Still think politics doesn't affect you? How about the lawmaker who's trying to ban toys in fast food kids' meals?
Happy Meal's Frown: Kids' Meal Toy Ban - ABC News
It's only happening in Santa Clara, CA (for now), but with the assemblyman in New York City who's trying to ban salt in restaurants (that's all types of salt, from the kitchen to the table salt, and in all restaurants, not just fast food ones), it's another example of how the government wants to reach in and control every aspect of your life, including what you eat; and if you don't do anything about it, then they will.
Now, before you think this is just another power grab, there is actually a point to this law. They're trying to combat childhood obesity, which is a serious problem in this country and can lead to debilitating health conditions later in life. Banning toys in restaurants, though? Let's set aside the practical issues (including whether or not it would actually work) and get down to some serious personal responsibility issues, here. As the woman in the accompanying video says, combatting obesity begins in the home. It's not like three and four year-olds are driving themselves to MacDonald's and Wendy's to buy these meals; and it's not the meals that are keeping them from being active and working off the extra carbs and calories. On the other hand, no one, least of all myself, wants to tell parents how to raise their children.
Or do they? This kind of interventionist activism on the part of political leaders is hardly a step removed from regulating what types of food, toys, clothes, and other items parents can buy for their children. Do you think I'm being paranoid? We've got a lawmaker trying to ban toys in kids' meals!
I had someone tell me today that "we've tried, to varying degrees, to allow people to govern themselves and make decisions for themselves, and people have shown their incompetence at making smart decisions"; to which, I replied: "Making decisions 'for' people because they're not 'smart enough' has been used to justify the worst kinds of oppression". This is America. There's no right more fundamental than our right of self-determination.
Oddly enough, no matter how many times I think of the 'personal responsibility' debate, my mind always returns to a line from "Ghostbusters II", when the mayor is warned that all the bad feelings in New York City are leading to an apocalyptic event. The mayor responds: "What do you want me to do? Go on television and tell seven million people to be nice to each other? Being miserable and treating other people like dirt is every New Yorker's God-given right!" That's the standard of freedom, believe it or not; we're free to succeed, but we're also free to fail. Cases like the toy ban and the salt ban are examples of the government refusing to allow us the freedom to fail.
What's the next step? Perhaps we should ban video games. After all, that's time children could spend running and playing outside. Television? What could possibly be on the tube that's as important as good health? It just keeps kids from reading and doing their homework, anyway, and aren't our test scores low enough already? What about the Internet? With all the predators and dangerous (and subversive) material online, wouldn't it be in everyone's best interest to ban anyone from logging on who's under the age of ... oh, let's say 21? We've banned marijuana in this country already, so I guess the next step is to ban alcohol and tobacco, since they're just as bad for you. And yes, requiring people to purchase health insurance is part of that mentality.
I don't want to sound (too) dramatic, but today, it's kids' meals, tomorrow it's democracy. If we truly need the government to tell us how to live our lives, then that's one step removed from telling us how to vote. After all, most people don't even exercise that right; they'll never even miss it.
Update 11 May 2010:
Okay, it's spreading from California to the federal government, now. The Task Force on Childhood Obesity recommends the "intimidation first, and if that doesn't work, then forced compliance" approach. They want the government to dictate what foods can be marketed to children, as well as how and how often they should be marketed. If all that doesn't work, then they want the government to actually dictate to supermarkets what kind of displays can be used for "junk food". Also, they want to go into school cafeterias and restaurants to change what they serve to children and how they serve it. In the name of "combatting childhood obesity", this "task force" is proposing a massive expansion of government powers over schools, advertisers, television networks, supermarkets, restaurants, and especially the food manufacturers.
Did I say spreading? I meant "metastasizing".
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