When the government went after tobacco companies, I was all for it. The companies had lied about the deleterious health impact of smoking for years. As for warnings by some that once Big Tobacco was swallowed, the fast food industry and other areas of eating deemed to be less than optimal for our health, would be next: Baloney, I scoffed.
Silly me. In taking down the tobacco companies, and bringing in billions for social welfare programs, the government got addicted to taxing for wellness and intruding in how individuals live their lives. The newest kick is to make us eat well–for our own good, of course. That isn’t as easy as getting smokers to quit. It’s tougher than herding the nicotine stick junkies into alleys for a surreptitious smoke or taxing cigarette packs through the roof.
But they are coming up with ideas. An op/ed in today’s NYT by the paper’s food cop really raised my eyebrows. It is generally about how we should all eat better and more ethically–and how the government should–as if it doesn’t already have more than enough to do–make sure that we do.
Let’s skip the ethics part, and get to ways in which we will be forced to eat better. From Mark Bitman’s “A Food Manifesto for the Future:”
Here are some ideas — frequently discussed, but sadly not yet implemented — that would make the growing, preparation and consumption of food healthier, saner, more productive, less damaging and more enduring. In no particular order:…
Encourage and subsidize home cooking. (Someday soon, I’ll write about my idea for a new Civilian Cooking Corps.) When people cook their own food, they make better choices. When families eat together, they’re more stable. We should provide food education for children (a new form of home ec, anyone?), cooking classes for anyone who wants them and even cooking assistance for those unable to cook for themselves.
So, we are going to pay cooking bureaucrats to teach us how to cook???? And if people can’t cook their own healthy meals, send people in to do it for them? Are we really that helpless? Do we not have enough federal workers to be paid and pensioned? Are we going to let the government literally into our homes, refrigerators, and microwaves?
Then, there is the tobacco company angle:
Tax the marketing and sale of unhealthful foods. Another budget booster. This isn’t nanny-state paternalism but an accepted role of government: public health. If you support seat-belt, tobacco and alcohol laws, sewer systems and traffic lights, you should support legislation curbing the relentless marketing of soda and other foods that are hazardous to our health — including the sacred cheeseburger and fries.
First, this is stretching the concept of public health way beyond the breaking point. Moreover, the cheese burger is not unsafe, at least not in the same way as, say, riding a motorcycle without a helmet. But that is beside the point. We are getting to the place where the wellness police are moving beyond nanny stateism to wellness fascism: It is the setting of another block in the creation of a bureaucratic state.
Ah, but you will say your health is my business, Wesley. Because of the cost of health care, what you eat matters to society. And that is precisely why Obamacare and this wellness obsession as a form of cost control must be resisted. Once our wellness and health become the government’s business, there is almost nothing they can’t regulate. This is not only going from the ridiculous to the sublime, it is flat-out anti freedom. The time has come to say, no mas.