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What happens when the government tries to "suggest" things

I have no children, but I think it's fairly safe for me to say that, in most cases, children should be breast-fed over given formula. Repeated studies have shown that, as a general principle, breast milk from the mother is superior to store-bought food.

The government of Massachusetts saw the same studies, and decided that it should urge mothers to nurse their children over buying formula. But that wasn't good enough for some Massachusetts officials. They thought that their recommendation was so important, they decided to put a little force behind it.

In Massachusetts, new mothers are given a "gift bag" by the hospital, one that contains a bunch of stuff they might find useful. Included was some formula.

I say "was" because in December the state's Public Health Council decided to encourage new mothers to eschew formula by banning hospitals from including free formula in the bags.

Governor Romney didn't like that decision. He raised some heck (he's a Mormon, so I really shouldn't say "raised hell") with the Council, urging them to reconsider their policy in no uncertain terms. They eventually did, but not before three of their number (the board has nine members) were informed that they would not be re-appointed by the Governor to continue to serve on the board.

The Boston Glob seems to be taking the side of the board members who lost their seats, but in this case I think Romney was right. These board members had crossed a line -- they had taken their "recommendation" and tried to impose their beliefs into force. They had abused their authority, and as such Romney was not only right to remove them, but was obligated to do so.

Asking people to "recommend" practices when they have the power to enforce that "recommendation" is a dangerous thing. The inclination to make sure people "do what they should" is a powerful one, and one that must be resisted. People have the right to be wrong, and government has no business protecting them from their own mistakes to that degree.

The legislature has reworked the board, doubling its membership, changing the requirements to serve, and altering how members are appointed. Time will tell whether it will be an actual improvement, but based on my own observations, I feel fairly safe in predicting that it will not work out well. I strongly suspect that the changes were enacted for purely political reasons: the move was seen as a victory for Romney, the Republican governor, and whether or not the results are good, such things must not stand unchallenged. In other words: screw the mothers and babies, we can't let a Republican look good.

Of course, I could be wrong. But being cynical when it comes to interpreting the acts of Massachusetts Democrats is usually the safe way to go. (See: Kennedy, Edward Moore; Kerry, John Francis; and Dukakis, Michael Stanley, just to name three nationally-known examples.)


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Comments (23)

Very interesting find, Jay.... (Below threshold)

Very interesting find, Jay...

We would have liked to breast feed our little one, but him being born with a bilateral cleft lip and palate, it wasn't an option for us.

I guess I'm glad that I'm not living in Massachusetts. I wouldn't have taken this lightly at all. I'm not fond of people specifying how I (and my family) must make our dealings.

Wouldn't have taken it well AT ALL.

Jay: Of course,... (Below threshold)
Truzenzuzex:

Jay:

Of course, I could be wrong. But being cynical when it comes to interpreting the acts of Massachusetts Democrats is usually the safe way to go. (See: Kennedy, Edward Moore; Kerry, John Francis; and Dukakis, Michael Stanley, just to name three nationally-known examples.)

Can a Taxachusetts state law requiring new mothers to breast feed their infant be far behind?

Breast pumps to be paid for by the taxpayers, of course.

I breast fed my first three... (Below threshold)
"Candy":

I breast fed my first three kids, but was unable to do so with the other two because of neo-natal unit stays, complications with my health, etc., so I feel pretty comfortable with either method of feeding one's child.

The news last week carried a story of a woman being brought up on manslaughter charges for killing her infant with cocaine passed through her breast milk. I'm guessing she was a poor candidate for breast feeding.

I believe that breastmilk is most certainly the healthier choice for a baby - but for us to push it on people? Formula is EXPENSIVE, frankly, and I was happy to have the free can for backup when I received it each hospital stay - four of which happened to be in Massachusetts.

(A side note: In 1996 when I had my third child, a nurse came in to my room at Beverly Hospital to warn me that my doctor would be coming in to convince me that I was well enough to go home after only three days in the hospital. I was entitled to four with a c-section. She told me that the doctor would be getting a nice little bonus check if I would leave quietly. I did not leave until my fourth day).

Somebody stop the government before they follow us into the bedroom to be sure we are all following the twelve proper steps of condom usage!

What nutritional or infant ... (Below threshold)
Hermie:

What nutritional or infant care fad will the politicians mandate for new parents?

Will advocates of 'natural birth' deny mothers in labor the option of epidurals?

Perhaps, the law will be changed so that children be given only organically-grown foods.

The hospitals stopped givin... (Below threshold)
Bill Metzger:

The hospitals stopped giving free formula in the maternity gift bags? At least they still include a free carton of Newport cigarettes!


If they take away the formu... (Below threshold)
Faith+1:

If they take away the formula will they replace it with a breast? A wet nurse?

