Dec 8, 2006

NYC Trans Fat Ban Passed / Unnecessary Government Control

Note: I actually wrote this on Tuesday, then didn't post it because a) My arguments weren't as well-developed as they could've been if I'd thought to put more time into it, and b) I wasn't sure how much I actually agreed with myself in the end. But I'm posting it today because a) I feel like I ought to have something new up and don't feel like writing anything else, b) I still have some serious points in here that are part of my fundamental political make-up, and c) Even though I always plan on it, I'm not actually going to go through and write this better, and I'd rather not have yet another draft sitting around that I always feel guilty for not fixing up and posting.

Today New York City passed a ban restricting restaurants from serving food that contains trans fats. And I hate it.

Trans fats are bad for you. That's fine. But NYC's government has no right whatsoever to ban that sort of thing. The role of a government ought to be to make people as free as they can be. A government should only ban things that people do to infringe upon others' freedom (theft, rape, etc.)

However, I'm not as libertarian as I pretend to be. I'm all for the government meddling in our lives, I just think banning things that don't directly hurt other people's freedom is the wrong way to do it.

I'm even all for the government putting time and money into fighting trans fats. But a ban in restaurants is not the answer. If they want to require that every person who eats food containing trans fats to sign a paper ("I acknowledge that what I am eating will destroy my body") that's great. If they want to require that every dish containing trans fats have a giant scarlet "T" attached to it, that's fine with me.

Education is a stronger way to deal with something than banning. It isn't as effective if the goal is to keep people from doing something, but it has the moral high ground. It is more liberating instead of more controlling, while still helping solve the problem.

And education has it's effects. Cigarettes have always been legal in the US for adults, but through the education system, surgeon general warnings, and other government programs, their use has gone way down. In 1965, 42.4% of US adults were smokers. In 2004, that number is down to 20.9%. I don't see why this wouldn't happen if, for example, NYC put the money used to make sure no resturants are using trans fats into teaching people why trans fats are bad for you and what foods contain them.

If NYC provided public health care (an issue I can't make my mind up on, but that's a different story...) then I could see justification for a ban on trans fats in restaurants.

Issues where my stance is roughly the same:

  • Marijuana: It should be only allowed in small amounts and kept illegal for minors, but legal. And of course more into the education side of fighting marujuana. I'm pretty sure the government would still save money on this.
  • Speed limits: They are useless. And law enforcement is bogged down with that sort of thing is. The right direction to go would be to make it much harder to get a driver's license. I have a roommate with a driver's license that expires in 2053. It's irresponsible drivers at high speeds that cause problems, not the high speeds themselves. Or perhaps we could have speed limits, but the only time they are punishable is when someone going too fast
  • Prostitution: I don't think prostitution is a good thing, certainly, but what right does the government have to make it illegal? It ought to be illegal for minors, and the health and emotional risks involved should be highly stressed in required high school health classes, but the sexual practices of consenting adults, paid or non-paid, is not the government's realm.

"Illegalize" ought to be a word. "To make something illegal"...opposite of "legalize". It would come in handy.

I think I would be okay with a law banning restaurants from serving trans fats to minors, though that's kind of an odd direction to go with that.

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