Walking the streets of Zurich, Switzerland, one might stumble upon the following ad for an apartment: “1BR/1BA: No smoking, drinking, loud music, electricity, Facebooking, selfies, text messaging (or cell phones altogether), deodorant, hair spray, perfume or cologne, fast food, guns, things that look like guns, things that don’t look like guns that could be made to look like guns, or anything else that might possibly cause someone discomfort or consternation. Send telegram for appointment.”
It may sound like a joke, but it really is not. It is exactly the type of environment developers from the “Healthy Life and Living Foundation” are pushing to create with a new apartment building constructed specifically for people who suffer from “sensitivity” to chemicals in products like cigarette smoke, and who fear radiation from electrical circuits and wireless devices like cell phones. Even personal hygiene products such as perfumes, soap and shampoo are controlled to ensure optimal tranquility for the inhabitants of this communal “plastic bubble.”
To some liberals, this highly regulated refuge from modernity may seem like a dream come true. It is, in effect, a completely “organic” building — free from annoying capitalists in their gas-guzzling cars, expensive colognes, and iPhone conversations about corporate takeovers. In fact, photos of the rooms resemble Soviet-era housing complexes, filled only with the bare necessities of life. And while the austere nature of the building harkens to the days of Communist egalitarianism, it serves also as a warning to others that this could be our future should the Nanny State fulfill its public policy and social objectives.
One need only to look at former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s 12-year reign of terror to understand how such a paradigm shift can occur. During his tenure, Bloomberg turned the NYC Board of Health into his personal Ministry of Plenty; issuing a litany of decrees that banned such items as sodas larger than 16-ounces, to regulating the amount of sodium allowed in processed foods and the type of oil in which fried foods could be cooked. Bloomberg even used taxpayer funds to launch a crusade against loud headphones, to keep New Yorkers from “going deaf.”
Fortunately, public backlash and court challenges stopped a few of Bloomberg’s most absurd edicts. For example, when the soda ban was challenged, the state court slammed the Board of Health for assuming legislative powers it did not have. The surprisingly blunt decision made clear the board (and by implication, Bloomberg) “cannot exercise sweeping power to create whatever rule they deem necessary.”
Other crusades however, such as Bloomberg’s war on “illegal” guns, had ramifications far beyond the Big Apple’s municipal limits, and threatened the liberty of innocent Americans who wanted nothing to do with Bloomberg’s Big Brother-ism. Unlike the public health campaigns of granola-eating commercial developers, the government’s thirst for a Nanny State cannot be contained to four concrete walls. And as Bloomberg clearly demonstrated with his actions against a Georgia gun store owner, the rights of all Americans are targets — not just those who voluntarily retreat into social or geographic isolation.
Worse still, as I wrote back in March, the Nanny State is quickly becoming the “default” position for government. One might think a shirt from the NRA would be acceptable to be worn most anywhere in America, considering the right to bear arms is woven into our country’s DNA. Such an assumption would be wrong, however, as one New York high school student discovered earlier this year when he was suspended for doing nothing more than wearing a shirt that proclaimed, “The Second Amendment shall not be infringed.” It is probably good the student never made a hand gesture resembling a gun, or he would have been sent to a “Zero Tolerance” re-education camp aimed at eliminating such barbaric behavior.
This is just one example of what is to come if we adopt Europe’s “regulate anything offensive to anyone” mentality as our own; a scenario in which our Constitution would come to resembles nothing if not a piece of Swiss cheese (organic, of course).
If we institute “fragrance-free zones” today, will not “gun-free zones” be close behind? But wait, don’t we already have the latter; and are not “smoke-free zones” becoming the norm in communities across the country? Are the citizens in Zurich simply taking what we already are becoming accustomed to in America to the next logical level? Before we laugh off the absurdity of Switzerland’s latest move toward a completely homogenized society, perhaps we need to take a long, hard look in the mirror.
The Moral Liberal Contributing Editor, Bob Barr, represented Georgia’s 7th district in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 -2003 and as U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia from 1986-1990.
Bob Barr is the author of The Meaning of Is: The Squandered Impeachment and Wasted Legacy of William Jefferson Clinton (2004), and LESSONS IN LIBERTY (2008), as well as co-author with Gary Aldrich of Thunder on the Left: An Insider’s Report on the Hijacking of the Democratic Party (2003)