The First Lady shrieks about American obesity every chance she gets. (Maybe she should get her husband to quit smoking first.) Some child and nutritional advocates are pushing for legislation to require fast food chain restaurants with at least 20 outlets to list key nutrition information. Their reasoning is that since this is already done with food on grocery store shelves, it should also be done with McDonald’s, Denny’s and all the rest.
Americans are getting fatter and, according to the welfare state mentality, ‘something has got to be done.’ More precisely, politicians
have to look and seem like they’re doing something about it.
To fail to be seen trying to do something about it might insinuate that fat people themselves (surprise, surprise) are responsible for putting all this weight on their bodies. This, of course, is unthinkable.
Even an advocate of more limited government might ask: Isn’t this regulation simply about government requiring businesses to be open and up front about what they sell? Isn’t this a protection against fraud? Of course it is entirely valid for government to prosecute fraud. However, it isn’t valid for government to assume, at the outset, that an entire industry is guilty of fraud and needs to prove itself merely by virtue of being in that industry. Businesses, even large corporations, are run by individuals. Individuals in these businesses enjoy the same rights as you and I under the Constitution: They are innocent until proven guilty. They are not to be punished unless they have been convicted of doing something.
Requiring businesses to go through the trouble and expense of telling customers what’s in the food they’re eating at the time they order it is a punishment. It will cost businesses profits, it will ultimately raise prices on consumers, and it will do little or nothing to change peoples’ behavior. It’s self-evident that eating lots of McDonald’s food puts too much weight on you. People who continue to do so, in spite of the evidence, are not going to suddenly start paying attention to this fact because the government has passed another regulation.
Politicians proposing such legislation know what I’m saying is true. They’re wrong, but not stupid. What some of them would really like to do is outlaw or at least severely restrict the ability of businesses to sell fattening food to customers. It’s not about nutrition, either. It’s business and capitalism they hate. They like to attack capitalism every chance they get. This is why they go after the businesses. If they really cared about people and their health, they would launch educational campaigns to try and persuade people to stop doing this to themselves. They would spend their energy telling people, for example, that most fast-food chains already voluntarily put nutritional information about their food online and elsewhere. They would point out that the most important factor is eating a healthy and balanced diet and not letting themselves go.
Such politicians and other consumer ‘advocating’ do-gooders-with-guns care little about reason and persuasion. Instead, they only want to impose more burdens on businesses because they don’t like business and they see regulations (like taxes) as a chance to restrict profits of people and investors in corporations like McDonald’s. They feel that McDonald’s executives are making money off the poor health of people who eat too much McDonald’s food and they want to punish them for this in any way they can.
This is the same mentality of the Occupy Wall Street crowd. They don’t like the lack of success and wealth they see around them. Instead of blaming people who won’t work, and the politicians who (through their anti-business polices) prevent jobs from being created, they blame ‘ the people who still actually do work and make money. It’s no different with people who blame obesity on the manufacturers of food, rather than the people doing the eating.
Such mentalities either ignore or disagree with the idea that people are responsible for their own actions so long as there is no fraud or victimization taking place. Also ignored is the fact that many people eat McDonald’s food minimally or moderately and are not harmed by its intake.
The healthy will likewise be punished, indirectly, through the higher cost of fast food brought about by the additional regulations imposed on the industry, as inevitably they will be in our ‘there oughtta be a law’ society.
The only fraud taking place in the fast-food industry is the fraud that overeaters commit against themselves. It’s called denial. Denial is a form of lying to oneself. Let’s not sue or regulate fast food companies—and by extension, capitalism and freedom—by pretending that the truth in this matter is any different.