Friday, April 30, 2010

Should Breastfeeding be Required by Law?

The Los Angeles Times recently carried the following:

“If all U.S. women followed medical recommendations to breastfeed their infants exclusively for six months, the nation could save $13 billion a year in medical costs and prevent 911 deaths, according to an analysis published in the new issue of the journal Pediatrics.

“The study authors compared the costs of 10 childhood diseases at current breastfeeding rates and the projected costs of those diseases if 90 percent of U.S. women complied with the recommendations. The costs included medical care as well as indirect costs, such as missed time from work.”

Well, there you have it, another reason for the expansion of government. How can you be against it? After all, its “for the children.” Don't you want them to be healthy? Are you in favor of all those childhood diseases?

And what can be the objection? If government can require health insurance for children, why not require healthier milk for them? If government can require that your child ride only in a child safety seat on the back seat of your automobile as protection against accidents, why shouldn't it require this protection against diseases?

If everyone has a “right” to health insurance, as President Obama asserts, shouldn't every child have a right to the healthiest milk? Three-quarters of U.S. women breastfeed, but only 32 percent do so exclusively after three months. The study assumes compliance of 90 percent of U.S. women.

If a child has a “right” to mother's milk but its mother doesn't lactate adequately, doesn't the child have a right to milk from someone else—just as under Obamacare it has a right to health insurance from someone else's money? Don't you believe in equal rights? Shouldn't the taxpayers be subsidizing wet-nurses in order to ensure children's rights to breast milk?

Of course, the wet-nurses would have to be licensed. If daycare centers have to be licensed, isn't it even more important that wet-nurses, who have more direct and intimate contact with a child, also be licensed and regulated by the government? And not just the wet-nurses but their milk, too. Local supermarkets and convenience stores can't sell milk that isn't government regulated. So shouldn't wet-nurses' milk that is sold also be regulated? You can't be too careful when it comes to protecting our children.

Government is always finding ways to expand its activities and control of our lives. Recently the U.S. Coast Guard, which establishes regulations for commerce and transportation on federally navigable waterways, has decided to require federal licenses for fishing guides in Minnesota, even on inland lakes, which arguably are not involved in interstate commerce. Obtaining a license requires a certification in CPR, and drug and health screenings. Star Tribune columnist Dennis Anderson notes: “The licenses are relatively challenging to acquire. A thorough marine safety test includes detailed navigation techniques that many inland guides say they never employ....

“Before you can take any Coast Guard test, you must apply for a Transportation Workers Identification Credential. This takes a little time and costs money (the entire application, in fact, runs nearly $400). When the application is complete, mail it and everything else that is required, including a copy of your transportation worker's card, to one of 17 Coast Guard Regional Exam Centers. If everything is complete, your application will be forwarded to the National Maritime Center, which will send a letter to you saying you are approved to take the Coast Guard test, or not.”  If you don't pass the test, you you can't work as a guide.

If such a licensing procedure is required just for a fishing guide to take 1 or 2 adults out in a boat on a local lake (this is “interstate commerce”?), do we dare require anything less than CPR certification and drug and health screening for wet-nurses? If guides, who often have 20, 30 or more years of experience, are required to have a license that they are qualified to provide their services to adults, how can we allow wet-nurses with far less experience to provide services to our precious and vulnerable infants unless they are licensed?

I have no idea whether the study in the journal Pediatrics is accurate. It doesn't make any difference. That is not the issue. There are plenty of examples of dishonest information on, for example, global warming, Obama's health care, and secondhand smoke (which I have exposed in previous columns) that has been used to expand government control over our lives. Few voters have the scientific knowledge to determine whether complex research on these issues is really true. So they tend not to dispute what they are being told by people who are involved with these subjects and to assume what they say is probably true. Again, accuracy of the research is not the issue—the research is merely camouflage for the real issue, which is whether our lives are going to be run by government central planning or by our own choices as free people.

The advocates of Big Government seize every opportunity, every bit of “research”—whether true or false—to attempt to show freedom is a failure and we'd be better off with more government. They always promise more than can be obtained by free choice and free markets, but they always deliver less. Whatever they promise—even if attainable by their methods, which it usually is not—is not worth the cost. Even what may seem to be a gain in a narrow sense or a narrow issue is, in fact, a loss in the wider context of opportunities foregone by the diversion of resources, both human and economic—and this includes their diversion (costs usually omitted) to a government bureaucracy to formulate, administer and enforce the regulations. More regulations necessarily mean more money and manpower go to the government. That means those resources are preempted from being used for things of greater value, which people would otherwise chose. That is why freer societies advance while others don't, in proportion as they substitute government controls for people's choices. But this isn't merely an issue of economic costs and benefits. Freedom is something whose loss is assigned no value in claims of diseases prevented, dollars saved, or other benefits from government interventions, but it is the most important thing we can leave our children. Liberty is too valuable to be traded away at any price. Patrick Henry understood that when he said, “Give me liberty or give me death!”


Ben said...

"Freedom [..] is the most important thing we can leave our children"

But it looks like they will never have a chance to get a taste of freedom, because it will be completely gone before they are grown up. If you don't know how something tastes, you will never yearn for it.

thorium said...

Unfortunately, many of the citizens who should be reading this great article, would probably agree that the gov't should license breastfeeding along with becoming a parent. Great job, Edmund. Give us some more of this style.