04.27.2010 0

Salt: The New Tobacco?

By David Bozeman

Debate strategists typically advise against slippery-slope arguments — assigning far-off, outrageous conclusions to your opposition only dilutes the urgency of the moment. Still, one cannot resist guessing how far beyond its stated goal the creeping hand of the Nanny State will reach. Rule of thumb: statists always want more than they’re asking for. For instance, once federal and local governments declared war on Big Tobacco, even the most dispassionate observer could tell that Oreos, Twinkies and Big Macs were not far behind.

In 2006, New York City banned transfats, found in many snacks, cakes, pastries and fast foods, and a group of Harvard scientists recently advised the UK that following the lead of New York (and a host of European countries) will save thousand of lives. Even football greats Peyton and Eli Manning, pitchmen for Oreos, were slammed on a healthy living website for “pushing junk food to children,” and with the Marlboro Man dead and buried, the do-gooder police are now gunning for Ronald McDonald. Corporate Accountability International recently called for the clown’s retirement as a company mascot, for marketing unhealthy, fatty food to children.

Is it just me or are liberals no darn fun (yes, protesting outside a McDonald’s is a liberal thing)? This week, the Institute of Medicine urged the FDA to set limits on the amount of salt that restaurants and food manufacturers can add to their products. The IM recommended that the FDA increase staff and funding to implement the changes. You know the drill, it’s all in the name of public health, by reducing heart disease and lowering medical costs.

However desirable that goal, the lingering notion remains that every social ill requires a government cure. The IM would argue that 40 years of voluntary efforts to reduce salt content have failed, thus the necessity for government action. But, in fact, for quite some time the public has demanded healthier menus, and even that venue of the killer clown, McDonald’s, has responded (though many of us crave the option of the deep-fried apple pie, replaced in the 90s by the baked variety). It is choice, knowledge and competition that promote a healthy population, not the edicts of know-it-all bureaucrats.

Liberals, who have spent the last eight years detailing the cost to our freedom of waging a war on terror, utter barely a peep about the sacrifice of individual autonomy in the name of protecting us from a Super-Size order of fries. True, in a completely laissez-faire society, the irresponsible actions of a few can negatively impact the majority (such as higher medical and insurance rates), but even the strictest of government regulations cannot contain foolhardy behavior. And do we really want Big Brother slapping our friends and neighbors back into line for acting on impulses that, while maybe not healthy, are human and simply make our workaday lives a little more pleasant?

Freedom is the one word seldom mentioned in the communal hand-wringing over public health, with some ‘experts’ arguing that salt substitutes taste just as good (though most of us junkies remain skeptical). Still, that misses the larger point: there are many of us who don’t want healthy Big Macs or french fries or ice cream. We like the taste, we like the decadence and we understand moderation and balance. We just don’t want the government kibosh on individual tastes and preferences and we fear that our favorite foods will soon offer about as much zing as the latest alert from the Institute of Medicine, if not the paper it’s written on.

David Bozeman, former Libertarian Party Chairman, is a Liberty Features Syndicated writer for Americans for Limited Government.

Copyright © 2008-2021 Americans for Limited Government