Pierre Lemieux in Cato’s Regulation magazine on the tendency of “public health” to pursue prescriptive moral reform in the guise of regulating health risks:
“In many respects,” writes [Bernard] Turnock, “it is more reasonable to view public health as a movement than as a profession.” “Public health,” the Encyclopedia of Philosophy tells us, “is focused on regulation and public policy.” Public health experts claim a jurisdiction that covers anything related to welfare, little of which consists of genuine public goods. The basic thrust of public health is to remove decisions from the domain of individual choice. For example, public health experts believe that driving is a privilege, not a right, and probably extend this characterization to any activity that they don’t like or for which they think they would easily qualify (like parenting rights).
Slippery slopes mar the whole history of public health…if one wishes softer examples, from the treatment of the insane to Prohibition, to the current harassment of smokers, and to the partial nationalization of “public” places. Despite some reversals, the slope is as slippery as it ever was.
Related, cruel but predictable: HUD plans nationwide ban on letting public housing tenants smoke in their own units [Washington Post]