Say No To Puritarian America
Despite claiming to be like so totally anti-socialist or whatever, the dearly departed presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg sure talked a lot like a socialist at times.
Michael Bloomberg not only believed growing food for human beings was easy as 1, 2, 3. Michael Bloomberg also believed growing food for human babies was as easy as 1, 2. No three, because we’re talking about breasts, which tend to come in sets of two.
Michael Bloomberg supported the voluntary Latch On NYC initiative in which baby formula was to be kept locked up and signed out like medication, formula advertising was to be removed from hospitals, and women who wanted to use formula would have to listen to a(nother) spiel about how breast is best.
Latch On NYC wasn’t a draconian or mean-spirited policy per se, IMO — like so many nanny state programs, it was entirely well-intentioned. Once upon a time, formula companies had an undeserved inroad in hospitals, giving their product (and tons of advertising) away for free to unsuspecting new moms. I myself received a “free baby bag” from the hospital when I gave birth to my first child in 1991, stuffed with formula samples and coupons and child development magazines chock full of beautiful ads featuring prominently placed baby bottles. Additionally, many timid and insecure new moms have to deal with pushy nurses and loudmouthed relatives spouting half-truths about “not having enough milk” while attempting to get a very small red-faced stranger to latch on despite neither of them knowing what they are doing1
Latch on NYC was a well-intentioned policy, to be sure. But was it RIGHT?
I love breastfeeding. While it wasn’t always easy (and I’ll spare you all the details because I think focusing overly on the negatives is a tactic people use to deter women from breastfeeding) the happiest moments of my entire life have been spent nursing. I spent 13 years of my life breastfeeding, 10 of them consecutively, nursing 3 babies in a row, breastfeeding during pregnancy and then plunking the newbie down right alongside their big brother for dinner. I have helped hundreds of other women who doubted their abilities and struggled with it, to continue nursing successfully. And I even wrote an article about the breastfeeding debate once before.
But no matter how much I personally love breastfeeding, others are just not that into it, and surely if you’re a political party that believes in reproductive freedom and a woman’s right to choose, choosing whether or not to lactate should be a woman’s decision to make. For a party that calls itself “prochoice”, Michael Bloomberg’s Latch On NYC policy is ridiculous.
Why am I telling you all this, you may ask?? After all, Michael Bloomberg has fled with his tail tucked between his legs to lick his wounds and count his money, and he was an INDEPENDENT when he initiated this policy.
I mention it because Latch On NYC was ridiculous in a way that is very informative about not only Bloomberg, but a good many Democrats. I personally think that Latch On NYC was a policy pretty much any of the Democrats who ran for president in 2019-2020 would’ve signed on to had it been suggested to them, because they all believe in managing society for the greater good. Plus it features a simplistic good guys (new moms) vs. bad guys (big evil formula companies) narrative — catnip to Democrats. Latch On NYC would become Latch On USA, ASAP.
That brings us back to socialism. I’m going to make an assumption, and it’s an assumption some people will rail against, but I think I have the right of it. My assumption is that pretty much every Democratic candidate out there, especially the one who calls himself a socialist, wants to enact policies that are socialist-leaning in nature, increasing government control over a wide swath of human existence. You may not think this trend towards socialist policy is “socialism” per se, and Webster’s Dictionary probably agrees. Please feel free to tell me all the fancy words you use to dance around the fact that the Democrats want to move the country in a more socialist direction even if it’s not socialismsocialism, in the comments.
But I’m still going to use the word because most people know exactly what I mean by it.
While most Democratic candidates, even Bernie, define socialism in a very nebulous way to prevent themselves from being called out over the specifics (RIP Liz), I think most of us would agree socialism entails government managing society for its own good. Not just the economy, but national institutions themselves, like schools and hospitals and Amazon. Most Democrats want tighter government controls over public and private institutions alike, even if it means curtailing individual liberty to achieve it.
Autocrats like Michael Bloomberg think they know best for everyone, and sometimes they do. But the problem is, even when they’re right and they do know best, inflicting their beliefs upon everyone will carry too great a cost to civil liberties — and this is particularly true for women. It boggles my mind to watch Democrats calling for abortion to be kept legal because of civil liberty (a position I agree with) while many of them call on a woman’s civil liberties to be infringed upon “for the good of her baby” in lots of other ways.
