So it was interesting to stumble across this article the other day which kinda mirrors the points I've been making here.
Brian Wansink and David R. Just of Cornell University published an interactive graphic in the New York Times that illustrates how subtle cafeteria changes, not finger-wagging campaigns, can make a big difference in the way kids eat:There are caveats here. Firstly, yes, the article is hosted at the Center for Consumer Freedom, an organisation funded by the food industry, and also this is discussing 'nudging' which would usually be anathema to a libertarian.Children and teenagers resist heavy-handed nutritional policies — and the food that is associated with the heavy hand. No food is nutritious, after all, until it is actually eaten.
A smarter lunchroom wouldn’t be draconian. Rather, it would nudge students toward making better choices on their own by changing the way their options are presented. One school we have observed in upstate New York, for instance, tripled the number of salads students bought simply by moving the salad bar away from the wall and placing it in front of the cash registers.
However, the funding would seem irrelevant considering their opinion is backed up by evidence which not only appears legit, but is also pretty obviously common sense to anyone who spends any time with the public. Besides, who can possibly object to nudging when it is done in such a way as to retain full freedom of choice?
And choice is most definitely the key to this. Nothing is banned, denied, limited, or discouraged in this theory, merely given less prominence. If a student in their hypothetical canteen wishes to eat unhealthy food, nothing is stopping them. But merely by placing 'healthier' options in different locations, or by describing food differently, the choices made are drastically altered.
Personally, I don't believe it is the concern of any government to meddle in our lives or 'save' us from perceived unhealthy decisions, but if they really feel they must, then subtle - non-coercive - methods such as these should be the way they go about it.
However, what healthists - and the dangerously counter-productive Oliver - seem incapable of understanding is that hectoring and restriction of choice will always lead to failure and unintended consequences. So disastrous has Oliver's crusade been, for example, that hundreds of councils across the country are now hampering local businesses as a direct result.
Yet the righteous seem too dull-minded to see what is as plain as the nose on their face. Coercion doesn't work; restrictions don't work; bans don't work; and prohibition has never worked.
By contrast, benign non-compulsory encouragement does, simply because it carries the public with it and makes everyone happy to co-operate. In tobacco control, smoking bans invariably halt decreases in smoker prevalence; in road management, shared space schemes all but eradicate accidents entirely; in the workplace, a popular boss will invariably derive better productivity from his staff than a bully; in fact, in any walk of life, if you promote personal responsibility and afford respect to the public, they will reciprocate and work with you.
Now, I've been taken to task on Oliver before, the general idea being that at least he is doing something, or 'his heart is in the right place'. But, if so, when is he going to see that his methods are not only failing, but also causing more problems than they are solving? If he can't, I'd suggest he is woefully under-qualified in the grey matter department and, therefore, shouldn't have any fucking sway with government just because he can do a wicked toad in the hole.
However, if he does recognise that things aren't quite working out how he imagined - and food being passed through school gates, crying on-screen, plus being ridiculed by Letterman would tend to suggest he has noticed a certain resistance - then one can only assume that it's blind ignorance, a holier-than-thou attitude, and the resultant bumper cheques that are driving him on.
Which helps no-one but Oliver himself. The dictatorial cock.