Point of View Columns

Knowing the Difference between Right and Wrong

Michael Bloomberg has been mayor of New York City for almost twelve years. During that time he has placed an unprecedented governmental focus on the health of the citizens of New York City. Many of his initiatives such as banning smoking in public places and cutting down on fats in foods have provided a measurable benefit to New Yorkers and life expectancy has actually gone up in Gotham City. But some people just don’t seem to know right from wrong.

I recall that when the ban on smoking in public places was initially proposed I thought that this was an unnecessary governmental intrusion. After all, the thinking went, when you go to a bar or a nightclub you expect that people will smoke and most restaurants had established no smoking sections. But what about the waiters, waitresses and bartenders?

I hadn’t thought about that angle. Bartenders, waiters and waitresses inhaled the equivalent of several packs of cigarettes every week with the attendant health issues – emphysema, cancer, etc. So banning cigarettes in bars, clubs and restaurants made a lot of sense once we started to think about the collateral consequences.

Similarly, banning the sale of half gallon size “cups” in restaurants and certain establishments did strike some as unnecessary governmental inclusion. And it might seem that way until we realize that the size of soda servings has increased to such monstrous proportions not because of consumer demand but because soda (and fast food) providers have learned that people will consume larger and larger portions if they are offered, thereby increasing profit margins.

Once we realize that humongous soda servings are not a liquid expression of individual liberty it is then time to think about the collateral consequences. The regular consumption of large amounts of empty calories has been proven to impact upon health issues such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

While everyone is presumably entitled to kill themselves, obesity, diabetes and heart disease cause a gradual demise over a period of years rather than some dramatic departure. And during that period of years individuals suffer needlessly while they place dramatic and unnecessary burdens on the healthcare system. Reducing the size of soda servings seems like a small step when you take into account the suffering and societal expense that could be saved.

More recently, the Bloomberg administration started an ad campaign in New York trying to discourage pregnancies among teenagers. The advertisements are not cute and peppy; they tell teenagers about the real consequences of teen pregnancies – life altering, negative and mostly borne by young women. Not a snappy happy set of advertisements, but there is always the chance that a few teenagers will pay attention and in the process make decisions that will allow them (and their eventual children) to have a better quality of life.

Incredibly, Planned Parenthood criticized the ad campaign as a “scare campaign” that creates “stigma, hostility and negative public opinions about teen pregnancy”. Somehow, in the universe of the leaders of Planned Parenthood in New York City, there is something positive, ennobling and enriching about teen pregnancy and heaven forbid that someone should splash the cold water of reality on teenagers who may know how to create a pregnancy but have little or no concept about how to plan and care for the consequences.

I can only guess that the leadership of Planned Parenthood in their private lives does not soft pedal the idea of teenage pregnancy to their own children. And I am positive that the executives of Planned Parenthood do not dwell on “alternative aspirations” when discussing such a serious subject with their own teenagers.

There is a serious disconnect between the advocates of “freedom” for other people – the freedom to die of obesity, the freedom to die of lung cancer, the freedom to endure pregnancy as a teenage mother or father – “freedoms” that they would never seek for themselves or for their own children.

We can all understand the importance of principle, but principle needs to be grounded in the reality of its application and consequences.

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One thought on “Knowing the Difference between Right and Wrong

  1. Right on, Wallace Ford! I greatly fear that we are in for some new version of the Civil War since the Right is dug in so hard. No actual war, perhaps, but deeper divisions than we have known in a long time.
    If we could only reform the electoral process and the gerrymandering that plays to the extreme Right, then we would have a chance. Hard work, but must be done before the Civilized Middle gets pushed off the map.
    Keep on writing, my wise friend! We need you!
    Steve

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