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Nibbling Away Our Freedom
by Frederick Meekins
Conservatives like Health
and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson who autocratically attack
the fast food industry are perhaps equally as big governmentlike as liberals
who try to use the government to dictate their preferences.
In traditional American thought, the government
plays a limited role, confining itself to activities such as military
defense and the punishment of crimes such as theft and murder. Popular
mythology holds this to be a key principle embraced by the Republican
Party since freedom dictates that the individual be allowed to pursue
their interests unimpeded within the boundaries of reason and natural
law. One would think such rights extended to the simple things of life
like what we eat as well.
Over the years, one has come to expect the abridgement of these fundamental
liberties from the likes of Democrats and Liberals since it is in their
nature to assume they know how to run our lives better than we do. One
is less accustomed when it is Republicans and so-called Conservatives
issuing such autocratic pronouncements.
It is normally assumed that, apart from perhaps overseeing the overall
public safety of the food supply against disease, the government should
avoid interfering in the free expression of culinary preferences. However,
one prominent member of the Bush Administration possesses a considerably
different conception regarding the operation of the gastronomical economy.
Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson addressed a gathering
of fast food executives, chastising them for not offering healthier foods
such as fruits and vegetables and for daring to offer super-size specials.
Thompson is reported in the Washington Post as saying, “I want more
choices and healthier choices on their menus, and advertising campaigns
to eat healthy. We are too fat and don’t exercise. “
Politicians are renowned for being notoriously out of touch with reality.
Remember the first President Bush’s befuddlement upon seeing his
first bar-code scanner in a supermarket way back in 1991?
No one goes to MacDonald’s for a healthy snack or to imbibe those
forms of nourishment that will win them favor with the government. If
people really have a hankering to eat as they are told, they can always
bypass the fast food establishments in pursuit of the of the more nutritional
offerings available from more reputable victuallers. After all, often
shopping establishments have these eateries and grocery stores accessible
by the same parking lot. If someone really wants to make a scene out of
getting their fiber, why don’t they just drive out to the countryside
and tussle in a meadow with a sheep or goat for some straw or hay?
Just as disturbing is Thompson’s conclusion that Americans have
grown “too fat” and for these franchises to “rethink
their supersize portions”. In other words, it ought to be the government’s
role to tell us what to eat and how much. The last time I checked, Thompson
doesn’t look like he’s missed too many meals.
Before too long, we’ll probably be told it’s our patriotic
duty to lose weight in the name of the war on terror; after all, other
things not even remotely related to this national security concern have
been reined in under this umbrella. Contrary to what FreedomCorps propagandists
would tell us, not that many terrorists are suffering from a bout of illiteracy.
If Secretary Thompson is so concerned about overindulgence, perhaps he
could spend time lecturing the Kennedy’s about their propensity
towards alcohol or rebuke the various Bush offspring regarding their cravings
for intoxicating substances instead of harassing the American people about
the innocent pleasures of a Big Mac and fries. Most of the time, overeaters
aren’t known for driving cars off of bridges or forging phony prescriptions.
These concerns are more than mere conspiracy mongering. CNSNews.com reported
that the World Health Organization in the World Health Report 2002 is
urging governments around the globe to enact legislation regulating the
consumption of fats, sugars, and salt.
Some think they will continue to eat what they want regardless of these
pompous policy proclamations. They might be in for a bit of surprise.
Drawing much of their inspiration from the anti-smoking pogrom, these
food fascists plan to impose a number of measures on what people eat similar
to the increased taxes currently levied against tobacco products. But
with expanding technology, excessive taxation might be the least of the
snacking population’s concerns.
Over the past decade or so, the grocery-going public has grown accustomed
to so-called customer loyalty cards that allow supermarkets to collect
purchasing information on participants in exchange for discounts, sales,
and coupons. Sounds innocuous as a means of clarifying the variables of
the economic relationship between supplier and customer, but that all
depends in whose hands this information ends up.
For example, a story posted on the Fox News website back in August revealed
that one grocery chain eagerly handed its customer database over to the
government after the September 11th attack. Somehow I don’t think
Muhammad Atta was all that concerned with pork rebates or discounts on
shell fish, and even if he was, it ought not be of concern to the government.
Thus, since the government seeks to exercise yet another layer of control
over the lives of the American people as suggested by Secretary Thompson’s
comments, this kind of technology could be adapted to a program of unprecedented
dietary surveillance. For example, a Bureau of Nutritional Enforcement
could compel access to all existing preferred shopper accounts or even
require anyone wanting to acquire provisions to obtain one of these cards.
Since such information would be electronically catalogued, it would be
a simple matter of imposing a fine or inflicting a punishment upon any
soul brash enough to ingest nourishment transcending the limits of federally
mandated parameters. Overeaters could be denied insurance, desirable employment,
or even the right to purchase additional rations of their choice.
A popular pro-abortion bumper-sticker sneers, “My body, my choice.”
If the Bush Administration is only going to mount a hear-hearted effort
at curbing this contemporary holocaust, they certainly do not possess
the moral clout to condemn the individual for simply enjoying provisions
that bring little harm to those consuming them and none whatsoever to
those choosing not to partake of them.
Copyright 2002 by Frederick Meekins