Keep Your Eye on This of Sign of Government Intrusion
For decades, the amount of government intrusion into our lives has steadily increased. Some of these intrusions, like NSA spying, have been beyond our control, but others we have welcomed with open arms. For example, the recent rash of cities banning foods they deem "unhealthy." This is a trend that is wrong on so many levels, it's hard to believe we've accepted it. And yet, we have.
Although the infamous New York City soda ban is probably the most well-known, food bans are becoming increasingly common across the country. In case you never heard of it, here's the NYC soda ban in a nutshell.
New York: a test case for more draconian policies?
In 2012 New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed that all food service establishments be barred from selling sugar-sweetened drinks in cups larger than 16 ounces. He apparently thought that New Yorkers were ignorant of the fact that 44-ounce drinks have a lot of calories and aren't the healthiest choice. He also seemed to think that no one would figure out that buying two 16-ounce drinks, or getting a refill, would be the equivalent of one 32-ounce drink.
The ban, however, applied only to sugar sweetened drinks. Fruit juice, diet sodas, and alcohol were exempt. Milkshakes and flavored "coffee" drinks, which have many times the calories of soda, were also exempt. Take that, obesity! Mayor Bloomberg presented this brilliant idea to the city Board of Health, who embraced it with open arms. Nevermind the fact that 60% of the population didn't like the idea, it was for our own good so that made it ok.
Fortunately a judge agreed that citizens are smart enough to choose what to eat without government help, and struck the ban down. He suggested that there should actually be a separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches of government, and that the ban violated that separation. The case went to the New York Supreme Court, who agreed that the Health Department had overstepped its authority. The soda ban was just one more item in a long line of "for your own good" NYC rules, some of which have also been struck down while others haven't.
Coming soon to a city near you! "Healthy" food choices, whether you like it or not
New York is far from the only place to take food choices out of our hands. Raw milk has long been illegal in many of the states, and selling it can actually bring a SWAT team down on your head in some places. But the ban on raw milk, whether it still makes sense in this day and age, does have its roots in basic hygiene and valid public health issues. The roots of more contemporary food bans based on "unhealthiness" are less solid.
The bans on sugary sodas are presented as a way to fight obesity. However, fruit juices, flavored coffee drinks, and flavored milk drinks are often exempt.These types of drinks usually have many times the calories of soda. Diet sodas, which have been shown to cause both more weight gain and more diabetes than sugared drinks are also green-lighted without a second thought. And when it comes to less cut-and-dried bans (or requirements, for that matter) the issue becomes even murkier.
These public policies are usually based on USDA guidelines regarding what is allegedly "healthy" or "unhealthy. This fact should make them suspect in and of itself. After all, the USDA is partially to blame for the current weight of the country. Nearly three decades of being told we should eat six to eleven servings of bread, rice, and pasta is as much to blame for our collective weight as sugary sodas. But Big Brother knows what's best for us, right?
San Francisco effectively banned McDonald's Happy Meals, setting stringent regulations that kids' meals must meet before restaurants can offer a toy along with food. Schools across the country are banning lunches brought from home. Because we can't possibly pack our kids healthy lunches. That's a job for - you guessed it - government, in the guise of the school. Junk food vending machines have been kicked out of schools too. This isn't a bad thing on the face of it. It does, however, beg the question: where does it stop? Is it coming to your office next? Or even your home? It very well could be, if the trend continues.
Food bans do more than infringe on your rights
The biggest objection to food bans like these is that they infringe individual rights. This is a valid and extremely important point, but it ignores an even more important one. Food bans also do away with personal accountability, and shift the responsibility for our actions and choices from our own shoulders onto those of government. They are a way to instill in us the idea that we're incapable of doing things for ourselves, including choosing what food to eat. We're not bright enough, they insinuate, to make informed decisions. Instead we need someone else to choose for us.
That someone else, of course, is government.
The architect of the San Francisco Happy Meal ban actually cited his own lack of self-control as a reason for proposing the ban. The "pester power" of a pre-teen, according to him, is simply more than he or any other parent can withstand, he says. We need government to step in and regulate things so we don't have to exercise any self-control or parental authority.
This is a very, very bad lesson to teach our kids and grandkids. It's a terrible mindset to succumb to ourselves. If we need government to tell us what we can and cannot eat, what other choices are we willing to give up? Deciding when we need to see a doctor? What medication to take? What medical procedures we're willing to undergo?
Food bans on "unhealthy" foods is an extremely slippery slope. One that doesn't have a place in democracy.
Here's what you can do:
- Pay attention to the news both national and local. If you see the government impeding on your rights again - you must raise awareness. This is very easy to do. Just talk about it to your friends, especially those who are likely to vote. The more people you motivate to take action, the more of a difference you can make.
- Participate in polls - many politicians don't want to make an unpopular decision, and polls are how they judge the public opinion on an issue.
- Get out there and exercise your right to Vote!
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