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  Nibbling Away Our Freedom
by Frederick Meekins
11 November 2002

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

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