The Central Planner’s Handbook for Protecting the Ignorant and Ungrateful

Libertarians understand the stupidity of this action by the New York City Board of Health:

The New York City Board of Health voted unanimously yesterday to move forward with plans to prohibit the city’s 20,000 restaurants from serving food that contains more than a minute amount of artificial trans fats, the chemically modified ingredients considered by doctors and nutritionists to increase the risk of heart disease.

This is absurd, because the eventual “logical” step is banning the sale of packaged foods with trans fats within the city limits. At what point do citizens stand up and demand that government not turn a city into an institution where permission for every decision must be granted by some small group of public officials claiming to be experts? This is lunacy, although not a surprise.

Chicago is considering a similar prohibition affecting restaurants with less than $20 million in annual sales.

Why only restaurants with less than $20 million in sales? Even if this type of policy made sense, it’s counter-intuitive to impose this regulation on the smallest members of the group while leaving the largest free to attack its customers’ arteries offer any menu item its customers desire. The restaurant industry is a small-margin business, so those with lower sales have less fiscal cushion in their budgets. I’m most amused that Chicago loves big restaurants while it hates big stores. But government knows best.

Lynne D. Richardson, a member of the Board of Health and a professor of emergency medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, said yesterday that restaurant owners might still see an advantage in the long shelf life of trans fat products.

“But human life is much more important than shelf life,” she said. “I would expect to see fewer people showing up in the emergency room with heart attacks if this policy is enacted.”

Expects? Obviously the greedy restaurant owners don’t care about their customers (repeat business is insignificant in restaurants, right? No?), but should she support public policy based on hopes rather than logic? If diners want foods with trans fat, and restaurants can’t serve it, diners will stay home and eat their bad oils and margarines and whatever else will no longer be allowed. If When that happens, I’m fairly certain the same people will show up in the emergency room with heart attacks. That gets back to the likelihood that the planners will admit that the policy isn’t having the intended effect, thus justifying the need to ban trans fat products from grocery stores.

If people wanted strictly healthy diets, everyone would be vegans who eat only raw, organic food and exercise every day. They aren’t those people. We can cry about that, but statist public health policies won’t make it any more our reality than it already isn’t.

Update: Based on information provided in by Chris in the comments, the New York Times report about Chicago considering a trans-fat ban affecting restaurants with less than $20 million in sales is wrong. The ban under consideration involves restaurants with greater than $20 million in sales. My analysis is now worthless for the facts, but that doesn’t make the ban any wiser. Screw the poor, screw the rich. It’s still the same stupidity. Regardless, I should’ve checked those facts first.

2 thoughts on “The Central Planner’s Handbook for Protecting the Ignorant and Ungrateful”

  1. The proposed legislation in Chicago would only affect restaurants with more than $20 million in sales, I think your source got it backwards.

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