Thursday, November 11, 2010

Defending Liberal Stupidity

I give this Josh Ozersky credit for defending an unpopular position, stating that San Francisco's Happy meal ban doesn't go far enough.  Unfortunately, his argument still isn't very convincing...

Again and again, efforts to promote fresh fruit and produce in low-income urban areas have failed for the simple reason that Americans have been brainwashed. We have been conditioned, starting in utero, to prefer high-fat, high-salt, high-sugar concoctions rather than their less exciting, more natural culinary cousins. One of my favorite recent examples of American food stubbornness occurred this spring when British food personality Jamie Oliver, seeking to teach the children of West Virginia to despise chicken nuggets, showed them how horrible the process of making them was. After producing a nasty pink paste of ground bone and tendons and skin, which he then shaped, breaded and fried, he asked who would still eat the finished product. Every little hand shot up.
Why? Because as Americans, we like highly processed food. It was invented to please us. Cheap flavor bombs will always trump healthier alternatives. Dangling a Transformer or Beanie Baby or some other toy du jour in front of a kid may help balance the playing field at least a little. But why can't cheap, processed food be made healthier? Is that really impossible? Or is it just too expensive? And why are eight people in San Francisco the only ones who seem willing to step up and do something unpopular to address such a serious issue?
What I love about these arguments for banning unhealthy food tend to come from people who would probably be open to the idea of drug legalization.

That point aside... I will acknowledge for the sake of argument that processed food probably makes Americans fat, and processed food is almost certainly is more tempting to us than non-processed healthier alternatives. But sugar is more tempting to me than cabbage -- should we ban sugar as well?

The reason these bans are unpopular is that people don't want government taking their freedom in the name of knowing what's better for them. If people want healthier choices, a market will develop for those choices -- and it has developed, and no, that food won't be cheaper. For example, it costs a hell of a lot more to get organic food.  And yes, people will probably choose the less healthy alternative, because it's cheaper and because it tastes better.  But that's a choice they make, and will probably continue to make, no matter how many dumb rules you put in the way.  Some people choose to eat a cheeseburger in full knowledge of the fact that it's unhealthy, because they figure life is short and they want to enjoy it.  Others do so because it's cheaper and they want to afford a big-screen TV or a bigger apartment.  These may be foolish choices, but they're foolish choices that we are allowed to make.

And let's stop with the "won't somebody please think of the children" argument.  I have a three year old who throws tantrums and cries for stuff she wants, but it's up to me (or her mother) to say no.  It's hard, I know, but people are capable of exercising thier own judgement.  And they make foolish choices, even for their kids.  But they are their choices to make. 



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