Typical liberal booshwah. ... (Below threshold)
oldretirednco:

Typical liberal booshwah. Let's figure out what's a good idea for people to do, then mandate it, e.g. seat belts in cars or wearing a helmet on a motorcycle. Are they good ideas? Yes. Do I think folks should use them? Absolutely. Should the State pass a law requiring their use? Absolutely NOT!!

I agree with Walter Williams on this: if my actions create a possible hazard to others, then regulate them. If not, then stay the hell out of my business.

You are perfectly free to o... (Below threshold)
The Listkeeper:

You are perfectly free to operate a motorcycle without a helmet or a car without a seatbelt...


So long as you stay on your property and don't try to do so on a public road. Once you're on that public road, however, you've entered a realm where the gov't is OBLIGATED to make sure you're operating your vehicle in as safe a manner as possible so that the rights of everyone ELSE on the road are protected. That's why the seatbelt and helmet arguments are strawmen...

Democrats : 'Literally taki... (Below threshold)
Les Nessman:

Democrats : 'Literally taking food out of the mouths of babies'

Whatta slogan. Someone should use it.

Ok, Listkeeper, I'll bite..... (Below threshold)

Ok, Listkeeper, I'll bite...

How am I more prone to endanger someone else because I ride my motorcycle without a helmet?

And don't go with the "public healthcare costs" if I'm injured, because I can just as easily injure myself on my own property without a helmet. Explain precisely how I'm a hazard to others if I'm on a public road without a helmet.

As to the formula question, my wife breat-fed our youngest, but we used formula with the triplets (the math just didn't work out). I couldn't tell any significant difference health-wise. Cost-wise, however, we debated whether purchasing a dairy farm wouldn't be cheaper than buying all the formula necessary to feed triplets...

nco, you pegged it, and the schools exemplify the government's obsession with usurping parental authority and decision-making capacity. I'm bolstering to fight the school board here if our triplets are forced into separate classrooms because the "trained educators" think they know better than their parents what they need.

How does removing free form... (Below threshold)
J:

How does removing free formula from a "gift bag" forcing breast feeding on mothers? It's not like stores carry it...oh wait...

Asking people to "recommend" practices when they have the power to enforce that "recommendation" is a dangerous thing.

Jay, there's no "force" here since, as we have established, formula can be bought almost anywhere. My wife is due next monthm if our state doesn't give us formula, is that really going to endanger us?


Jay, I'd say you're stretching this time...

If anything, giving mothers... (Below threshold)
J:

If anything, giving mothers free stuff seems like the Liberal thing to do, no?

And who's outlawing formula?

Hint: no one....

As has already been stated,... (Below threshold)
bungaloebill:

As has already been stated, while it's advisable to breast feed if you can (and way cheaper!) there are perfectly proper, medically accepted reasons why some women shouldn't/can't. It's mind-boggling that this apparently wasn't taken into account. Yes, a new bureaucracy would be needed to determine with mothers get the bags with the formula and which ones don't, but hey, doesn't it seem like officials in Mass. would be in FAVOR of another bloated state bureaucracy?

Jamie, it doesn't matter if... (Below threshold)
The Listkeeper:

Jamie, it doesn't matter if the threat is to others or yourself. If you're operating a motor vehicle on a public road, you're executing a heavily restricted privilege, not a right, and your nonexistant "rights" to determine things for yourself are mitigated by the responsibility of the gov't to protect you and others from your own stupidity.

Jamie, it doesn't ... (Below threshold)
Jamie, it doesn't matter if the threat is to others or yourself.

then....

...your nonexistant "rights" to determine things for yourself...responsibility of the gov't to protect you and others from your own stupidity.

Yes, Listmaster, it does matter who's endangered. Where do you derive the government's responsibility to protect me from myself? Certainly, in the name of "promoting the general welfare" a claim can be made that the government has a duty to protect others from my negligent actions, but if such actions endanger nobody but me, exactly where do the government's interests lie?

As to the "nonexistant 'right'" of self-determination, exactly where do you think the founding fathers stood upon that issue? Furthermore, do you, under the same philosophical umbrella you're using here, claim that right is nonexistent with regard to assisted suicide?

I apologize for side-tracking this thread with this tired old debate, but the government's position upon personal choices seems to fluctuate wildly as it seeks to control those which have the smallest impact upon society, while at the same time refusing to acknowledge its responsibility to exercise its control in areas which quite significantly impact society (i.e. abortion, obscenity, etc.).

Where is it derived from? Y... (Below threshold)
The Listkeeper:

Where is it derived from? You've placed yourself on a public road...an area in which gov't authority is nearly absolute, mitigated only by the Law of the Land.

The "end runs" are getting ... (Below threshold)

The "end runs" are getting old, Listkeeper...let me make it easier for you...

Why is government authority on public roadways nearly absolute?

