Is this the America we want?

Walter E. Williams

6/11/2003 12:00:00 AM - Walter E. Williams

Oreo cookies should be banned from sale to children in California. That's according to Stephen Joseph, who filed a lawsuit against Nabisco last month in California's Marin County Superior Court. Oreo cookies contain trans fat, an ingredient that makes the cookies crisp and their filling creamy. Joseph says that trans fat is so dangerous that our children should be protected from it.

Last year, Los Angeles Unified School District voted unanimously to ban the sale of soft drinks at all of the district's 677 schools. They said the new rule, scheduled to go into effect January 2004, will improve the health of its 736,000 students, of whom a recent survey of 900 of them found 40 percent to be obese.

New York lawyer Samuel Hirsch and George Washington University's Professor John F. Banzhaf brought lawsuits against fast food restaurants Burger King, McDonald's, Wendy's and Kentucky Fried Chicken. Hirsch and Banzhaf contend that these fast food restaurants are responsible for obesity; they ignore the fact that two-thirds of all meals are served at home.

The Washington-based Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) also demands government control of what we eat. It calls for excise taxes on fatty foods, additional taxes on cars and television sets, and a doubling of the excise tax on beer. By making cars and televisions more expensive, it thinks it will force people to walk more and stop being couch potatoes.

CSPI's Michael Jacobson said, "We could envision taxes on butter, potato chips, whole milk, cheeses (and) meat." CSPI wants the tax revenues earmarked for government-sponsored exercise programs.

These tyrannical schemes also have government support. According to a Consumer Freedom article (www.consumerfreedom.com), former USDA spokesman John Webster said, "Right now, this anti-obesity campaign is in its infancy. ... (W)e want to turn people around and give them assistance in eating nutritious foods."

The anti-obesity campaign might seem preposterous and amusing were it not for the successes of the anti-tobacco campaign premised on the idea that individuals are not responsible for their choices. It's a logical follow-up: Food producers, not people themselves, are responsible for overindulgence. Since we have socialized medicine, obesity adds to the nation's health-care costs through its contribution to obesity-related health problems such as diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease. According to the food Nazis, that means government has a stake in controlling what we eat.

Americans salute the results of the anti-tobacco campaign that brought successful multibillion-dollar suits against tobacco companies and levied steep tobacco taxes. In some jurisdictions, such as New York City, taxes have led to the tripling of cigarette prices, not to mention the creation of black markets. I'm wondering whether my fellow Americans would like the food Nazi campaign to produce the same outcome. In other words, how would we like taxes that create $10 hamburgers, $5 cans of beer and $12 for a pound of Oreo cookies?

Maybe as an alternative to taxes, there might be a call for laws similar to what's called the Dram Shop Act in some states, which prohibits the sale of alcohol to intoxicated persons. Applied to food, that law might ban the sale of hamburgers and fries to a fat person, or a mandate that scales be placed in front of cash registers where a customer is weighed prior to a sale.

Instead of hamburgers and fries, an overweight customer is offered a tasty salad, instead. Instead of suing Nabisco to stop children from eating Oreos, we might have a law requiring proof of age prior to purchase. We could use endangering minors law to exact stiff penalties against parents who gave Oreos to their children.

The anti-obesity movement is simply another step down the road to serfdom and, what's worse, Americans are voluntarily assisting the nation's tyrants.