Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

September 5, 2013

A choice in the matter

By Rex Bell
Daily News

---- — Bell

A new ice cream shop opened up in Hagerstown last month, and one of its main attractions was a menu that included 24 flavors of ice cream, along with the traditional chocolate and vanilla.

As part of their Grand Opening, the owners offered free t-shirts to anyone who tried all 24 flavors. Being somewhat of an ice cream connoisseur, I gladly accepted the challenge. Although I wasn’t the first person to make it through the list, I was the first in my age group. I don’t suppose first place means as much as it used to since we started handing out more than one blue ribbon for the same event, but I guess it’s supposed to make us feel better about ourselves. I think that’s why everybody on my grandchildren’s t-ball team got a trophy, even though they never won a game. But that’s a topic for another column, and regardless, I got a t-shirt out of the deal.

I’ve also noticed that even with all of those choices, a lot of people still step up to the window and order chocolate or vanilla.

When I ask them if they’ve tried red velvet cheesecake or pistachio nut, they often reply that they haven’t, and that they are quite satisfied with the old standbys. Even when I’m almost evangelistic in explaining how red velvet cheesecake in a waffle cone can be a life changing experience, many are unwavering in their loyalty to the simpler confections.

I’ve also seen people step up to the window and freeze like a deer in the headlights when they panic and realize they have no idea which of the 24 flavors they want this time. I wonder how many times someone has blurted out “Chocolate!” not because it was really their first choice, but because they felt the pressure of the impatient line behind them. Some people handle choices better than others, and when you’re stuck in line behind someone who can’t decide what they want, it’s almost enough to make you wish there weren’t so many choices. Or better yet, wish there were separate lines for people who wanted to make a choice and people who didn’t.

I really don’t have a problem with people who have a hard time making a choice, as long as they aren’t in front of me in line, and I don’t have a problem with people who always choose chocolate or vanilla, as long as they don’t try to tell me that I can’t have red velvet cheesecake. Or pistachio nut.

I wish the people up in Washington D.C. felt that way. They have developed a very bad habit of making choices for everybody. About 80 years ago, they decided that everybody needed to take part in a retirement plan that they had developed called Social Security. When you look at the amount of money you pay into the plan compared to the amount of money you are likely to receive from it, it really isn’t a very good plan at all. Still, some people think it’s a good choice, and I certainly wouldn’t do anything to deprive them of their choice to participate in it. I would only ask that they, and the government, respect someone else’s choice not to participate in it.

Those same folks up in Washington like to make our choices for us regarding our health insurance and health care, and on who or what is deserving of our charity, and even which side we should support in another country’s civil war. It seems the bigger the government gets, the more choices it takes away from us, and the more bad choices it makes for us.

I’m willing to take responsibility for bad choices I might make from time to time, but the ones the government makes for me tend to leave a bad taste in my mouth.

And they make me want to choose a smaller government.

Rex Bell is a Wayne County Libertarian that writes a monthly column on events that shape our lives from a libertarian point of view.