Again, in the name of protecting others, it makes sense for there to be regulations in place. My original question remains the same: Why does the government feel a need to protect me from myself, and under what constitutional authority does it operate in doing so?

I know by now you think these questions to be bothersome, but since you call the allusion to this type of nanny-statism a "strawman" it's time to put up or shut up about it. Where is society bettered by keeping people safe from their own actions?

It matters, because if protecting people from self-destructive behaviour is permissible, then we're in for a host of regulations on everything from fatty foods to mandating that cars can go a maximum of 15 mph because so many people have trouble operating them at higher speeds.

You really don't understand... (Below threshold)
The Listkeeper:

You really don't understand why Gov't authority on a PUBLIC ROAD would be near absolute and why you would be subject to the full regulatory authority the gov't has in operating a public road?

Okaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay...

It seems like you've confus... (Below threshold)
Alison Stuebe:

It seems like you've confused the issue here -- the proposed regulation didn't "force" anything -- it simply removed marketing from maternity wards. These "free bags" aren't really free -- they provide families with samples of the most expensive formula on the market. When hospitals hand out that sample, parents come to believe that the product is actually "better" than store-brand formula, which costs 40 percent less than the hospital-promoted brands. Over a year, formula-feeding parents who stick with the hospital brand face $700 more in formula costs. And for moms who breastfeed, multiple well-designed studies show that the bags undermine their feeding choice, causing them to start using formula sooner. Unfortunately, Romney cares more about defending drug company interests than protecting families -- and so hospitals will continue to pitch brand-name formula to new mothers. This isn't a liberal or conservative issue -- it's a consumer issue and public health issue.

In Massachusetts in particu... (Below threshold)
"Candy":

In Massachusetts in particular, with regard to the seatbelt law that was mentioned, what ticked off we, the people was the fact that the seatbelt issue was put on the ballot for us to vote upon. After we voted it down, the legislators decided we were too darn stupid to make our own decisions and forced it on us.

I was told by a Mass. state police officer that the reason they wanted to force the helmet law was not to necessarily save lives - when you get thrown 50 feet and your head hits the pavement, you are dead with or without a helmet - but he said it helped with cleanup. Don't everyone start attacking on this issue - I'm just telling you what one statie said about it.

For those of you who feel it's fine for the government to make decisions for us as to how we act on those PUBLIC roads, be careful - it's a slippery slope. Do you ever drink coffee or eat a bagel while driving? Ever make or receive a cell call? They are even starting to complain that using a headset or "hands free" option while driving is still keeping your mind off the road.

Take away your talk radio perhaps next - multitasking leads to accidents, folks!

Just being the devil's advocate here, but it can't get out of control pretty quickly.

*can* get out of control, s... (Below threshold)
"Candy":

*can* get out of control, sorry...

Listmaker, hate to disappoi... (Below threshold)

Listmaker, hate to disappoint, but I don't see the reason why even on a public road (meaning, owned by all the people, mind you) the government must necessarily exercise absolute control, particularly in areas in which the only person potentially harmed by an action is the one performing the action.

Nor do I understand why the government feels it can deem what can or cannot be put into these "sample packs" given out by hospitals.

But then again, I firmly believe that to govern best is to govern least, so that may go a long way to explain why I actually have the audacity to believe in the existence of a right to personal choices...

This rule would not have "f... (Below threshold)
Trelaina:

This rule would not have "forced" anything.

It is a marketing ploy -- if the hospital says Brand X formula is good enough to give me as a sample, it's what I should use. Must be just as good as breastfeeding.

This is more than just free market at play here. If it were just free market, I'd be screaming as loud as anyone. Coca-Cola, for example, has a right to negotiate for its drink machines to be exclusively placed in a building, and they can hand out all the free samples they want.

We have a serious education issue in this country when it comes to breastfeeding. Breastfeeding has been clearly shown to be better...and there have been studies that show formula can have serious risks to babies. Yet because breastfeeding is FREE (and therefore has no one to market for it), studies are supressed. Doctors are NOT taught about breastfeeding in school.

More seriously, the convention that "we're not allowed to make anyone feel GUILTY" has been firmly applied to those who support breastfeeding....so much so that a mere suggestion sends the "evil! mean! hurting a NEW MOM!" chants into the air.

Breastfeeding moms often start out on day 1 with the world against them. Commercials everywhere, magazine articles that can't say breastmilk is best without throwing in a "but". Grandmothers, sisters, friends who push them to feed a bottle every time something appears to go wrong. Doctors who tell them old wives tales and outright lies. Medicine bottles that make it appear that you can't take anything stronger than a vitamin if you breastfeed.

The decision by this Council was walking a fine line, I admit. But until we can get doctors, hospitals, and the general public educated to the true differences between breastmilk and formula, this is a good first step to helping moms succeed at breastfeeding.




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