Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Give Me Oreos or (and?) Give Me Death

Thanks to our friends at Reason and Revelation, I have been alerted to "another new prohibitionism." New York City has banned foods made with trans fats, although they’re fine by the FDA. Do we have an inalienable right to eat dangerously? Or is it time for enlightened municipalities to take the lead in enhancing our health and safety--guided, of course, by the latest studies? Which do you fear more--Big Brother or the Big Sleep? Now I stopped eating Twinkies, Moon Pies, and such sometime ago, but it didn’t occur to me to make them illegal. When it came to banning smoking in public places, there was always the moderately, but far from completely, lame argument that others would be bothered or conceivably made sick by second-hand smoke. And I have to admit that I’m a bit more comfortable myself when nobody’s smoking. But I can’t imagine how it would hurt me to watch you scarf down a bag of cookies or chips, both of which are less disgusting than, say, sushi or tofu.

Discussions - 14 Comments

Lawler, I agree with you.

Though to play devil’s advocate, the nationwide obesity problem is driving up insurance rates; plus seeing as the poor are the biggest consumers of junk food, it overburdens our medical infrastructure. Perhaps even more than illegal immigrants! So in other words, fat people are stealing my money. On that basis, the policy makes sense.

As government gets more involved in funding health care expect more of this to happen. Government will be under pressure to maximize value per dollar of taxes, and the only way to do this is to reduce risk. So they will make things illegal based on the reason that no one has a right to burden others. When government gives away stuff, there are always strings.

My wife and I were shopping at a Kroger in Durham this weekend when we noticed another couple of rather hefty dimensions lingering at the donut rack and stocking up.

They may have been unaware of the health risks or simply didn’t care. But then it is their choice. No one was holding a gun at them and forcing them to buy.

Thanks for these comments. I’ve gotten a couple of well-informed emails to the effect that the war against trans fats is bizarre and even harmful. It creates the impression that any food without ’em must be heart healthy. It’s not even the case that trans fats are all that responsible for our country’s high (bad) cholesterol levels etc. If someone were actually serious about this, refined carbs would be outlawed. But I’m not endorsing that policy. It’s not been proven that reducing risk saves health dollars. What costs more than scrawny old man or woman who spends a decade fading away from Alzheimer’s because he or she didn’t die of anything else? What’s cheaper than some guy who drops dead from a heart attack in his 50s without collecting a dime of Social Security etc.?

Public health groups successfully stigmatized tobacco use, in part, by employing the phrase ’secondhand smoke’. Perhaps some of these same groups, who got the ear of NYC politicians regarding food and obesity, will see fit to market their campaign with the phrase: secondhand trans fat.

The link between obesity and life expectancy is tenuous. The state with by far the lowest death rate from heart disease is.... Minnnesota. We are not a small people. But we do get a lot of exercise. How dumb are New Yorkers to react to the ShtHd news media’s dubious proclamations by banning trans-fat? Oh wait, the dumbsses that run the news media ARE New Yorkers. Never mind.

I agree with Nurse Bloomberg; the New York City Marathon must be cancelled.

All those needless sprained ankles, shin splints, joint damage. And for what--to run around pointlessly in a big circle? No, the Nurse is right; freedom is just too risky.

These aren’t the only athletes "stealing our money". We must also ban football, mountain biking, pole-vaulting, hang-gliding, snow-skiing and soccer. Especially soccer.

Allowing radical Muslims to fly on airplanes has provable health risks for New Yorkers. Why do we still allow it?

New Yorkers aren’t getting enough sleep, either. We need a law that says all subjects should be in bed by 9:00 pm. Lights out and no getting up for water.

And no sex, either. At least, not without a City Permit. ’Cos let’s face it: sex is risky. You’ve got your STD’s, your genital warts, your unwanted pregnancies, your gonnorhea, etc. There is one exception, though:

Justice Kennedy:

"Liberty protects the person from unwarranted government intrusions into a dwelling or other private places. In our tradition the State is not omnipresent in the home. And there are other spheres of our lives and existence, outside the home, where the State should not be a dominant presence. Freedom extends beyond spatial bounds. Liberty presumes an autonomy of self that includes freedom of thought, belief, expression, and certain intimate conduct. The instant case involves liberty of the person both in its spatial and more transcendent dimensions."

