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reason: Well, lord knows that it's better to give the kids fruit juice than soda pop in school vending machines! Let's look at some areas where nannyism isn't just retarded, but is clearly ineffective or even countereffective. You note that when Attorney General Alberto Gonzales took his job, he made it clear that, in the post-9/11 world, going after porn was a top priority.
Harsanyi: I can only assume the Bush administration was interested in reaching out to social conservatives. Most of whom do not appreciate porn, or, at least, not publicly.
reason: You've got a great line from the Bush administration in the book, something about how the prez views the public: "The president sees America as we think of about a 10-year-old child."
Harsanyi: This was during the 2004 run and uttered by then-Chief of Staff Andrew Card. Certainly Bush has governed as if he believed it.
reason: Yet nannyism is pretty bipartisan, with advocates on the right and the left, yes?
Harsanyi: Absolutely. Republicans like former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Texas Gov. Rick Perry are some of the worst offenders in the nation. But I'm harder in the book on Republicans because they, at least rhetorically, will give lip service to rights of the individual. But in reality, on the ground, many of them have been as bad as any do-gooder progressive.
reason: Who is the worst offender on the left side of things?
Harsanyi: It's hard to say. Most nanny-state initiatives begin on a local level.
reason: What cities are the worst for this sort of thing?
Harsanyi: New York, of course. Mayor Mike Bloomberg has no clear ideological stand other than nannyism, as far as I can tell. If there's a bad idea, he's all over it. San Francisco is pretty awful, as well.
reason: They do watch out for their pets, don't they, in the City on the Bay?
Harsanyi: Oh yes. They regulate things like the dimensions of a dog house and the amount of water available to the dog at all times. In many places around the country, you're no longer called a "pet owner" but rather a "pet guardian."
reason: Talk about how the focus on lowering the blood alcohol content or concentration (BAC) that defines drunk driving--a tactic being pushed at every level--wastes police resources.
Harsanyi: Well, most of the serious drunk driving in this country is perpetrated by repeat offenders and those with higher BAC levels -- 0.15 and up, I believe. Zero-tolerance on drinking and driving -- meaning no drinking at all before driving -- is a collective punishment that, in essence, only affects responsible adults who follow the law. I feel the same way about road blocks, which inconvenience thousands of people, while doing very little to stop the core problem of drinking and driving.
reason: You write that Nanny State is a book "about freedom, personal responsibility, and free will. It isn't about ignoring the hazardous decisions we make, it's about being able to exercise our right to make those decisions in the first place. While we still can." What was the pre-Nanny golden age? Was there one?