Ice Cream Mandate

By Dave Kopel

Imagine yourself in a dark alley surrounded by three gangsters. The gangsters want your wallet, and you want to keep it. "Hand it over," the gangsters insist. "We just took a poll, and 75% of the people in this alley think you should share your money."

Are the gangsters nuts? Not really. They're just following the same policies as most politicians and the public, which seem to believe that if a large majority of the population wants to do something to a minority, then the majority should have its way. So if, for instance, 77% of the population wants to prohibit their fellow citizens from owning so-called "assault weapons," then the majority should get its way, President Clinton and many other politicians have insisted.

Polls also showed that a huge fraction of the population liked the central feature of the Hillary Clinton "health care" plan: requiring employers to pay for health care for their employees. That's one reason that proponents of full socialization of medicine haven't given up their long-term hopes. Does this prove that employer mandates are the way to go? (Ignore for the moment the fact that costs forced on employers are usually passed on to employees; imagine that it really were possible to make employers bear the full costs of government mandates.)

In 1994, Spy magazine conducted a poll of New Yorkers. Seventy-three percent favored employer-mandated health care. Spy then asked a follow-up question: A New York Congressman "wants to introduce legislation that will stimulate New York dairy production by requiring employers to provide their full-time employees with a daily serving of ice cream. Would you support such a bill?"

Sixty-eight percent of New Yorkers polled said that they would support employer-mandated ice cream.

As one employee put it "I would support anything that my boss would have to pay for."

Do robbery and oppression become legitimate when the majority approves?

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