Lest we forget, Michael Bloomberg also tried to ban 32 ounce sodas, a position I saw several liberal friends applauding because “no one needs that much sugar”, before it was struck down by the courts. A good many authoritarians, both Democrat and Republican, favor sin taxes on things like alcohol and cigarettes and gambling. They support bans on advertising for cigarettes and alcohol, not unlike the prohibition against formula advertising. All for the sake of public health.
I have absolutely no reason to doubt that most if not all Democratic candidates for president would favor public health policies that are fundamentally authoritarian in nature, like Latch On NYC. I feel certain these types of policies — banning advertising, limiting choices, and preaching…indoctrinating…er, I mean, EDUCATING the reluctant…at taxpayer expense would be more of a thing under a Democratic presidency than is now. Because according to the logic of socialism, it’s neccessary for government to keep its citizens healthy regardless of how much it costs in terms of money or civil liberty.
Some of you reading this article right now are nodding enthusiastically because you agree with the Democrats. You think there should be regulations in place to prevent people from making bad choices, especially where very adorable children are concerned. You think it’s ok for women to be lectured to about breastfeeding and to have formula locked away from them as if it was poison, and for women have to beg their doctors to prescribe it, because you believe in the greater good. You believe that a few months of aching breasts and struggling to get the right blend of fore- and hindmilk (because breastfeeding is not always a walk in the park even for those of us to whom it came easy) ain’t no big thang. You’ve concluded, in your wisdom, that for those women who work or prefer to exclusively pump, juggling the myriad challenges that come with pumping is the cost of doing business, because it serves the greater good — their child’s health.
And you may be right. Drinking soda and alcohol are bad. Smoking is bad. Breastfeeding is good. But the greatest good of all is respecting individual liberty. It’s in human nature to pursue the perfect at the expense of the good, and the good over the good enough, but perfection isn’t attainable. Perfection doesn’t exist but in the minds of bureaucrats and opinionated college students. Aiming at perfect usually ends up with a system that’s onerous and unenforceable. And it’s in the nature of government to inflict rules onto people badly, unevenly, with too heavy a hand. Charging the government with creating a perfect moral system will end in disaster. We gotta accept that good enough is good enough.
I was fed formula by a woman who smoked all during her pregnancy. I grew up in a cloud of smoke, and I was a very sickly child plagued by ear infections and bad colds. Was it because of smoke, or being fed formula? Who knows, but those things certainly didn’t help. I have a heart problem and two autoimmune diseases likely caused or exacerbated by the environment I grew up in. My mom was a college-educated, professionally successful, upper middle class woman, and yet her life choices, of which I was the recipient, were less than ideal. The people who came up with the Latch On NYC program would likely commiserate and agree my health problems ought to have been mitigated through greater education or even legal repercussions.
When you look at it that way it seems like an easy equation. Surely parents should be prevented from making any decisions that could actively hurt their baby!
I myself had a baby at the age of 42. Even more than smoking, and far more than bottlefeeding, being an older mom is considered high risk for both mother and baby, and even though I beat the odds and had a healthy baby after a healthy pregnancy, statistically it is true. Risks do increase with maternal age (although not as much as the scaremongers like to claim). Was I wrong to have my daughter? Should I have had to listen to a lecture about what a bad idea it was for me to get pregnant at my age?? Should I have had to go beg my doctor to issue me a permission slip to have a baby? Should I have faced jail time or a fine?
Many people believe the role of government should include managing the populace in society’s interests like a rancher cares for his herd. Ok. Breast is best, thus it’s desirable for government to pressure new moms to breastfeed because we want our citizens to be as healthy as possible. So is it in society’s interest to prevent potentially unhealthy children from being born in the first place? How unhealthy? Is it in society’s interest to prevent avoidable premature births? How premature? Does “society’s interest” mean we withhold expensive medical care from micropreemies? Starting when? Is it in society’s interests to force women to abort disabled babies? How disabled?? Iceland had already prided itself on eliminating Down Syndrome from its newborn population. Do we follow in their footsteps?
