Fast Food in the Nanny State

So the Lifestyle Nazis on the Los Angeles City Council unanimously approved a measure that prevents any and all new “fast-food” restaurants from opening in South L.A., in order to combat obeisity. Presently, the measure will be in iffect for a year, but already multi-year extensions are on the way. As Angry Toxicologist notes, this is a blow to individual freedom:

This is so paternalistic it’s disgusting. Do poor people make bad food choices? Yes. Should we thus deprive them of choosing all food we consider bad? Don’t make me answer that. If you want more health choices, put incentives in for a decent grocery to move in or a farmers market (although you are still left with the issue that healthy foods are more expensive). Beyond that, you can eat relatively healthy at many fast food places if you want to; but-news flash-people don’t.

The sense of paternalism seems to be growing in the country equal to the sense that the government is responsible for everything, both reinforcing each other. I was listening to a radio recently and heard some city government official railing against Verizon for not putting FIOS into the poor sections of town as fast as the richer sections. Umm, gee, ya think? One, they’re a business, they install where they can get money back on their investment. Two, super-high-speed internet is a main concern for the poor in the city? Now, I know that there is a digital divide and we need to make sure people have access but maybe we should get crime, housing and social services in order first before we start worrying about fiber optic internet access.

Over at the Becker-Posner Blog, Gary Becker and Richard Posner discuss government intervention in fast food in general, with Posner focusing on New York City’s recent ordinance requiring posting on menus of the number of calories in each item (which he supports), while Becker also discusses the L.A. measure and the NYC trans-fat ban. In outlining his opposition, Becker makes an important point:

But the alleged “externality” with regard to obesity is due only to the government’s subsidy of medical expenditures, so that it is a case of one government intervention- justified or not- causing another intervention-control of eating. It is not a path of intervention causation that most people would be comfortable with in many situations. For example, since the government subsidizes the medical care of children of poorer parents, a mechanical application of this type of externality argument would say that this justifies governmental control over the number of children that poor parents can have. Additional children of these families create an “externality” by raising taxes on others to pay for the medical costs of these children. Many similar examples can be given where government regulations and other government programs cause certain types of behavior that raise taxes or subsidies and adversely affect taxpayers, even though there would be no externality from this behavior in the absence of the government programs.

Government involvement in healthcare gives government a stake, and thus a say, in each individual citizen’s lifestyle choices. This all is another example of the tendency (confined neither to the political Left nor the Right) to attempt big-government “solutions” to “problems” caused by big government in the first place.
Jake Young of Pure Pedantry, who lives in New York, and thus has experienced some of these laws first-hand, also discusses the measures, and Becker & Posner’s posts.

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One Response to “Fast Food in the Nanny State”

  1. Gate Latch Says:

    of course when you dont have time to cook, fastfoods would always be the best option `~.

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