Steve Chapman

Councilwoman Jan Perry believes the measure will assure the locals "greater food options." The Los Angeles Times reports she "said the initiative would give the city time to craft measures to lure sit-down restaurants serving healthier food to a part of the city that desperately wants more of them."

Of course, it could do that without punishing outlets that don't need luring. But if vegetarian and seafood restaurants didn't see the area as profitable before, this law won't change their calculations. It takes an Orwellian mindset to imagine that shutting out McDonald's and KFC will expand, not diminish, the range of dining options in South Los Angeles.

All it will accomplish, as several fast-food workers told the city council, is to deprive residents of jobs in the forbidden outlets. Does anyone think unemployment will improve their diet? Or that a community with fewer jobs will be a more inviting place for preferred restaurants?

Municipal lawmakers blame the chains for obesity, as though these restaurants abduct locals and force them to eat salty, fatty fare. In reality, people in South Los Angeles patronize these places because they like tasty meals at a low price, and because they put less importance on staying slim and living till age 90 than some people think they should.

Libertarian paternalists may think they know better than you how you should live, but generally they limit themselves to promoting informed choices. Coercive paternalists have a simpler approach: telling us what to do.

The advocates say they are not trying to create a nanny state, and they're right. To call these nanny-state measures grossly overstates the intrusiveness of nannies.

Steve Chapman

Steve Chapman is a columnist and editorial writer for the Chicago Tribune.

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