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Crosscurrents logo 2021

The Nanny State: a Libertarian's view on legislating lifestyles


Marcy Berry is the Vice Chair of the Libertarian Party of San Francisco. She spoke with KALW’s Isaac Silk about whether the government should be involved with legislating healthy lifestyles.

MARCY BERRY: No. Not at all, no at all times, no. It should be left up to parents to families to the people in charge. It’s not, in my opinion, up to the government to address such things.  So, say if someone is obese, why is that person obese? She shouldn’t eat that much. I have children; they’re not obese. So, I don’t expect the government to make them thin. I expect myself to guide them

ISAAC SILK: What about in low income neighborhoods, or so-called food deserts, where healthy food isn’t as readily available, or for financial reasons people can’t afford to get healthy food. How can people deal with that without the help of the government?

BERRY: Were you speaking to someone upper middle class, I would say, “Yeah, that’s a good question.” However, I’m not rich. And I came as an immigrant with absolutely nothing. You look at me – I’m not obese. So, I think there is an excuse that parents and people use: “Oh there is no food.”

We lived in pretty, pretty run down neighborhoods when I was little. Very run down. You know, we were immigrants. We never had that problem.

SILK: I think that we can both agree that it’s a problem that obesity is as high as it is. I’m just wondering how we can go about getting people to be more responsible?

BERRY: You don’t get people to be more responsible. One thing that perhaps could be addressed is good education. And, of course, you could get me started about public schools and we could have another three days of good talk, but it seems like perhaps we could educate people. We could say, don’t sit in front of the television. And, you know, look good, go out and run around the block, it’s free.

SILK: But who’s that we?

BERRY: The parents. How about getting the parents involved? The school? The teachers? Just, you know, talking to the kids, saying this is not healthy, this is what happens, show them the same things that appear in advertising like the lungs being all black, show the kids.

SILK: Ok, so lets move on. Lets talk a little bit about tobacco now. Um, so, do you think that the tobacco industry bears any responsibility for the damage to society that smoking causes?

BERRY: No. In the sense that, you have a business, you want to sell your products. It’s up to you to buy it or not. But, because we have – and everything is tied together, there are no isolated issues in the world – so, we say we need to have health care. The minute we have health care, you and me pay the taxes to pay for the health care. Then, oh my gosh, people are dropping dead from cancer. Who’s going to pay? The government. So we need to increase the taxes. So, everything is tied together. And who would we tax? The cigarette companies, of course, because it’s like a user fee. By the way, we Libertarians do believe in user fee. So if we say, okay, this is a user fee so that if you smoke – and, well, there is general government-supplied health care, what can you say, we wish there wasn’t, but there is – and so, the user fee is the best we can do.

Click the player above to listen to the interview.