Boston City Hall Takes on.... Fat?

No, not childhood obesity or anything like that. The city of Boston has finally gone and done what we have all been clamoring for, hoping for... they have banned trans fats.

Well, Praise Jeebus!

Honestly, I haven't really looked into this except to know that it's yet another example of nanny state buffoonery. I have heard that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is not far behind, of course. I'm honestly curious what the next Fad Ban of the Moment will be.

High fructose corn syrup? Nah... I think the thing has to have direct health consequences, not just a link to fatness.

I'm going to go out on a limb and say that the next Fad Ban in Boston (or MA) will be something environmental. Something that has to do with a carbon footprint, or something else equally absurd.


Lynne said...

If we didn’t live in Boston, home of the famous baked beans, I might have gone with the banning of legumes of any type as they ultimately contribute to the greenhouse gasses. So what is the second easiest target after all things that might injure Mother Earth? – Corporate America! I’m guessing the next fad ban will be something to do with advertising. It’ll be easy to get the kids (and most parents) behind that – “Big, bad companies advertising on America’s ballfields!” – things like that. And I’ll go further and predict it’ll start as a service project of a community group like the Boy Scouts, unless they advertise there. I’ll have to look that up.

C. August said...

You may be right... Corporate America is an easy target.

But I'm really thinking that a Fad Ban has to be against more than an easy target... it has to be sexy. That's why I think it will be something environmental.

How about this? There will be a ban on idling double-parked delivery trucks. It happens all over the city, it pollutes, it wastes our precious natural resources.

But even that isn't sexy enough, and it's probably already a statute that isn't enforced.

See, this is why I'm not a regulator or community activist. I just don't get offended about enough stuff.

Burgess Laughlin said...

Honestly, I haven't really looked into this except to know that it's yet another example of nanny state buffoonery.

I am unsure what principled objection you have to government regulation of business. Could you identify the most fundamental principle involved?

In other words, how do you decide what is and what is not "nanny state buffoonery"?

C. August said...

Hi Burgess. Thanks for the challenge. Note that when I said "I haven't really looked into this...", I meant I hadn't looked into the particulars of the trans fat issue, or the attempts at justifications by the proponents of the ban. The post was more of a quick "breaking news" post, rather than a detailed analysis, and I was presupposing a certain sense of life and value system in the reader. That being said...

My fundamental objection to government regulation of business is that it is an improper use of force in violation of individual rights, specifically property rights. See the first item under "Theory" at the Ayn Rand Lexicon.

In a capitalist society, no man or group may initiate the use of physical force against others. The only function of the government, in such a society, is the task of protecting man's rights, i.e., the task of protecting him from physical force; the government acts as the agent of man's right of self-defense, and may use force only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use; thus the government is the means of placing the retaliatory use of force under objective control. [bold added]

In the trans fats case and the smoking ban case, the government is initiating force upon property owners (businessmen) by dictating what they can sell and how they may run their businesses.

Fundamentally, it should be up to the restaurant owner to decide what oils to use in food preparation, and the customer to decide whether to eat there or not, of their own volition.

In both cases, the government removes the freedom to choose in the interest of "protecting the public". Trans fats and smoking are both unhealthy, though in differing degrees. As our official nanny, the government has thusly decided to remove the dangerous toys from our playpen, for our own good.

You asked "how do you decide what is and what is not 'nanny state buffoonery'?" In most cases, it's a pretty easy evaluation. Is the government using force to impinge on the individual rights of citizens in the supposed interest of "protecting us" from something it deems harmful? If the answer is yes, then it's nanny state buffoonery.

Burgess Laughlin said...

1. Thanks for the clarification. You said: "I was presupposing a certain sense of life and value system in the reader."

Does this mean that you are writing your weblog to other Objecvtivists and not to a general readership?

I ask because your "About This Blog" section says you are writing from an Objectivist perspective but it doesn't specify the audience.

2. I question whether a person's sense of life or his value system will enable him to figure out the propriety or impropriety of particular legislation unless he also grasps the relevant ethical and political principles.

A sense of life does not lead to any particular political philosophy. Someone like Victor Hugo could have a grand sense of life--and terrible ethical and political views.

Likewise, as I use the terms, I don't think "value system" and ethical/political principles are the same thing. I value friendship, for example, but that doesn't mean I automatically understand the impropriety of passing laws demanding conformity to a certain lifestyle. Even if we are talking about philosophical values, such as reason, purpose, and self-esteem, having the proper political principles doesn't automatically follow from having those values. The principles need to be spelled out--unless one assumes the audience already knows them, which would be the case for an Objectivist audience. Perhaps you are making that assumption. If so, then my comments are off-base.

C. August said...

Well, yes, I'm assuming at this very early juncture in the life of this blog that my audience is almost entirely Objectivist. It isn't my intent in the long run to write only for that audience, but I recognize that's how it is right now.

I agree with your points about sense of life/value system not being a necessary predictor of understanding the ethical and political principles I'm relying on in my argument. As I said, I was making assumptions about my audience. But I appreciate your criticisms, and I'll attempt to be more precise in my language. Regardless of the audience, I think it's a worthy endeavor.

In a short "breaking news" post, or a quick pithy comment, I won't take the time for a long analysis of an issue. Sometimes time constraints, subject matter, or simply the tone I want to convey makes it inappropriate. However, your questions have made it clear that even in a quick post where there is an economy of words, it's perhaps even more important to pick exactly the right ones.

Thanks for the insights.