Tom Purcell, 4/29/2013 [Archive]

Reverse Psychology vs The Nanny State



Reverse Psychology vs. the Nanny State

By Tom Purcell

Get this: New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg wants to ban the sale of cigarettes — now legal to people at age 18 — to people younger than 21.

Yeah, that ought to work!

Bloomberg, as you may know, has become the nation's poster child for nanny-state policies. He wants to ban the sale of sugary drinks over 16 ounces — but a judge overturned the proposal. The city is appealing.

He has already banned, or tried to ban, trans fats, smoking in public places and salty foods. And now he wants to prevent anyone under 21 from legally buying cigarettes within New York City.

I know the mayor has good intentions. Our modern food supply, much of it processed to taste good, is filled with unhealthful things. There is a reason obesity is at epidemic levels in America.

But the mayor's attempts at outright bans will not resolve the problem. He is going about it all wrong.

Look, government has never done well in the banning business. Remember when it tried to ban alcohol?

That effort turned millions of ordinary citizens, including my Irish ancestors, into lawbreakers. They had to make their own hooch in homemade stills.

Prohibition also resulted in the growth of massive organized-crime syndicates. Not-so-nice fellows, such as Al Capone, became bloody rich selling illegal booze to thirsty customers.

Cigarettes offer another example. Every time a government body increases tax rates on smokes — Bloomberg is trying to increase the cost of a pack to nearly $11 in New York City — all it does is grow the black market for tax-free cigarettes.

So I have a proposal for Mayor Bloomberg — a reverse-psychology proposal. Rather than ban the behaviors he wants to stop, government should promote them.

Bloomberg should establish programs and committees tasked with encouraging 18-year-olds to smoke if they haven't yet started. The city could conduct seminars on the benefits of a good puff and explain how cigarette purchases generate tax revenue that supports many wonderful government causes.

He should reintroduce smoking in public places, including restaurants and pubs. Heck, why not make smoking mandatory in these places and establish an undercover police force to fine those who fail to light up?

Once he has that smoking initiative under way, he can begin to encourage use of salt and trans fats in city restaurants. Better yet, he can require that high levels of each be used in every dish.

And rather than ban large sugary drinks, he ought to go the other way: Ban the small ones, require food providers to sell drinks by the bucket, and fine those unable to drink it all.

It wouldn't be long before the public would be going out of its way to break every rule — by not smoking, by eating low-fat, low-salt foods and by eschewing sugary drinks of every kind.

Of course, such an approach would never happen. That is because most of the nanny programs coming out of our cities, states and now, the federal government, often have little to do with getting actual results.

What they are mostly about is busybodies' need to make the rest of us bend to their will under the might of government power — as is the case with so many government programs that produce unintended consequences.

There is widespread agreement that the American food supply and American vices are causing a world of woe, and we need to debate ways to resolve it. One thing is for certain: Nanny-state government policies will never work.

I'd suggest we ban them, but that would only get us more of them.

© 2013 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of "Misadventures of a 1970's Childhood" and "Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!" is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Sales@cagle.com or call (805) 969-2829. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

Download Tom Purcell's color photo - Download Tom Purcell's black and white mug shot photo
Why not run a cartoon with the column? We recommend the cartoons below as a good compliment to Tom Purcell's topic.
Click on the thumbnail images to preview and download the cartoons.

Related Cartoons

Bloomberg Weighs In COLOR
By: Steve Sack

March 15, 2013

Bloomberg Weighs In
By: Steve Sack

March 15, 2013

 Con  LARGE DRINK BAN OVERTURNED
By: Rick McKee

March 12, 2013

 Con  LARGE DRINK BAN OVERTURNED COLOR
By: Rick McKee

March 12, 2013

New York War on Obesity COLOR
By: Adam Zyglis

March 15, 2013

New York War on Obesity
By: Adam Zyglis

March 15, 2013

Bloomberg soaked COLOR
By: John Cole

March 15, 2013

Bloomberg soaked BW
By: John Cole

March 15, 2013

 Con  Big Gulp freedom COLOR
By: Eric Allie

March 14, 2013

 Con  Big Gulp freedom
By: Eric Allie

March 14, 2013

We do not accept and will not review unsolicited submissions from cartoonists.
Sales & Information: (805) 969-2829 sales@cagle.com
Billing Information: (805) 969-2829billing@cagle.com
Technical Support: support@cagle.com

FREE cartoons for your website if you're already a paying print subscriber!
Artwork and columns are copyrighted by each creator. All Rights Reserved. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited. [Privacy Policy]