Friday, August 1, 2008

Fat and Stupid

I usually hate the phrase "nanny state" because it's often used to deride policies that I at least sort of agree with. But every so often I come across something that makes me want to thwack my forehead and ask what people are thinking.

I mention this because the Los Angeles City Council has just passed a law that places a one year moratorium on building new fast food places in South Central L.A. Apparently the New York City Council is considering a similar bill.

I get the thinking here. There's no question that childhood obesity is a problem and that fast food is not helping to solve the problem. However, banning the restaurants from certain areas seems like crossing a line from helpful government policy into needless interference with how people live (and eat) in their own lives.

Of course, there's also the fact that this bill WON'T WORK! As Reuters notes, there are already over 400 fast food restaurants in the area affected by the ban. That's 400 restaurants that people can continue to eat at because there's nothing in the bill to close those places down. (I hope I didn't just give L.A. an idea for a companion piece of legislation.) The point is, those 400 eateries have done a fine job getting people fat without the help of any more. For some reason, I don't envision anyone saying, "Well, I was going to eat McDonald's like I always do, but since there are only 400 in this neighborhood and they aren't allowed to open another one for a year, I guess I'll have a garden salad and go exercise instead." Maybe I'm wrong.

In the final reading, this law upsets me for two reasons. First, it needlessly meddles in how people choose to live their lives. Second, it doesn't even do that effectively. Let's hope New York decides it has better things to do.

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