Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Ban Me Now or Ban Me Later

Government of the People, By the People, For the People - so long, it's been good to know 'ya

The nanny-state clears another hurdle in it's relentless quest to protect us children from ourselves. Instead of actually holding people accountable for their actions and behavior the bureaucratic nannies over at city hall will simply create a ban.

New York City has banned restaurants from selling food made with trans-fat. "It is a dangerous and unnecessary ingredient," claims the NYC health commissioner. It is also the ingredient that gives certain foods the texture and flavor desired by cooks and clients alike. What business is it of New York City to decide what New Yorkers eat?

It wasn't even ten years ago that "experts" and health professionals were urging the use of trans-fats to replace "dangerous" animal fats for cooking. We have all seen the ridiculous use of the media to spread fear of certain foods or drugs (or breast implants) only to see a study years later that totally refute the previous dire claims.

Yes, it is totally possible that trans-fats are dangerous in large amounts. Cigarettes are dangerous too, as well as alcohol and a whole host of perfectly legal products. People have a choice whether to eat, drink or smoke things that may be or may not be dangerous to them. In Japan there is a delicacy called fugu, a fish that aficionados pay hundreds of dollars to eat. It is also potentially deadly if it is not prepared in a precise manner. The flavor, it is said, is really nothing special? A little richer than other white fish but a flavor sensation it is not. So why do diners and cooks risk their lives to serve and eat it? Because they can! It's called freedom!

The nanny-state claims that trans-fat (and cigarette smoking) are costing society billions in health care outlays so this tact of regulating what people do is for the good of all society. Again, this is strictly because society doesn't punish offenders for their actions, instead they punish the law abiding and wise for the actions of a few. Instead of throwing the book at violent criminals who use firearms they want to ban all guns - as if the gun points itself and pulls it's own trigger. Or, the cigarette jumps from the pack, lights itself and forces you to inhale. People make choices and they ought to be held accountable. Smokers perhaps should pay substantially higher insurance costs. Violent gun users should be locked up for good! Obese people perhaps need better mental health care coverage to overcome behaviors that lead to poor eating decisions.

I am diabetic and have many restrictions on what (and the amount) I should eat. Donuts are out, can't eat them. Should I demand that donuts and pastry be banned - they are clearly dangerous to me if I eat them in large amounts. No, I just shouldn't eat them. Why should I or the city on my behalf ban donuts for the millions who love them and can eat them without consequence?

A colleague at work looks upon the the trans-fat ban with an "oh well, it really isn't good for you, and face it too many Americans are overweight" as he pats his substantial belly. He is essentially saying that I can't control myself so it is good that my nanny watch what I eat. This is a 40 something adult man with a decent head on his shoulders. This "what can you do about it" attitude towards the creeping nanny-state is exactly what got Europe in the state it is in.

It is so much easier to just let our nanny force us into healthy and compliant behavior - why fight it? Because you are a free person, an individual with a free will. We are not a collective, but a community of individuals. We are not a hive serving one queen (or nanny). Yes, we need each other, I know that better than most, we need to look out for each other and help when it's needed or asked for. But as I am learning as a father and a husband (not a nanny) I have to let them face the consequences of their actions... So should the government.

My colleague at work may think it is just OK that the government regulates what we can and cannot do until the day they come after something he likes and holds dear!



al fin said...

Personally, I think the trans fat issue is massively overblown. But since a lot of tort lawyers stand to make hundreds of millions of dollars off trans-fat, you know the media and a lot of politicians are going to play the issue to the hilt.

We are not used to quantifying the risks we take every day. If we were, we might understand that eating modest amounts of trans fats is not in the top group of risks for most of us.

But where there's lots of money to be made by class action lawsuits, the truth won't come out until years after the big cash awards--like with silicone implants.

TJ Willms said...

Smokers actually "SAVE" America Billions in health care and prescription drug costs over time because they tend to croak-off long before achieving geriatric status where the truly monstrous medical costs lurk. As macabre as that statement sounds the empirical data collected by many sources supports it as true regardless of how it makes us “feel”.

That we do these things to ourselves is correctly identified as the source of all the trouble with the least beneficial behavior we can exhibit occurs behind the closed curtain of the voting booth where we choose to vote stupidly. Thus is one of the many costs of our freedom. The New York city council simply wanted to strip its citizens of the cost of eating badly but simultaneously stripped away the accompanying freedom to choose a tasty diet in the process. In America, we have the freedom to be uninformed, lazy, gluttonous, angry, ambitious, nurturing, apathetic, or completely stupid. Each behavioral choice carries with it an undeniable cost.

“The price of Freedom is eternal vigilance”, this statement rings true not only imploring us to be watchful of the enemies of freedom from the world at large but to be mindful of our own government and perhaps even helping to make us a little more aware of how we handle our own freedom. There does seem to be a Legal / Financial component to this bilious ban of trans-fat hiding behind the curtain of governmental altruism that has nothing to do with dietary over indulgence. This ban forces one to ask “What next New York?” Perhaps we can expect state sanctioned food rations and exercise programs in the future try to save us from ourselves. Just remember all of you Soylent Green is people!!!!!