The decision by Jack-in-the-Box to nix the toys in their kid’s meals was the latest illustration of America’s nanny state gone wild. Following on the heels of the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s Happy Meal toy-inspired lawsuit against McDonald’s, it is becoming clear that American’s bulging waistlines are in the crosshairs of the food police’s snipers. At least these instances were done without governmental decree; the decision by San Francisco to ban the inclusion of Happy Meals with toys should disturb even the most health-conscious. These sorts of absurd acts make clear the direction this public policy debate is headed.
True, the roughly one in four obese Americans (with percentages even higher in Louisiana) serve as a testament to lack of dietary self-control. But does this call for governments to mandate restaurants serve items their customers might not want? Issuing public health guidelines is one thing; using coercion to force them on us is something else entirely.
Endurance and weight training as well as proper nutrition are excellent contributors to looking and feeling great. But shouldn’t engaging in these rewarding activities be a decision individuals make on their own accord? The cries for government action to combat the obesity crisis assumes both that Americans are too foolish to practice restraint and that private advocacy groups are too incompetent to educate consumers on the perks of healthy living.
If a critical mass of Americans began demanding nutrition labels on menus and sought to cut down on their processed food and sodium intake, establishments would respond to this as swiftly as possible before their competitor across the street did so. That is how a free market operates, not by twisting the arms of fast food companies to act contrary to their customers’ wants. One must wonder how much of a stretch it would be before carrot intake is required to combat blindness or Jack Johnson tunes in the car made mandatory to fight the War on Road Rage.
Likewise, it is inconclusive whether government intervention into its citizens’ diet actually produces the intended results. Lectures from the First Lady are not a guaranteed method of turning couch potatoes into Boston Marathon qualifiers; that is something each person has to want bad enough for themselves. Frankly, some are simply content being several pounds overweight.
The greatest irony of the debate over governments becoming involved in nutrition is the double standard of those agitating for it. There is often an overlap between those who embrace the pro-choice label and those leading the charge against choice in the dietary realm. Being in favor of “choice” apparently does not apply to weighty matters such as calorie counts or salt intake at lunch; apparently, in the minds of some, the masses are not to be trusted with the composition of their diet.
A citizenry truly in favor of choice would recognize that a country free to gorge itself into obesity is infinitely preferable to one where they are legislated into fitness.