09 November 2010

Of Happy Meals and Individual Liberty

In an article on CNN.com, San Francisco Supervisor Eric Mar attempts to explain why he felt the need to propose and push a city ordinance that bans the addition of a toy to any nutritionally suspect meal.  Mr. Mar cites child health costs, impact with regard to the city's budget, and states that "everyone must do their part" to fight child obesity.

It seems that Mr. Mar feels that his "part" is to tell others how to run their private restaurants.  It would stand to reason that Mr. Mar might suggest that restaurants like McDonald's "part" would be to offer government sanctioned meals for kids.  Mr. Mar might also suggest that the "part" parents should play is to expect restaurants to offer only nutritious, government sanctioned meals (which may include a toy) so that neither they nor their children are tempted by less healthy choices - the toy being a lure.

I might suggest the folks he's trying to help - according to his own words, "[c]ommunities of color and low-income families" - simply vote with their dollars rather than have rules imposed by government.  That would be an exercise in individual liberty (pardon the pun).  I might further suggest that if folks did take their business elsewhere that, over the long term, restaurants like McDonald's would offer more choices which would appeal to health-minded consumers (regardless of economic or ethnic "status").  Again, restaurant owners would exercise their individual liberty by freely choosing - albeit influenced by business concerns - to offer different food options.  But somehow I do not think that the Supervisor had individual liberty in mind when he wrote and promoted this law.

I might further suggest that if Mr. Mar is truly and deeply concerned about the health and welfare of the children of San Francisco that he devise a business plan and open a restaurant which offers healthy, inexpensive, fast meals.  That, however, would be a financial risk; one which I'm willing to bet Mr. Mar would not be willing to make.  Far easier to legislate, as political "capital" is made and spent far easier than real money.

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