The government really doesn’t have the right to tell you what to do, provided you are respecting the rights of others. Yes maybe public order is at stake and restriction leads to greater liberty, such as when we pay taxes for public goods. Or maybe the line between liberty and fraudulent behavior is hard to define and we should err on the side of restriction to limit criminal activity. Or maybe you can imagine a paternalism so "soft" (brussels sprouts in the SEC cafeteria?) that no one could rightfully call it coercion.
But in the majority of cases, government really doesn’t have the right to tell you what to do.
You can huff and puff and tell me all about socially constructed individuals and the moral arbitrariness of the market’s bargaining solution. But the more you chip away at the rights of the individual, the more you are weakening the case for the morality of state authority as well. On a day-to-day basis states are made up of acting individuals. Bureaucracy can, if used properly, be an enabler of individual autonomy. But the case for bureaucracy, when indeed that case holds, relies on the intrinsic and instrumental values of individual autonomy.
Knocking down the moral status of me — the victim — does not elevate the moral status of the guy who works at the Department of Agriculture. Should reading Rawls raise your opinion of The Ministry of Silly Walks?
I want my non-pasteurized, not-aged-for-six-months cheese!
If you agree with the sentiments expressed in this post, you should read David Harsanyi’s new and forceful Nanny State: How Food Fascists, Teetotaling Do-Gooders, Priggish Moralists, and Other Boneheaded Bureaucrats are Turning American into a Nation of Children.