The Objective Eye

"Every movement that seeks to enslave a country, every dictatorship or potential dictatorship, needs some minority group as a scapegoat which it can blame for the nation's troubles and use as a justification of its own demand for dictatorial powers. In Soviet Russia, the scapegoat was the bourgeoisie; in Nazi Germany, it was the Jewish people; in America, it is the businessmen."
- Ayn Rand, "America's Persecuted Minority: Big Business" (1961)

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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Festering Statist Annoyance #6,822: The 'Trans Fat' Gestapo at FoxNews.com

Now Playing: "Witch Hunt" by Rush - apropos, as it happens...

I was surfing the FoxNews.com site on Tuesday Dec. 05 and came across an item by one Brian Kilmeade, on a page called "Friends Insider," which is apparently a kind of gossip blog relating to "Fox & Friends," which I've never watched, and, decidedly, am not likely to.

The link for Kilmeade's piece mentioned "saluting Mayor Bloomberg" for banning trans fats in NYC restaurants, a line I'd mistaken as parody.

When I got to the page, I had to read Kilmeade's four-sentence hit-and-run endorsement twice to confirm that no, it wasn't written in ironic mode:

"Salute Mayor Bloomberg of New York this week. We find out if the trans fat ban takes root and all eating establishment are forced to change oils or be fined and closed. Hey it tastes great but kills you; not a good trade off for my money. Look for more cities to follow like they did his smoking ban."

I presume that the "salute" in question will take the form of right arm extended upward, palm-down, at roughly a 45 degree angle. His opinion is ethically, scientifically and politically indefensible, though its final line is certainly true. The concept of "inalienable rights" refers to ethics, not metaphysics: The right of people to consume whatever they choose and the right of restaurateurs and publicans to produce products to meet that demand, certainly can be and are violated all the time in existential practice. But they are never violated ethically.

Fact: Trans fats are no more of a health hazard than standard, garden-variety saturated fats like butter or lard. But "Trans Fat" sounds just as impressive as hell, doesn't it?

Trans fats are, as University of Pennsylvania professor David Kritchevsky put it, the "panic du jour." Kritchevsky, who passed away last month at the age of 86, was a biochemist and one of the world's leading experts on diet and nutrition. But facts are not typically a high priority for today's real-world Dolores Umbridges. If they are for you, I recommend Trans-fatFacts.com

Even with the fraudulent hysteria-mongering surrounding trans fat and every other Dire Health Hazard lurking in the shadows, any possible hazard, of course, remains beside the point: If we have a right to our lives, then we have a right to our physical bodies; if we have a right to our physical bodies, then we retain the sovereign right to determine a.) what level of safety we choose for ourselves and b.) our consumption based on that choice.

This "trans fat ban" is indeed the same kind of neo-fascistic lurch that we saw in the Tobacco Witch Hunt ca. 1997-2006. It's the paternalism of "we know what's best for you, child" - backed with the muzzle of a gun. The implications of that lurch were identified eloquently nearly sixty years ago, by a man who had to flee similar attitudes that manifested themselves among the denizens of 20th century Germany:

"[But] once the principle is admitted that it is the duty of government to protect the individual against his own foolishness, no serious objections can be advanced against further encroachments. A good case could be made out in favor of the prohibition of alcohol and nicotine. And why limit the government's benevolent providence to the protection of the individual's body only? Is not the harm a man can inflict on his mind and soul even more disastrous than any bodily evils? Why not prevent him from reading bad books and seeing bad plays, from looking at bad paintings and statues and from hearing bad music? The mischief done by bad ideologies, surely, is much more pernicious, both for the individual and for the whole society, than that done by narcotic drugs...

"It is a fact that no paternal government, whether ancient or modern, ever shrank from regimenting its subjects' minds, beliefs, and opinions. If one abolishes man's freedom to determine his own consumption, one takes all freedoms away. The naive advocates of government interference with consumption delude themselves when they neglect what they disdainfully call the philosophical aspect of the problem. They unwittingly support the case of censorship, inquisition, religious intolerance, and the persecution of dissenters
."

- Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises, from Human Action: A Treatise on Economics, (1949) 3rd Ed., pp. 733-734.

To bring the issue down to a specific question, one I asked in an earlier post on a different issue: If a frothing maniac were to walk into a restaurant, put a gun to the owner's head and say "You're gonna run things my way or else" - we would properly consider the perpetrator to be a dangerous criminal and demand that the police put him behind bars.

Q: How, exactly, does that same crime become "ethical" if it's done by proxy, via city ordinance?

Food with trans fat, like tobacco products, remains orders of magnitude healthier than fascism. The operative principle at work here, and to which Messrs. Bloomberg and Kilmeade are utterly oblivious, is that the State does not own my body - or yours, or anyone else's.

Here's a hearty "get well soon" to Mr. Kilmeade, Mr. Bloomberg and all others who share their unfortunate, reflexive twitch.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Curt409 said...

Even if transfatty acids were deadly, to argue the point is to forget that the health of capitalism is what's really at stake here.

I found your blog through Atlasphere. I will enjoy reading more.

6:30 AM  
Blogger Objective Eye said...

True, the hazard of trans fats is but a surface issue and perhaps my post places too much emphasis on it.

But I will reiterate that the core issue - preceding even that of the health of capitalism - is that of our sovereign right to our own bodies and to our own consumption. That right underlies this instance and every other type of activity that directly affects only ourselves.

8:26 PM  

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