From Publishers Weekly
columnist Harsanyi's libertarian opus makes the case that government meddling in private lives demands our full attention. Whether bureaucrats are banning trans fats, trying to reduce drinking or legislating where citizens can smoke, Harsanyi objects. Such regulation, he believes, insults a freeborn citizenry. As he puts it: the five most frightening words in the English language: something needs to be done. Aiming at predictable targets like New York's Mayor Michael Bloomberg, he finds no meddler too insignificant to escape his contempt, including a Dublin, Calif., councilwoman who tried to further tighten the city's antismoking law. Harsanyi also trashes the religious right for trying to legislate morality. But the book would have benefited from more anecdotes and original reporting, instead of incessantly naming overzealous do-gooders. Moreover, Harsanyi barely considers business's role, as these dangerous do-gooders fight fast food and tobacco companies armed with hundreds of millions of marketing dollars. There's not much new, but fellow libertarians may enjoy getting carried away by the flood of Harsanyi's outrage. (Sept.)
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Besieged by do-gooder legislators and activists pushing health, safety, or "family values," Americans have been subjected to bans on everything from trans fats to cookie-scented ads in bus shelters to happy hours. Harsanyi offers a catalog of rules imposed by "Twinkie fascists" and "playground despots" who are micromanaging all manner of bad habits and immorality that threaten to remove from citizens the right to choose how they live their lives. For example, he notes that the Centers for Disease Control has evolved from an agency concerned with infectious diseases to one concerned with overeating. Conceding that one person's idea of government intrusion is another's idea of prudent policy, Harsanyi stakes a claim on common sense as the judge. Laws against illicit drugs and prostitution are good for the public welfare; laws against smoking outdoors are intrusive. This is not just a rant against overzealous legislators but a thoughtful look at how the government is overreaching into everyday life and how Americans are quietly going along with it. An interesting look at freedom and personal responsibility. Bush, Vanessa