For the first time in human history, we are living in an age of countless bounty. Excess. We have access to everything and anything, good and bad. You and I are the small fraction of humanity alive today that gets to live in a way that no person ever has before. It’s a time of relative prosperity, and for some reason this has people mad. They are angry about the choices other people are making, which seems like an eternal theme with America. They’ve taken up arms and said, “Enough is enough; we can’t let you go live your life the way you want.” They’re getting involved and they’re bringing the government with them.
You may be wondering what I’m talking about. Drugs? Wealth? Sex? Biased media? Pauly Shore movies? Nope. I’m talking about fast food. We’ve entered the era of fast food demonetization — a decade grounded in perpetuating grayed-out stock footage featuring faceless obese Americans. When we can’t be mad about hippies, rock music, drugs, sexuality or punk music, we start grasping at straws. One of these straws just so happens to be the food we eat.
Maybe it’s just a coincidence, but it never seems like those demonizing fast food are living at the poverty line. They’re the “well to do” Whole Foods suburbanites with too much free time. They’re a leisure class that needs something simple and concrete to pick on. So here is my plea: have some compassion. Be a bit humble — if only for a second — and realize that for most people, fast food is the ONLY option. Is that optimal? No. But does it help at all to tax these people more? To stigmatize and berate them for the choices they make for themselves and their families? Any tax on fast food is in itself a tax on the poor. It’s an abridgment to the liberties of those less fortunate so that some silly utopian ideal can be upheld. It’s absurd, irresponsible and shortsighted. It’s elitist snobbery, plain and simple. It’s a way of giving local and immediate strife to others and meaning to our cushy existence. We are fighting morally bankrupt wars and digging our way out of economic crisis, but all the food police care about is how other people are living their lives. For that they should show some shame.
Is fast food good for you? Anti-fast-food activists claim we’ve entered an age of premature death, and its cause is fast food. That makes for a good headline, but, according to the CDC’s report on life expectancy titled “Deaths: Preliminary Data for 2007,” “A baby born in 2007 has the highest life expectancy in the history of the United States.” That’s it, plain and simple; we live in a time where everything is better than it has ever been, but no one really wants to admit that. There isn’t any hard data correlating the success of fast food companies with premature fatality in anyone. It’s just not there. However, let’s say fast food is killing people. Let’s say we can find proof that fast food kills. We are adults making our own decisions about how we live. And that’s it in a nutshell. Fighting fast food is fighting freedom; they are ideals that are one in the same.
So maybe fast food isn’t killing us, but it’s addictive, right? They’re out to get us with food high in salt, sugar and fat so we have no choice but to come back and eat. Well, do you know what tastes good? Salt, sugar and fat. Saying it’s a fast food company’s responsibility to keep us healthy is absurd. They make food that tastes good, so why exactly are we mad? Oh, an obesity crisis? Let’s just outline this. Fast food companies make food that we want to eat, so some of us eat too much — completely willingly — and get fat. Now we’re saying the government needs to step in and dissuade us? Does anyone else see how this is absurd? Blaming fast food for making people fat is like blaming video game companies for making me vitamin D-deficient. We all live in a place where we can partake in everything to any excess so long as it doesn’t harm anyone else; it is our right. Any restriction to what we consume is an affront to the ideals of freedom and liberty and should be treated as such.
These same fast food fighters are lobbying to pass a soda tax, which would tax the purchase of sugar-based drink products. Here’s the problem with a soda tax: According to the Environmental Working Group, our government spends $3,519,507,154 subsidizing corn. That’s 3.5 billion dollars of OUR money spent to make farmers grow corn. That corn is then converted into high fructose corn syrup, which is used in our sugar drinks. Our tax money makes soda dirt cheap. Now the anti-fast-food crusaders want to tax this soda? We are getting screwed at both ends on this deal. We’re paying to make the soda, then paying extra for the “right” to consume it. This tax won’t stop people from consuming soda, it will just make it more expensive. It is a futile dieting flail from hardcore fast-food reformists. It’s social engineering, plain and simple. You can’t legislate people into wanting and not wanting something. It has never worked and it never will.
On July 30, 2008, the Los Angeles City Council passed a ban on establishing new fast food restaurants in low-income areas. On that day, the City Council decided their knowledge of social welfare superseded that of the free market’s ability to promote businesses that provided desired goods and services. On July 30, citizens of L.A. lost a lot of freedom, and we should be ashamed of that. They lost their liberty for the sake of someone else’s misguided activism. Do you think those who relied on fast food to feed their families wanted this reform? This abuse of power goes to show the dangerous precipice social engineering teeters on. It is reactionary and absurd to try to legislate the personal decisions people make in order to get by.
Numbers don’t matter because it’s all about this very simple question: “Should our government have any control over what we, as consenting adults, put into our bodies?” Exercise your right to eat what you want, and don’t tell other people how to take care of themselves. Anything else is garbage.
Ian Davis is a first-year English major.
Ian, I just came across this article by chance today; I wish that my editor had alerted me about it before, as it seems to be in response to my article on obesity in America. I am all for having an intelligent discussion on the issue, but I have to say that characterizing support of a fat tax as “elitist snobbery, plain and simple,” is unnecessarily divisive rhetoric and entirely baseless. I am in absolute agreement that for many poor, the only choice they have is fast food. A tax on fats (which would of course adversely effect fat-filled fast… Read more »