• The Heritage Network
    • Resize:
    • A
    • A
    • A
  • Donate
  • Finding the Answer in the Founding

    There are certain existential questions that humans have wrestled with since the dawn of time: “What is the meaning of life?” “Which came first: the chicken or the egg?” Perhaps even “Does the refrigerator light stay on when I close the door?”

    Recently, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg tried to answer another such question. “If government’s purpose isn’t to improve the health and longevity of its citizens, I don’t know what its purpose is,” he declared on CBS. Hence, his move to ban large sodas in his fair city.

    If the mayor wants to educate himself about why government truly exists, he’d do well to review the Declaration of Independence. Almost 236 years after it was signed, it still provides the best explanation ever written of the proper role of government.

    “[M]en establish governments to secure their pre-existing natural rights. Where there is no government, rights are easily threatened by others, since the coercive power of the state does not function as a deterrent,” explains a Questions & Answers page on the American founding from The Heritage Foundation. “The purpose of government is therefore to create the conditions that allow each individual to freely exercise his rights.”

    No mention of soda. Or transfats or even salt, two other things Bloomberg has moved to regulate. That’s because it’s not government’s job—at any level, federal state, or local—to make decisions about what, how, or how much we eat. A government that tries to do these things becomes a nanny state, acting like a parent.

    Except, unlike an actual parent, it doesn’t want you to grow up and make your own decisions; it wants to order you around as if you couldn’t possibly be trusted to make your own decisions. Even about something as fundamental as what to eat.

    The bottom line is that, in order for government to play its proper role, it must be properly limited. Governments that tell us what to eat or how to light our homes (“We are taking away a choice that continues to let people waste their own money,” Energy Secretary Steven Chu said last year about the government’s ban on incandescent lights) are too large and intrusive to do what they’re supposed to do: protect our natural rights.

    Bloomberg ought to grab a copy of the Declaration. It’s the first place to turn when you have any questions about the reason for government.

    Posted in First Principles [slideshow_deploy]

    3 Responses to Finding the Answer in the Founding

    1. Raya says:

      The point of Bloomberg's proposed ban is not to govern what individual citizens eat (drink). You can still buy a 2L bottle of soda from the corner store and drink it in one sitting. Bloomberg's proposal is to regulate the behavior of certain CORPORATIONS — not individuals.

      • Bobbie says:

        Very nice write about the founding, where answers for humanity always is.

        Are you being sarcastic by any chance? If Bloomberg's proposal is what you say to be true, he'd say so from the start. When government violates the constitution for government designed intent to regulate the behavior of corporations that trickle down to regulations that institute "change" in personal behavior or increase expenses on personal behavior for more government revenue (even when 99% of America isn't complaining) using the effect of exploiting the populace (even in a hypocritical way,) is insulting, unacceptable and another violation against the people and the peoples' constitution.

        Bloomberg said "If government’s purpose isn’t to improve the health and longevity of its citizens, I don’t know what its purpose is.” What an unconstitutional Obamacare supporter. Heritage gives excellent advice for Mr. Bloomberg as Mr. Bloomberg admits his American government purpose has none. Government is suppose to protect it's citizens, not be the purpose or interfere with their freedoms. Mr. Bloomberg acts like he pays our medical bills. Oh that's right he makes some people pay the personal responsibility of their own and for deadbeats so he plays a dictator nurturer till death or to death do us part. Threatening tendencies and outright unAmerican behavior has drawn most all democratic government members at all levels.

    2. subconch says:

      A quick note: The link to "Questions & Answers on the American Founding" leads to the wrong address. Could not find the referenced page via search. Could you please provide the link, if there is one so named? Thanks.

    Comments are subject to approval and moderation. We remind everyone that The Heritage Foundation promotes a civil society where ideas and debate flourish. Please be respectful of each other and the subjects of any criticism. While we may not always agree on policy, we should all agree that being appropriately informed is everyone's intention visiting this site. Profanity, lewdness, personal attacks, and other forms of incivility will not be tolerated. Please keep your thoughts brief and avoid ALL CAPS. While we respect your first amendment rights, we are obligated to our readers to maintain these standards. Thanks for joining the conversation.

    Big Government Is NOT the Answer

    Your tax dollars are being spent on programs that we really don't need.

    I Agree I Disagree ×

    Get Heritage In Your Inbox — FREE!

    Heritage Foundation e-mails keep you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.

    ×