The Daily Sandwich

"We have to learn the lesson that intellectual honesty is fundamental for everything we cherish." -Sir Karl Popper

Location: Boston, Massachusetts, United States


Monday, December 11, 2006

Better living through government regulation

The story of New York's ban on trans fats is just the sort of thing that prompts conservatives to rail against big-government liberals and the dangers of allowing the government to restrict personal freedom. Unlike, say, warrantless wiretapping or the elimination of habeas corpus.

But Ezra Klein puts it into perspective by pointing out that it isn't really about personal freedom, it's a minimal burden to businesses, and it's sound health policy.

Restaurants don't have [nutrition] labels. And they're not one size fits, or serves, all. You could force a big sign in each establishment that uses the substances, or a little emblem next to each food that carries the fats, and that would be a perfectly acceptable solution. On the other hand, given that there's no conceivable social good in consumption of the fats, and as Scott points out, no conceivable consumer restrictions caused by eliminating them, there's really no sense in simply ensuring that only those without sufficient choices will continue consuming the stuff. Indeed, the ban simply decides that there's no real reason to preserve the freedom of businesses to minimally cut costs by harming the health of their consumers, most of whom won't know they're being damaged till far too late. Indeed, it's the freedom to not be needlessly poisoned so businesses can save a few pennies.

If you want to know more about the actual nuts and bolts of the legislation, this article was the first to come up with a Google search.