May 14, 2007

Why have government at all?

When I recently suggested that we all should unite behind the Center for Science in the Public Interest's campaign to put nutritional information on menus, I received the typical argument. Not against the intent of the bill, but the wrong-headed argument that government has no business telling anyone what to do.

The exact words were:
In my opinion this is the problem with legislating health. It is up to the consumer to STOP supersizing; STOP ordering mega portions or worse, complaining of how expensive the food is when served a NORMAL portion-why do you think restaurants starting making larger portions in the first place. We need to stop blaming governments, restaurants, fast food joints for what WE BUY. Don't buy mega meals and the food service industry will respond, Don't buy what you don't want to eat... there are plenty of options out there, but 'its too expensive', 'its too much trouble', PUT YOUR MONEY WHERE YOUR MOUTH IS AND THE INDUSTRY WILL RESPOND. We can't expect 'big brother' to baby sit us... I certainly don't want the government telling me what I can and can't eat; I don't even let my fiance do that and I love him a lot more than I love my congressman, governor, legislature and president!
But of course the government does tell us what to eat. We can't eat tainted food. We could back in the 1920s, but the muckrakers forced government into action, stopping industries from poisoning us. We can't eat food picked by underpaid migrant workers. The government in the 1970s declared workers had certain rights. I can go on and on with how government currently tells you what to eat.

And today, government makes it easy and cheap to eat "junk" food. Why is it even possible for restaurants to "supersize"? Because the government has legislated it. And you paid for it. By changing the farm policy 40 years ago, corn is cheaper than what it costs to grow it. That supports the beef and fast-food industry. McDonald's should have to pay the true costs of hamburgers and french fries.

My critics say it's "too expensive" to eat healthy. They're right. The government doesn't subsidize carrots.

It's naive to think restaurants will do what's right. If it wasn't for government, they'd serve you trans fats, underpay their employees, have unsafe working conditions and monopolize industries. Good government is not big brother. Good government is you and me protecting our fellow citizens and children.

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