Canada, stop nannying your people

For many people, university is a freeing experience. You might be living on your own, or living your life with a greater degree of freedom than you had in high school. You’re staying out late, drinking on Wednesdays, and skipping classes because of the previous two things. Yes, your parents may not have as much control of your life as they once had, but the government’s control is still as strong as it ever was.

Governments across the world regulate pretty much every part of your life, and our federal and provincial governments here in Canada are no exception. These parts often include activities where you’re the only potential victim, from how much exercise you have to get in high school to how hot your milk has to be cooked before you can drink it.

These kinds of regulations might be in place to keep you healthy, but shouldn’t people have the ability to make their own decisions about their bodies? If not, why doesn’t the government ban smoking, or drinking, or risky sexual practises entirely?

Because it can’t, and it knows this. Too many people smoke and drink for an outright ban to work. Just look at the absolute failure that alcohol prohibition was in every country where it’s been tried. From 1920 to 1933, the US attempted to control its citizens’ use of alcohol, leading to increases in two areas: criminal activity associated with the production and sale of liquor, and mortality rates linked to alcohol.

If you take away people’s freedoms too quickly, they start to notice and do everything they can to get around the barriers — often to detrimental effect. No, the more effective path is to just make it as inconvenient as possible to partake in these acts until the people decide of their own volition to stop. So laws such as plain packaging and the Smoke-Free Ontario Act are designed to nag you into compliance.

Health Canada goes as far as patrolling garage sales to ensure that “electronics are packaged with instructions for safe use.” If you think this a good idea, I’d like you to find all the instruction manuals for the electronics in your house. Manuals that you probably threw away immediately, particularly in cases where they’re easily available online.

I agree that things like smoking are pretty bad for your health. I’m just not willing to forcibly browbeat people into quitting. We’ve already seen attempts to extend this logic into areas as mundane as soda pop regulation outside Canada: New York City tried to limit the maximum size of a soda to 16oz.

Sure, sugary drinks cause obesity. So does chocolate, and lack of exercise. The sun causes cancer. Sex can cause STDs. Walking can cause falling, driving can cause crashing, and eating can cause choking.

Being an adult means taking on the responsibility of weighing life’s risks and rewards when making a decision. If you want to live an ascetic lifestyle, without drugs, or fatty foods or sunlight, that’s your prerogative. But don’t advocate forcing that on the entire country. It should not be the government’s responsibility to protect adults from the consequences of their own choices.