Food is a Freedom…for now.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013
posted by elizabeth @ 11:43 AM

I have four children (and a husband and a dog).  As you can imagine, I go to the grocery store frequently.  HEB should love me.  We also eat out frequently.  Chick-fil-A should love me, too.   I make grocery lists to stay organized and efficient in my shopping.  Yet at the same time, I completely take for granted that I can buy anything I want at the grocery store, at any time.   I bet you do, too.  Even former Russian President Boris Yeltsin, upon visiting Houston in 1989, was amazed at our limitless options at the grocery store.  He commented that even the then current Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev and Senior Politburo members did not have access to such plentitude.  Yet, the food nannies in this country are always looking for ways to limit our options, take our choices away, and tell us what to eat.  They are food nannies and they claim to know better than you or I.

With the words “Food Police”, of course you immediately think of Mayor Michael Bloomberg oddly limiting sugary drinks to 16 ounces in New York City.  However, that was full of holes as you may remember.   A consumer could have bought two 16 ounces sodas, or skipped the Burger King and  walked next door to a convenience store to buy a 32 ounce beverage as the regulatory bodies were different.    What about Chicago banning fois gras (since repealed).  And, California, under Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, actually banned the delicacy first.

Most of our food policies in the U.S. are debated under the assumption that we want a healthy country, healthy workforce, healthy children, and a healthy future.   While I completely agree, at what cost do we take freedom away from the citizens in order to ensure that our population eats, exercises, and looks a certain way?  In Japan, employers are required to take waist measurements for all 40-74 year olds.   In many European countries, packing a lunch for your own child is he forbidden.  The assumption is that those governments know better and are providing a better meal.   Our country is heading in this direction, as well, never mind that studies have shown that all the government provided food in the world cannot make a child healthy like the trifecta of family dinners, adequate sleep, and limited technology time (The Ohio State University, February 2010).   But that is another whole topic.

While everyone is in agreement that we DO need a healthy society, the way we travel there is where the disagreement begins.  And, using government regulation to force a society to act and behave is not freedom.   And, frankly, it does not work.  Taxing politically incorrect foods, aka junk foods, has not even proven effective.   A 2010 study by the pro-soda tax Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that a 40% tax on soda had no statistically significant effect.   And, a 2005 Texas State University Study on the Maine snack foods tax indicated no effect on obesity rates.   It did not work in Denmark either.  They repealed their fat tax last year.

Are Fat Taxes a realistic way to decrease consumption of certain foods?  Some economists say that if the market does not provide “optimum results,” throw in a tax to deter people.  Is that what we want the government of our free society to do?  Manipulate us and pick winners and losers in the free market?   The tax rate would need to be somewhere near 20% to be even remotely effective anyway.   

As a mom, I do most certainly want my children to eat healthy, which is why I buy fresh fruit and vegetables, lean meats, and fat free milk.  We usually opt for fruit as a side at Chick-Fil-A.  My children very rarely consume sodas and even juices are poured sparingly.  I am proud to live in a free country where we can be responsible for our own behaviors and make our own choices.  I love to eat and appreciate the various options out there.   Government’s job is not to dictate my grocery list or my favorite restaurant menu.   We are so blessed in America.  Do not take it for granted.

-Elizabeth Biar


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