Decisions not affected by propaganda

As I was walking to a party Friday night, my friend made a seemingly obscure remark: "On Sunday mornings this street is covered with trash." He went on to remark that homeless people or those individuals who could use some spare change often pick up the "trash" to recycle it. Not unusual comments from him or most people I know for that matter, but for me, an always (and possibly over) analyzing economics major, there was much more to the statements.

I proceeded to make some observation to the effect that "when the school, government, etc., attempt to crack down on drinking on campus, what they are really doing is depleting a source of income for homeless people." A pretty simple case of a negative effect caused by "good intentions," but I think it serves as a perfectly good example to introduce the following argument: What do we gain as a society by having someone protect us from ourselves?

I am assuming everyone would agree that for the most part, ads we see around campus (that were bought with either our tuition or taxes), excise or "sin" taxes on liquor and tobacco (yep, that's more taxes), and the undoubtedly expensive ads run on television by corporations like Philip Morris, warning us uneducated and na+â-»ve Americans against the harmful effects of smoking (not so much taxes there, but I'm sure their increased advertising budget ads to the price of their products) are aimed at protecting us from ourselves or our own desires, namely drinking, smoking and other more illicit activities.

As I've already worked into the examples, these "helpful" campaigns literally cost everyone money in the end, whether everyone wants or needs the help. Now, I know what some of you are thinking: these campaigns are aimed at young teens who are peer-pressured or can't make intelligent decisions on their own, or people who aren't as well educated and might be "taken advantage of" by "big business."

I'd say Ball State students are a diverse enough group to survey on these issues, so let's see: How many readers today were seduced into buying a pack of cigarettes or a case of beer this week? OK, now how many people didn't know that sucking black smoke into their lungs or killing brain cells wasn't healthy? If a few people have raised their hands so far I won't be surprised. After all, the principles of natural selection are at work within our society.

Finally, how many people quit or decided not to start smoking or drinking (or doing anything else) after seeing a brilliantly crafted ad like "Stay Cool. Stay Away from Drugs," or "Don't Be a Butthead?" I'm admittedly no expert on the statistics, but my guess is few. So what does my logic say? Well, I won't say that there is never justification for any of these type of campaigns, but let's just say there isn't nearly enough for the amount of them we've got around.

In addition, I will say that if you, the school, government, or whoever, want to help us, stay out of our pockets, let us take some responsibility for our own actions and sit back and watch Charles Darwin's theory at work. Oh, and it's not alright to take a source of income from the homeless guy just because you can make us pay to help him out later on.


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