Sunday, July 24, 2011

Here Come The Food Nazis (Again)

Achtung! You must eatz your peas for de fatherland! Bad Food? Tax It, and Subsidize Vegetables

WHAT will it take to get Americans to change our eating habits? The need is indisputable, since heart disease, diabetes and cancer are all in large part caused by the Standard American Diet. (Yes, it’s SAD.)

Though experts increasingly recommend a diet high in plants and low in animal products and processed foods, ours is quite the opposite, and there’s little disagreement that changing it could improve our health and save tens of millions of lives.

So the fuck what? The whole point of a liberal democratic society is that people have the right to decide for themselves what the good is, no matter what some pencil dicked "expert" says on the matter.

There is no compelling state interest, at least in a liberal democratic society, in maximizing the longevity of every single individual. NONE. Now, a fascist society, on the other hand, does make a claim such as the writer in the New York Times does. In a fascist society the state is paramount, so if the state deems you have a duty to eat your peas, or make little blonde haired blue eyed babies, or not be Jewish, etc. then the state can demand it.

Gee, I though we fought a Second World War so we didn't have to listen to such dipshits.

For myself, I'm gonna stick with John Stuart Mill.


Anonymous said...

The U.S. fought the Nazis in World War II because of their public health programs? You really do seem to have lost the plot.

A public health recommendation made by a democratic government to its citizens is not even close to be fascism. In fact, it is in accordance with the Constitution's preamble, it is "promot[ing] the general welfare" of its citizenry.

Rich Horton said...

Are you being deliberately obtuse here, or do you really not know anything about the study of political ideologies? Please direct me towards a writer on political liberalism which grants the state the power to control what people should eat? John Stuart Mill's essay "On Liberty" argues against the liberal state having any such power.

And as to "the General Welfare" clause, you a simply factually wrong. Even a cursory glance at Wikipedia could have shown you that:

The United States Constitution contains two references to "the General Welfare", one occurring in the Preamble and the other in the Taxing and Spending Clause. It is only the latter that is referred to as the "General Welfare Clause" of this document. These clauses in the U.S. Constitution are exceptions to the typical use of a general welfare clause, and are not considered grants of a general legislative power to the federal government[2] as the U.S. Supreme Court has held:

the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution "has never been regarded as the source of any substantive power conferred on the Government of the United States or on any of its Departments";[3][4] and,
that Associate Justice Joseph Story's construction of the Article I, Section 8 General Welfare Clause—as elaborated in Story's 1833 Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States—is the correct interpretation.[5][6] Justice Story concluded that the General Welfare Clause is not an independent grant of power, but a qualification on the taxing power which included within it a power to spend tax revenues on matters of general interest to the federal government.
Thomas Jefferson explained the latter general welfare clause for the United States: “[T]he laying of taxes is the power, and the general welfare the purpose for which the power is to be exercised. They [Congress] are not to lay taxes ad libitum for any purpose they please; but only to pay the debts or provide for the welfare of the Union. In like manner, they are not to do anything they please to provide for the general welfare, but only to lay taxes for that purpose.”[7]

Rich Horton said...


Granted, 20th century precedent has given wide latitude to what the Federal Government can tax or spend money upon (against the view of Jefferson), but that is a different argument from the one I made here. My question is how could such policies be squared with liberal democratic theory, which protects the rights of minorities to live their lives by their own conception of the good?

Mill argues, persuasivelym that it cannot be squared. In fact, I'd argue, it could only be squared in ideologies which offer no protection for minority opinion, such as socialism, communism and fascism.

Rich Horton said...

BTW, rereading this I come across as needlessly rude. I apologize for that.

The point is neither of u has the right to decide what is or isn't important in the way they order their life. The moment we allow anyone else (even a majority of fellow citizens) to dictate to us what the content and character of our existence - no matter how trivial you or I think the issue at hand is - we have lost somethin important and set the stage for furth degredations. It also doesn't matter if people "only have your best interest at heart" because we each get to decide what our best interest is. Once upon a time the state used to dictate what religion one could practice, and some argued it was necessary to protect the well-being of ones eternal soul. Now we dont allow anyone to interfere with that choice. We do not say "Oh, you want to be a MOrmon...thats ine but you have to pay a special tax because we dont think that is the 'correct' religion." It is just as illegitimate to do the same about other things, be it food, or drink, or what clothes we want to wear, or whatever the individual decides is important to him or her. Liberalism at its heart protects this kind of freedom, no matter who believes i is trivial.

Anonymous said...


The program you are complaining about is merely a matter of incentivizing healthy behavior using the tax code. You can make a decision if you chose, to pay higher taxes and eat crappy food. It is similar to "sin" taxes on alcohol and cigarettes. It is not fascism for a representative democracy to enact such policies. Your slippery slope argument is weak and unconvincing.

Lastly, we did not fight the Nazis because they enacted in 1933 a strangely prescient policy against cigarette smoking (see Robert N. Proctor's The Nazi War on Cancer (Princeton University Press, 1999). We fought the Nazis because they invaded, occupied, and ransacked other countries and committed various war crimes against literally millions of persons in areas under their military control.

Rich Horton said...

A) It's not my argument, it's John Stuart Mill's argument.

"A theory of "social rights," the like of which probably never before found its way into distinct language: being nothing short of this—that it is the absolute social right of every individual, that every other individual shall act in every respect exactly as he ought; that whosoever fails thereof in the smallest particular, violates my social right, and entitles me to demand from the legislature the removal of the grievance. So monstrous a principle is far more dangerous than any single interference with liberty; there is no violation of liberty which it would not justify; it acknowledges no right to any freedom whatever, except perhaps to that of holding opinions in secret, without ever disclosing them: for, the moment an opinion which I consider noxious passes any one's lips, it invades all the "social rights" attributed to me by the Alliance. The doctrine ascribes to all mankind a vested interest in each other's moral, intellectual, and even physical perfection, to be defined by each claimant according to his own standard"


" A further question is, whether the State, while it permits, should nevertheless indirectly discourage conduct which it deems contrary to the best interests of the agent; whether, for example, it should take measures to render the means of drunkenness more costly, or add to the difficulty of procuring them by limiting the number of the places of sale. On this as on most other practical questions, many distinctions require to be made. To tax stimulants for the sole purpose of making them more difficult to be obtained, is a measure differing only in degree from their entire prohibition; and would be justifiable only if that were justifiable. Every increase of cost is a prohibition, to those whose means do not come up to the augmented price; and to those who do, it is a penalty laid on them for gratifying a particular taste. Their choice of pleasures, and their mode of expending their income, after satisfying their legal and moral obligations to the State and to individuals, are their own concern, and must rest with their own judgment."

Have a good time finding a slippery slope argument there.

B) The idea that the promotion of "good health" is a core value of the state IS fascist. It is not incidental, it is an integral part of the system. (Thus the anti-smoking edicts, and the eugenics and euthenasia policies.) There is no such core value in liberalism. None.

Rich Horton said...

BTW the idea of "social rights" Mill is commentating on can be thought of as being proto-fascist as they espouse a corporatist/organic view of the state which came to be identified with fascism in the 20th century.