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Diets Are For Girls, Ctd

March 25, 2010

A reader has tapped in to the pessimistic side of this post:

It is ever so predictable that calorie labeling fast foods will indeed not be enough to satisfy the federal Leviathan.  As long as there’s one fat kid in America, as long as somebody, somewhere, has hypercholesterolemia, as long as anybody eats pork rinds and then has a heart attack, the school-marmy busybody harpies down at the Division of Diet Control will be on our backs.  The next step will be: no menu item over 500 calories allowed, which will result in, that’s right, smaller portions but no decrease in price, the savings to the restaurant going to, right again, the Division of Diet Control.  If you don’t see this coming, you haven’t been paying attention for the last 50 years.  Don’t get me started.

Ouch.  That reminds me of something Bruce Bartlett wrote recently on a completely unrelated topic:

Back when I used to listen to Rush Limbaugh there was one thing in particular he used to say that I agreed with. Over and over he said that liberals defined themselves largely by the worthiness of their objectives and the sincerity of their motives. The actual results of their policies didn’t matter at all. Thus liberals support the minimum wage because they care about the well being of workers at the bottom of the wage scale. That many of these workers lose their jobs or fail to find jobs because the minimum wage priced them out of the labor market was a matter of no concern to liberals. All that mattered is that they cared.

One of the reasons I became a conservative way back when is because conservatives lived in a world where one’s actions are defined by their consequences, not one’s motives. Conservatives also prided themselves on being reality-based and fact-based in their analyses, while liberals often seemed to live in a dream world disconnected from history, institutions and ideology, among other things.

In politics, people like to say that actions are judged by results rather than processes, but it seems like that’s just not true a significant percentage of the time.  Ask most of the country, “Why did we ever create Medicare in the first place?” and you’ll probably get, “Because the elderly couldn’t pay for their health-care needs anymore.”  Thirty-five years on, Medicare seems like it was the worst idea we’ve ever conceived as a nation—it’s the primary force behind an unsustainable deficit and odds are that the new health-care law won’t do anything about it.  The architects of these kind of actions subscribe to the exact mindset that Bartlett describes above.  Medicare’s insolvency doesn’t matter to them because they’re proud that they’ve done what they think is a good thing for some people who needed help.  (Placing aside any why don’t you just donate to a charity or something remarks.)

This is what has happened with the calorie-counting provision of the health-care law.  Ezra Klein: “The early evidence on menu labeling has been undeniably mixed, but this is good information for people to have. In 20 years, I think we’ll be baffled that there was a time when it wasn’t easily available to us.”  Zero thoughts about any unintended consequences.  Yglesias: “No doubt libertarians like [Cato’s Alan] Reynolds will denounce this effort to help make it easier for people to eat healthy as a dire infringement on liberty, but as Potts says ‘The ingredients and recipes used from restaurant on the same items are mysteries, so it’s hard to judge what you’re eating. Now, hopefully, it’ll be easier.’”  Really?  That’s it?

I’m going to chalk my optimism to this idea up to the fact that I personally really want fast food restaurants to have their calories posted next to their food (and, as I’ll get to in a moment, because a government-run health-care system will be even worse than it already is when it’s covering a nation of obese people).  But I have no faith—no faith whatsoever—in the ability of the federal government to know when it’s gone too far.  Alas, this isn’t the worst thing about the (ironically named) Affordable Care Act by a country mile, but you can look forward to the fact that the feds are at least really invested in your personal health now.  Like, way too invested.

P.S. Frum had something interesting to say about this a few weeks ago:

And what is the great conservative preoccupation? The growth in government spending, right? Yet the greatest driver of government spending is rising health-care costs – and obesity is one of the most important drivers of health-care spending, accounting for nearly one dollar in ten by most estimates. By 2018, researchers at Emory University estimate, obesity-related illnesses may carry an annual price tag of $344 billion.

As Americans get fatter, they become more prone to expensive illnesses such as diabetes and heart failure, driving up health-care costs, which drive up Medicare and Medicaid costs, which drive up taxes.


The conservative value of consumer freedom is undermining the conservative goal of lower taxes.

Driven up Medicare and Medicaid costs is not something I’m looking forward to, especially in light of the new health-care law.  Something to chew on.

One Comment leave one →
  1. May 1, 2010 6:10 AM

    Yglesias did not quote my opinion or ask my opinion. He just made it up, as a straw man.
    For the record, I’m for very clear labeling for food allergies, and not inherently opposed to
    simple caloric estimates for standardized food (not possible with creative chefs).

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