About the Site Name

“Better fat than fascist” is recognition, borne of Michael Bloomberg’s soda pograms, that too often the supposed cure of societal woes is worse than the disease itself.

Ben Franklin said “He who would trade essential liberty for temporary safety deserves neither, and in the end he will have neither (italics added).” Franklin recognized from history, handing over freedom in exchange for protection from life’s difficulties will only place you under the thumb of others. The problems you will face will actually increase. This was an early prediction of how the expansion of government in America would fail to positively impact society.

BFTF is intended to further an understanding of how personal liberty enhances the human experience in every way. Freedom is not a tradeoff of happiness, it is the basis of happiness.

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While the name of this site is slightly mirthful, it casts a mistrustful glance at the current practice of government legislating much too far into our personal lives. A government that for example attempts to force good eating habits – especially when the reason is to limit government expense — can only be described as fascist.

A soft fascism it may be, but individuals and societies will always be at their best when people have the freedom to make their own personal choices – good and bad. When government tells us what not to eat can we possibly consider ourselves free and how long can we ignore the danger we face from the silken despotism of the nanny state?

The 20th Century proved humans are complex beings whose social, economic and political habits are not successfully regulated by the clumsy approaches available to government. Government is helpful and useful up to a point. Beyond that line of demarcation government action will either fail or, just as often, actually cause the opposite of its intended effect.

In recent years New York City aggressively pushed residents to quit smoking with a mix of punitive actions and education. From 2002 to 2012 smoking rates dropped by 35%. Sound like progress? The connection between quitting smoking and overeating is well known. Could that be related to why diabetes is up 33% in New York City during the same time period? You won’t hear that honestly discussed by city officials because spending tens or hundreds of millions of dollars to get people to trade one bad habit for another doesn’t make anyone involved look good.

In March 2012 Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia compared the government forcing citizens to buy health insurance to forcing them to buy broccoli. This was widely considered a silly argument against the law in question, but barely two months later then-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced his proposed ban on large, sugary drinks. Perhaps this will eventually succeed, only to see Tang snorting and molasses freebasing rates skyrocket.

When government is allowed to implement these restrictions, which predictably fail, it rarely admits the error and instead doubles down on ever more restrictions that cost even more money, further limit personal freedom with no benefit. Personal happiness suffers, stress rises, the economy is harmed, and government becomes emboldened to slowly trample more personal freedoms.

Thus, we are all better fat than fascist. But the problem with government micromanagement extends much further . . .
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“What has always made the state a hell on earth is precisely that man has tried to make it his heaven.”

Attributed to 18th century poet Friedrich Hölderlin, this is possibly the most prescient quote on modern Western governments constant creation of laws and regulations to right every real or perceived problem or injustice. When we are arrogant enough to think we have sufficient understanding of how a society or economy functions to make alterations without causing unintended negative consequences that equal or exceed those being remedied – a nasty catch-22 — we live up to Hölderlin’s view of over governance.

Possibly the best example is the U.S. tax code. What began as a relatively simple and effective means to raise revenue has become a behemoth of social engineering that harms the economy and the lower and middle classes, and lowers the amount the government collects.

The Laffer Center estimates the annual cost just to comply with the tax code is about $430 billion. Researchers at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University estimate in 2012 there were $452 billion in unreported, unpaid taxes. How many billions of dollars were not paid due to the Byzantine tax code is impossible to tell, but it is no doubt a sizeable figure.

Costs of tax compliance offer no value to the economic health of the nation because the work involved creates no economically useful product, will never make goods or services higher quality or production processes more efficient – in fact they cause the opposite by siphoning resources that could otherwise be saved and invested. Savings and investment build economies, make-work does not. If the Laffer Center estimate is accurate, the cost of tax compliance equates to domestically producing and then burning $430 billion in goods every year.

Social engineering in the tax code does not provide any actual stimulus to the economy. The best example is the mortgage interest tax credit. Does the tax credit for interest paid lessen the amount of money the government needs to collect? Obviously not, so the difference is offset with higher tax rates. It is a simple shell game with the added detriment of paperwork. Renters are penalized for not being able to afford a home. Nice touch.

You are most welcome to join me to consider how and why personal freedom is the basis for health, wealth and happiness. ©

Greg Smith

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