Walter E. Williams

Do federal, state and local governments have a right to intervene in our lives when it comes to choices affecting our health? Recently, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted to forbid restaurants from giving gifts with meals that contain too much fat and sugar, a measure aimed at McDonald's Happy Meals. The reasoning of these tyrants is to prevent McDonald's from using toys to lure children into liking foods the board deems non-nutritious. Fortunately, San Francisco's mayor, Gavin Newsom, by no means a libertarian, has threatened to veto the measure saying, "Despite its good intentions, I cannot support this unwise and unprecedented governmental intrusion into parental responsibilities and private choices."

If the board of supervisors gets away with this intrusion into parental responsibilities and choices, we can bet the rent money that they will not stop with McDonald's Happy Meals. The reason is that Happy Meals are not the only contributors to child obesity.

What and how much they eat at home, what time they eat and how much they exercise play a role. When San Francisco's Board of Supervisors see that their Happy Meal ban has not produced the desired results, they'll seek to widen their reach. That might include laws that set purchase limits on non-nutritious items in the city's grocery stores. Depending on family size, there would be a limit on the purchases of delights such as Twinkies, Pop Tarts, lard, salt and other threats to good health. Maybe the Board of Supervisors would issue ration stamps that a person would need in order to purchase foods that threaten obesity.

There will be other challenges for San Francisco's Board of Supervisors. Not every California city has banned Happy Meals. Happy Meals lovers can just go across the Bay Bridge into Oakland or the Golden Gate Bridge into Sausalito to dine on Happy Meals or smuggle them into San Francisco. Maybe a Happy Meal black market would emerge. That means the board of supervisors might make random stops of cars coming into the city and have its police make Happy Meal arrests.


Walter E. Williams

Dr. Williams serves on the faculty of George Mason University as John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics and is the author of 'Race and Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed on Discrimination?' and 'Up from the Projects: An Autobiography.'
 
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