What's the big deal?

by Russ Roberts on May 21, 2007

in Nanny State

In an earlier post, I wrote about the ban on trans fats in Montgomery County, MD. When I bring the topic up with neighbors, their general attitude is, what’s the big deal? Restaurants will find substitutes. Prices might rise a little. Yes, freedom is infringed, but is the freedom to buy locally-made trans fats products very important?

A number of readers here at Cafe Hayek have raised similar points in the past in conversations on related topics. Their argument goes something like this: there are so many important issues to fight for, why fight over these nanny state issues? What’s the big deal about mandatory seat belts or motorcycle helmets or the ban on trans fats. They basically do more good than harm, goes the argument, so why get worked up over something so trivial? Plus, they say, it turns off those who are skeptical about freedom. They think I’m crazy for getting excited over something so innocuous.

I disagree with these arguments. I think it is a big deal for many reasons. But before I make my case, I’d like to hear you make yours on either side of this issue. Is this kind of seemingly petty regulation worth fighting? Or should we just ignore it and save our breath and energy for more what are perhaps more important issues?


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