All You Do-Gooders on the Bloomberg Bandwagon: Food Bans Have No Place in a Free Country

Posted on June 15, 2012


After my rant about NYC Mayor Bloomberg’s crusade against big sodas, a letter to the editors appeared in the Washington Post, not only extolling the virtues of Bloomberg’s plan, but calling for more:  to focus on other items in the “toxic-food environment,” such as “cheeseburgers, hot dogs and potato chips.”  The writer is Susan Levin, director of nutrition education for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.  I am in favor of responsible medicine.  I am also in favor of personal responsibility, and food bans don’t cut it in America.

Freedom and responsibility go together.  Here’s the thing with the growing obesity trend: one can argue that it actually constitutes a national security threat.  Consider that among 17-to-24-year-olds, a full 27% are just plain too fat for military service (another 50% fail to qualify thanks to educational deficits and criminal records, but that’s another story).  And then there are the economic costs of obesity.  Medical care, lost wages, lost work hours, accommodations for the workplace.  A healthy economy is a huge national security issue, believe it or not, and a healthy economy needs healthy people.

Levin is right: soda is not the only obesity culprit.  But banning first one food, then another, absolutely will not solve anything, and frankly, it will really piss people off (a pissed-off populace is another security issue).  After banning sodas, burgers, hot dogs and chips, we will find that we then “need” to ban candy, bread, rice, pasta, and potatoes.  And after that, perhaps red meats, whole milk, butter, cream, and cheese.  Wake up, food tyrants, and put that box of band-aids away.  There is no magical food that is making everyone fat.  It’s not the food, it’s the total calories!  And the reason behind the total calories, I suspect, is that our culture has become one of instant gratification and convenience, and food is no exception.

So what’s a leader to do?    Well, lead.  Don’t impose.  See, that’s the difference between the America I know and the dictatorships I have visited.  In a real democracy, leaders use their powers of persuasion, they convince, they inspire, they lead by example.  In a fake democracy, elections are held and then the winners lay down a bunch of rules that limit everyone else’s choices, thus impinging on freedom and quality of life.  Food bans have no place in a free country.