t favor a woman or a man’s right to choose what kind of light bulb, what kind of dishwasher, what kind of washing machine.

“I really find it troubling, this busybody nature that you want to come into my house, my bathroom, my bedroom, my kitchen, my laundry room. I just really find it insulting and I find that all of the arguments for energy efficiency you’re exactly right we should conserve energy – but why not do it in a voluntary way? Why do it where you threaten to fine me or put me in jail if I don’t accept your opinion. In America we believe in trying to convince our neighbors and but not trying to convince them through the force of law. I find this antithetical to the American way.”

The dichotomy presented by the Senator is significant: the freedom to choose to end a life while in the womb is sacrosanct while the freedom to choose what kind of light bulbs to use is trumped by government mandates. It’s okay to kill an unborn child but heaven forbid that we choose to use a 100 watt light bulb instead of a 95 watt bulb. This is not only inane and sheer lunacy, but it, pardon the pun, illuminates the morally bankrupt status of our steadily growing “nanny state.”

Someone once said, “Men fight for freedom, then they begin to accumulate laws to take it away from themselves.” And Louis Brandeis declared, “The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding.” Yet that is precisely what is happening as government mandates reduced freedom and choice in health care, health care insurance, energy consumption, use of salt and trans-fats in food preparation, proscribing the proliferation of fast-food restaurants, disallowing the distribution of toys with children’s meals, and dictating standards for appliances, toilets, and light bulbs. With every government statute and mandate, individual freedom is sacrificed anew.

Freedom is usually characterized as something fought for against tyrannical ideologies and totalitarian regimes. We arguably have a totalitarian state emerging right before our eyes where our individual freedom is steadily eroded by self-supposed elitists who think they’re better equipped to make all of our decisions for us.

There is a moral imperative to freedom that allows us individually to make decisions and to be accountable for the consequences of those decisions. Perhaps it’s time to introspectively assess if we’re still the “land of the free and the home of the brave,” or if we are now the land of the oppressed and the home of the nanny state.

AP award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, and is a graduate of Idaho State University with a BA in Political Science and History and former member of the Idaho State Journal Editorial Board.  He can be reached at


About the

More than anything, I want my readers to think. We're told what to think by the education establishment, which is then parroted by politicians from the left, and then reinforced by the mainstream media. Steeped in classical liberalism, my ideological roots are based in the Constitution and our founding documents. Armed with facts, data, and correct principles, today's conservatives can see through the liberal haze and bring clarity to any political discussion.

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