However, I can't leave this story to pass without comment, especially since regular Link Tank readers will be aware that developments on the issue have been tracked there for a while now.
San Francisco bans Happy Meals: Restaurants no longer allowed to give away free toys with unhealthy foodOK, it's only San Francisco, a city which desperately seeks to recreate itself on a model of 1980s Moscow, but as draconian healthist legislation goes, this is mountain-sized.
The law, like an ordinance passed earlier this year in nearby Santa Clara County, would require that restaurant kids' meals meet certain nutritional standards before they could be sold with toys.
Purely and simply, the new law amounts to the San Francisco legislature declaring themselves not only more qualified to make decisions about the health of its citizens' children than their parents, but also perfectly entitled to dictate how a business is allowed to operate.
It is the state over-ruling freedom of choice, whilst simultaneously demonising an industry with which, daily, thousands of people willingly transact. No-one except the state and its fevered shroud-wavers asked for this law, but they passed it anyway to forcibly save supposedly 'free' people from their own considered choices.
That's bad enough, but the truly scary bit is there are plenty who actually believe it is a good idea. Blissfully devoid of forethought and ignorant to the consequences of allowing such a powerful precedent to be set, those softened up by decades of health scaremongery are offering up bovine self-righteous praise for a measure which has rendered their own self-determination obsolete should the legislature decree so.
Because, you see, they don't take their kids to McDonalds a lot, maybe never at all, so it's OK by them. It's those others. You know, the ones who take their kids there every day. They've read about them in the papers. Yeah, admittedly, they've never met anyone who actually does that, but they read it in the papers so it must be true. And the government said there are thousands of them, and they're all getting fat and dying. Piles of kids just getting fat ... and dying. Before their parents! And it's all the fault of McDonalds!
Quick! Grab a pitchfork, light a torch, text the angry mob.
The state usurping motherly and fatherly decision-making, the state intervening in freely-negotiated contracts, yet it's fine as it's only those other parents they're after. The ones who don't feed their kids exactly the same diet as the righteous do. They quite like the idea of other parents being dictated to, for the kids of others to be denied their little bit of pleasure.
Let's analyse this a bit, though. Why have McDonalds been so vindictively targeted here?
The San Francisco law would allow toys to be given away with kids' meals that have less than 600 calories, contain fruits and vegetables, and include beverages without excessive fat or sugar.And how does that compare with what McDonalds are selling?
A typical Happy Meal, with its plastic "Shrek" toys or other action figures, includes either a hamburger or chicken McNuggets, small french fries and a soda, low-fat chocolate milk or apple juice, all to the tune of about 400 calories to 580 calories and up to a whopping 26 grams of fat. For a typical, sedentary 4-5 year-old that's about half of the average 1,200 daily calories needed and about 39 percent of calories needed by a typical 9-year-old.If a kid 'needs' 1,200 calories a day, how is 400 to 580 as one of three meals a day outrageous enough to require legislation as intrusive as this? Not to mention, of course, the happiness derived by kids from Happy Meal toys (for health freaks, happiness has no value, they only consider health costs). And how is 39% of a 9-year-old's required intake a problem major enough to invite the abandonment of both parental choice and the rights of a business to interact freely with its customers?
Well, because it's just those others they're after, of course. There's no such thing as a slippery slope. No, siree.
Except that if one were to read the Reuters article on this subject**, there's a rather chilling comment appended to it.
Good idea, but it needs to go farther. To grocery stores to stop them from selling life threatening things like red meat, white bread, candy, sodas, and limit them to selling on healthy nutritious whole foods that do not contribute to the overweight diets of americans.And thanks to this little vanguardly skirmish with Happy Meals, any of the above can now potentially be banned by following the same paternalist doctrine. The precedent is there and begging to be rolled out.
The melons are recycling cans like crazy in California, but the worms they once contained are running amok.
** Andrew Marr moment: The Mail story has been lifted word for word from Reuters with merely a changed headline and the omission of the fact that this law will begin in 2011. Those diligent, principled journalists, eh?