I know a fair number of Democrats and even quite a few Republicans think the government should have some say in deciding these ethical issues. But just like with older moms, there are plenty of other circumstances that put babies at a developmental disadvantage, disadvantages that if universal healthcare were implemented, taxpayers would have to account for. Obesity, underlying conditions, poverty – these things have been definitively linked to poor outcomes in pregnancy. Does this mean overweight, sick, and poor women shouldn’t be allowed to have children for the good of society? What about people who are autistic? Asthmatic? Have a history of miscarriage? Should ALL women have to get a permission slip to have a baby?
If so, what about her body, her choice?
Where does this end, anyway? A Byzantine, Mandarin bureaucracy where someone is always passing judgement on someone else’s choices?? Where someone is always looking over your shoulder to be sure you don’t eat lunch meat or drink coffee when you’re pregnant? Where the powers-that-be are basically embracing a type of eugenics, deciding who can breed and who can’t?? The “for the your own good” mentality behind Latch On NYC, running amok, would yield a difficult-to-navigate system rife with the potential for corruption — and unequal application. I can all but guarantee that my mother, a slim, college-educated professional woman in the upper middle class, would have been seen as a fine candidate for motherhood even though she smoked and bottlefed. A poor, overweight minority woman who smoked and bottle fed very well might not have been extended that same charity.
And that’s what the problem is with all these programs and initiatives that are “for our own good”. For our own good far too easily becomes “for the good of the child” and that’s only a half-step from that to “for the good of society.” This is especially true under universal health care because the costs of medical care are borne by everyone communally, so the choices of one person really can affect the pocketbook of another.
The slippery slope argument is something that causes people to groan and roll their eyes because we’ve heard it all before. After all, governance is by design a line-drawing exercise, so who cares if the line is drawn hither or yon? Shouldn’t the line be drawn for the benefit of the greatest good and then held there firmly, no slipping down the slope allowed?
It makes sense intuitively, I agree. But the trouble is, even if we could hold the line (doubtful) one person’s “too far” is another person’s “not nearly far enough.”
One of the reasons I believe socialism can work in small countries in Europe and will fail miserably in America is because for the most part, Europeans are surprisingly chill about other people’s choices. Thus you can find socialized health systems in countries where people smoke, drink heavily, live on various salted preserved meats and yet no one calls for unhealthy life choices to be banned even though they make everyone’s health care more expensive. But America is made up of authoritarian Puritans like Mike Bloomberg. America is made up of people who just love to tell others what to do. I swear I think it’s in our national DNA or something
Who cares? Some may say. Who cares as long as it’s my guy telling people what to do?
The funny thing about Puritarians is that they exist on both sides of the aisle. If you doubt it, please explain to me the fundamental difference between having to hear a lecture about adoption/having to hear a baby’s heartbeat before having an abortion, vs. having to hear a lecture on breastfeeding before deciding to feed with a bottle. Is there one? To me, a person who generally resents lectures even when I agree with the message, these things appear to be very much the same. Yet Republican authoritarians tend to prefer one of them and Democrat authoritarians the other.
The problem with setting up a country where Puritarians are in charge of deciding what is best for society, is that they can easily decide that what is best for society involves requiring things you don’t like or banning things you do, rather than focusing on those a-hole (insert your hated folk of choice here) people in your outgroup.
Those who call for government intervention in everyday life often exist in this if-I-ran-the-world fantasyland where they assume that only the things they personally don’t like are what will be banned or made mandatory when they create their glorious utopia. They blind themselves with visions of universal truth, believing that bad things should be forbidden because “everyone” knows they’re wrong, and believing that good things should be embraced because “everyone” knows they’re right. But right and wrong vary by person, in some cases dramatically. It’s time we started to accept that reality and allow others the grace to be wrong, even when you know, you just KNOW that somebody oughta make a law! Because I can just about guarantee ya that there’s something you’re doing that makes their skin crawl from the sheer wrongness of it.
Neither you, nor I, nor Michael Bloomberg, luckily, gets to be the benevolent dictator of the world.
Keep government limited to the things it does well (if any) and I’ll worry about my own boobs.