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Season 6 - Episode 3
Pushing back against the nanny state

Bill Wirtz is the senior policy analyst for the Consumer Choice Center, a consumer advocacy group based in Brussels, Belgium that supports lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. His work has appeared in major news outlets including Newsweek, the Washington Examiner, Die Welt, Le Monde, and Le Figaro.


Should governments tell us how to live our lives? As Bill Wirtz points out in this engaging interview, restricting people’s individual choices, no matter what you think of them, is illiberal in the strict sense of that word. “We’ve moved so far away from what government was supposed to do, to now telling us how much sugar we should consume!”

Whether it’s a fat tax, a soda tax, or a meat tax, whether it’s restrictions on smoking, vaping, or gambling, paternalistic policies assume that people don’t know their own interests—and that politicians know them better, which is arrogant in the extreme. Wirtz encourages people to stand up for their rights, and tries to help people communicate in a productive way to advocate on behalf of freedom in general. As he explains, “If you don’t defend the individual liberty of your neighbour, eventually the same logic will be applied to something you like.”

He acknowledges, of course, the health risks of an activity like smoking, and would never encourage someone to smoke. But he defends the rights of bar owners, for instance, to decide for themselves whether to allow smoking—and points out that in his native Luxembourg, several bars had already become non-smoking establishments, responding to consumer demand, before smoking was prohibited in all bars.

People should resist the urge to regulate the peaceful activities of others and impose laws on people they will never even meet, says Bill Wirtz. Instead of lobbying governments to punish those who enjoy risky activities, and those who cater to them, with taxes, fines, and even jail terms, we should learn to respect the different choices people make with their freedom. “We should not need our nanny to tell us how to get along. We can do this as individuals.”

Links of interest

Bill Wirtz / Consumer Choice Center