11 April 2011

Progressive's Food Fascism

In the early days of the Obama Administration, clarion calls from a Cable News host inveighed that Cass Sunstein, the White House Administrator of Information and Regulatory Affairs, was labeled as the most dangerous man in America.  Sunstein’s book Nudge offered a game plan for drive the herd in forcing Americans to adopt desired policies.  This nudging seems most acutely applied in a cornucopia of instances of food fascism.

New York City under the progressive prodding of Mayor Michael Bloomberg (D,R, ?-NYC) has been in the forefront of food fascism.  While New York City only recently toyed banned fast food restaurants from offering toys with their children’s meals so as not to fall far behind San Francisco, NYC led the way for discouraging using trans-fats in fast food and displaying a calorie count on their menus.

But New York City was not content to micro-manage fast food chain restaurants.  The New York City Sanitation Department issued an edict entitled “Life in the Cubical Village” which proscribed some very specific rules about food.  French Fries are forbidden as are other fried foods.  Soda is censored.  In fact, any beverages served must have no more than 25 calories per 8 oz. serving. If food is served than it must be accompanied by tap water. These rules actually dictate that if a celebration cake is served, there may not be cookies. Muffins must be cut into quarters and all popcorn must be air popped and served in brown paper lunch bags.  Isn’t it ironic that such crap comes from the NYC Sanitation Department?

Boston is going further to nudge it’s nutritional notions.  Mayor Tom Manino (D-Boston) has issued an executive order that will phase out all sugary drinks on city property in the next six months.  In fact, Manino wants to ban all sales, promotion and advertising.  This soda fiat was paired by the city blessing the sale of mixed drinks at Fenway Park, presumably so long as it is not a Rum and Coke.

Schools have been a battle ground for food fascism.  Due to paranoia over peanut allergies, many school districts have tried to ban PBJ sandwiches.  There have been news stories about regulations on celebration bake goods which took pointers from “Life in the Cubical Village”.  But Chicago takes the cake, so to speak.  Some Chicago Public Schools confiscate snacks that are deemed too salty or sugary, and supposedly the forbidden food is returned at the end of the day.  At the Little Village Academy, Chicago Public Schools, students are prohibited from bringing their lunches from home, unless they have a doctor’s note or a food allergy.  Allegedly, this is intended to nudge children into eating better.  But kid’s palates can be picky so many lunches go uneaten into the circular file. The real reason may not be altogether altruistic, as Chartwells-Thompson, the CPS designated food vendor, is paid by the federal government for every free or reduced price meal that is served (not necessarily consumed).  It seems that it takes a village...idiot.

It is commendable to be conscientious about eating well.  But this Republic is supposed to be the land of the free, which includes making unwise personal choices.  When governments can not afford to pay for essential services, they issue these rigorous rules which overreach their mandate for governance.  This permits petty bureaucrats to selectively enforce their biases under the color of law. These regulations are often imprudent economically and encourage a flouting of Big Brother from otherwise exemplary citizens. Recall Prohibition?

 Personally, I wish that progressives would leave the nudging to reliving Monty Python skits.

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