Thursday, June 22, 2006

Because government know better than you

A New York City councilman wants to use zoning laws to limit fast food restaurants, another salvo from statists in their war on freedom and personal responsibility. In past years, I'd have said it's not surprising that he's a Democrat. However, Republicans have proven themselves just as bad in trying to run people's lives. Neither side can honestly claim that it only wants people to live their lives as they see fit, provided they are not harming any others. They've both made it their mission to save us from ourselves.

The Council believes itself so better informed than the citizenry that it also passed a law in March 2005 that prevented the Plaza's owners from converting some units into more profitable condos. Last August, with extensive lobbying by food service unions, the Council indirectly prohibited Wal-Mart from coming to any of the boroughs. It doesn't matter that either situation was perfectly voluntary for everyone, and that the free market would have directed the best outcome. The Council, in its infinite wisdom, must save us from liberty and prosperity for our own good.

Mitchell Moss of NYU thinks there's no way zoning laws could be specific enough. I'd rather he not tempt fate, because I could see the council specifying a list of foods (a form of legal positivism) that would quality a restaurant as "fast food." After all, Detroit's mayor proposed a fast-food tax that would have excluded his favorite restaurants, and Oakland passed a similar tax only on specific types of businesses. How would such a law affect the cafeteria where I work? It has everything from wraps and sushi to pasta and grilled meat. I had surprisingly good steak and portabello quesadillas for Wednesday's lunch, which with sour cream and french fries were certainly not the healthiest thing to eat. Naturally, I loved it. I love eating red meat several times a week and two scrambled eggs almost every morning, then getting back a pretty great result on a cholesterol test.

It is true that lower-income Americans now have "girth issues," and it's also true that many in the Third World wonder what we're complaining about. I rejoice that our country is so prosperous that our poor can afford their consumer preference of tasty fast food, which increases their overall wealth since the convenience gives them more time for other things. Additionally, a "heftier" people is also a sign of advancement, because most of us don't labor like previous generations had to, i.e. on farms from dawn to dusk.


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