Yes, thanks to the vision of our Founding Fathers, we have an Iron-Clad spatial and transcendant Right to Sodomy. But not to greasy French Fries. Hmmm...maybe the Founders were Onion Ring-men.

Anyway, because we’re all in the same insurance pool, all of you people who are doing anything of which I disapprove need to cease and desist at once. And join Nurse Bloomberg and me as we seek to stamp out the Greatest Health Threat of Our Time:

all those empty calories contained in edible panties. Do it For the Children. Do it For New York. And do it Because I said so.

Peter, are you suggesting that my right to eat an Onion Flower is not found in the penumbras of the 5th, 4th, 1st, and 9th amendments?

Within a decade this issue will be on the ballots of all the states who have banned smoking. In Ohio everyone claimed the smoking issue was about second hand smoke, but I think, as we’ll see when transfats/fast food comes up, it is more about the fact that these people think they know better and are legislating their will on the rest of the populace.

As a pragmatic problem, does NYC have enough restuarant inspectors to enforce this? It can’t be too hard to change the labels on your lard-buckets. And it might be harder than you think for a store or bodega manager to know that everything on his shelves is trans-fat free. Will violations be akin to sanitary violations, which can shut you down?

As much as I like Noel’s rant, the idea of the law (as opposed to the acutal, perhaps quite high, cost of implementing it) doesn’t bother me that much, and it bothers me a good deal less than the smoking-in-bars ban. The amount of obesity I saw in my six years in the Bronx was pretty depressing, particularly on the D-train later in the evening, when those with the least desirable jobs would be commuting home. As the article points out, lots of pooerer NYers have the bad habit of eating fast-food regularly, and many have little choice to do so for at least one of their meals. So its not surprising that many NYers might want the Nurse to watch their back. I will be particularly interested to hear how the pizza-joints fare, as the business of quite a few of these tiny joints rests entirely on the fact that their slices taste ever-so-slightly better than others’.

As a commited smoker (my mother taught me to "never be a quitter") I have paid attention to the anti-smoking debate. It strikes me that the issue is not health at all. As Peter says it’s partly about comfort. Those who wanted to ban smoking often spoke about not wanting to go out and return smelling like smoke. The trans-fat issue I suspect is also really not a health issue. Maybe people just don’t want to look at fat people. More importantly, smoking and eating twinkies is not a health issue its a moral one. One who abuses their health in such a manner must be bad. Its not that they want to take care of the bodily careless but scold them.

FL, you articulated what I’ve been thinking about the issue since I heard it was on the Ohio ballot.

One sometimes gets the impression that the mere words ’Socialism and ’Communism’ draw towards
them with magnetic force every fruit-juice drinker, nudist, sandal-wearer,
sex-maniac, Quaker, ’Nature Cure’ quack, pacifist, and feminist in England. One day this summer I was riding through Letchworth when the bus stopped and two dreadful-looking old men got on to it. They were both about sixty, both very short, pink, and chubby, and both hatless. One of them was obscenely bald, the other had long grey hair bobbed in the Lloyd George
style. They were dressed in pistachio-coloured shirts and khaki shorts into
which their huge bottoms were crammed so tightly that you could study every
dimple. Their appearance created a mild stir of horror on top of the bus.
The man next to me, a commercial traveller I should say, glanced at me, at them, and back again at me, and murmured ’Socialists’, as who should say, ’Red Indians’. He was probably right--the I.L.P. were holding their
summer school at Letchworth. But the point is that to him, as an ordinary
man, a crank meant a Socialist and a Socialist meant a crank. Any
Socialist, he probably felt, could be counted on to have something
eccentric about him. And some such notion seems to exist even among
Socialists themselves. For instance, I have here a prospectus from another
summer school which states its terms per week and then asks me to say
’whether my diet is ordinary or vegetarian’. They take it for granted, you see, that it is necessary to ask this question. This kind of thing is by
itself sufficient to alienate plenty of decent people. And their instinct
is perfectly sound, for the food-crank is by definition a person willing to
cut himself off from human society in hopes of adding five years on to the
life of his carcase; that is, a person out of touch with common humanity.

And their instinct is perfectly sound, for the food-crank is by definition a person willing to cut himself off from human society in hopes of adding five years on to the life of his carcase; that is, a person out of touch with common humanity.

This is one of the wisest things ever written on this board. I choose to eat Barberton chicken. I do this because it is cooked in lard, not in spite of it. If you don’t understand that, you should not be making policy.

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