Wednesday, April 25, 2012
John Stossel hits the nail on the head about several issues in his latest
piece, given the deceptively plain title, "The Assault on Food" at
Townhall. I particularly like his moral clarity about government force
and the superb example he chose to illustrate the problems inherent in the idea
that the government should enforce standards for "good" individual behavior.
I don't suggest that we ignore the experts and eat like pigs. But the scientific question should not overshadow the more fundamental issue. Who should decide what you can eat: you? Or the state? Should government decide what we may eat, any more than it decides where we live or how long our hair will be? The Food Police claim that they just want to help us make informed choices. But that's not all they want to do. They try to get government to force us to make healthy choices.This point Stossel makes after first indicating that the whole notion of the government taking sides in a scientific debate to be a sham.
The moral issue of force versus persuasion applies even if all the progressives' ideas about nutrition are correct. Even if I would be better off eating no fat and salt, that would not justify forcing restaurants to stop serving me those things. Either we live in a free society or we don't. [bold added]
[F]or every study that says X is bad for you, another study disagrees. How is a layman to decide? I used to take consumer activists' word for it. Heck, they want to save the world, while industry just wants to get rich. Now I know better. The activists want money, too -- and fame.Stossel doesn't stress this matter much, but his bit about it being "intuitive" to turn to the government pops up more than once, and is indicative of just how deeply-ingrained in our culture skipping careful thought and surrendering important decisions to others has become. Today's snake oil salesmen already have a leg up on those of yesteryear even without the real chance that everyone will be force-fed their nostrums. When once, they could only take in a comparatively few gullible souls, they can now whip up major panic.
To arbitrate, it's intuitive to turn to government -- except ... government scientists have conflicts, too. [bold added]
The first thing I do upon hearing dietary advice is to ask myself on what basis it is being given and whether the advice necessarily follows from it. If that makes sense, I'll go ahead and look at whatever research is out there that might justify a change in my personal habits. But even then, I also know that much recent medical research, for example, ends up being contradicted, so I have to take that into account as well. The last thing I want is for the government to override my own judgement about such an important matter.
Stossel indicates that his point about the government overriding our minds is much wider than food choices, but he has chosen an excellent example in the food police: an area of great interest and importance and about which there is ample room for honest disagreement.