THE BLOG
06/20/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Nanny State Begets Nanny City

Cutting a city's payroll isn't an easy task, politically or practically, as we're learning in Colorado Springs. But one Florida mayor has found an ingenious new way to trim city staff using Nanny State justifications. It can seem so cold-hearted eliminating positions based on fiscal necessity alone. But what if you condition a city job on the employee making responsible lifestyle choices? That turns the heartless budget-cutter into the compassionate nanny. It's brilliant, really, and it just might fly, given the strange times in which we live.

Brooksville, Florida Mayor Lara Bradburn really hates smoking, and smokers -- so much so that she wants the power to terminate city employees who don't kick the habit within a year. "For employees, they would have one year to quit smoking or using chewing tobacco or face disciplinary action that includes termination," she has said. But these new rules won't just apply in the workplace. They'll apply in the privacy of an employee's home.

How can Bradburn justify such an invasion of an employee's personal life? Easy. She uses the same reasoning that all nanny-staters use when they invade our personal lives.

Because the city helps pay for an employee's health care, it has an interest in that person making healthy lifestyle choices. An employee's failure to choose correctly can increase coverage costs, increase absenteeism, impact city operations. The city's control over a worker's health care plan gives it the leverage it needs to control a worker's personal life.

There's a reason that argument sounds familiar -- it echoes one we hear whenever nannies use the shared burden of health care costs as a reason to regulate personal choices. Motorcyclists should be required to wear helmets, say nannies, because "we all pay the price" when they fall and crack their skulls. If the motorcyclist isn't covered, other people pay directly for his care. And even if he is covered, the costs of his care may have to be subsidized by others with coverage who don't end up with an expensive cracked skull. Medicine in America already is "socialized," to some extent. And that gives nannies all the leverage they need.

But why stop at smoking, since city workers make other un-healthy choices? Maybe they gorge on snack foods and junk foods, leading to weight problems. Maybe they ride motorcycles or sky dive or scuba dive or engage in other high risk activities. Once the state or the collective has a stake in your health -- once health care costs are socialized -- it also has an invitation to start dictating lifestyle choices. We see this on the small scale in towns like Brooksville, but on a much larger scale in the country at large.

The nanny state begets the nanny city, just as night follows day. ObamaCare will only accelerate the spread of such tyranny.