Who's Afraid of Calorie Counts?

Hit & Run commenters and several bloggers, including Ezra Klein and Kevin Drum, take issue with my argument, in my recent column about menu regulation, that "if customers really were clamoring for conspicuous calorie counts, restaurants would provide them voluntarily." Their main point is that the first restaurant to voluntarily post calorie counts on its menu boards as a way of attracting weight-conscious diners would instead scare customers away by emphasizing how fattening its dishes are, giving restaurants that kept nutritional information inconspicuous a competitive advantage. There may be some truth to this. Yet the fear of repelling diners with colossal calorie counts has not prevented the big fast food chains from voluntarily providing detailed nutritional information, both online and in their restaurants. Furthermore, some of them make this information more conspicuous than others, putting it on wrappers and counter mats near the cash register, for example, instead of on a poster in the back near the rest rooms. As I noted in the column, Subway makes a point of calling attention to calorie (and fat) counts, displaying them prominently at the point of sale and marketing part of its menu as healthier and less fattening than its competitors' offerings. Clearly, there is some demand for this sort of thing, but even at Subway the vast majority of the customers (nearly nine out of 10, to judge by the New York City health department's survey) do not make use of the nutritional information.

Although Kevin Drum disagrees with my claim that there isn't much demand for in-your-face calorie numbers, he adds, "I suspect that Sullum is on stronger ground when he says that calorie disclosure laws probably won't work." He notes that mandating nutritional information on packaged foods "hasn't had any noticeable impact on aggregate calorie consumption," which in fact increased after the requirement was imposed. But if people do not actually make use of government-mandated nutritional information, in what sense are they demanding it? Mainly in the sense that, when asked by a poll taker whether they support a purportedly health-promoting, information-disseminating policy that virtually everyone but a few libertarian nutcases seems to think is utterly unobjectionable, they will say they favor it too. But that does not necessarily mean they will change their eating habits once calorie counts are up on the menu board.

Even if some of them will, that prospect does not justify the use of force to impose an unfunded, business-disrupting menu mandate on restaurant owners who do not think it is worth the cost and effort. Interventions like New York's menu regulation and the proposed California law are not aimed at preventing fraud, or even requiring the disclosure of pertinent information (since the fast food chains already make this information available to people who are interested in it). Instead the menu mandates are aimed at prodding people to make what politicians and public health officials consider to be better food choices, which to my mind is not a legitimate function of government.

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  • Nigel Watt||

    THIS

  • ||

    People just ignore the information because I'm the one who provides it to them. They don't know wtf a "gram" is.

  • J||

    There may be some truth to this. Yet the fear of repelling diners with colossal calorie counts has not prevented the big fast food chains from voluntarily providing detailed nutritional information, both online and in their restaurants. Furthermore, some of them make this information more conspicuous than others, putting it on wrappers and counter mats near the cash register, for example, instead of on a poster in the back near the rest rooms. As I noted in the column, Subway makes a point of calling attention to calorie (and fat) counts, displaying them prominently at the point of sale and marketing part of its menu as healthier and less fattening than its competitors' offerings.

    I think I addressed all these points in my response, but I may be wrong. I still agree with the overall argument though.

  • ||

    I like to see calorie counts etc, for my personal edification, on as many things as possible. I'd be to timid/busy to ask/demand/suggest them generally. I'd hate to think that a "real" restaurant had to spend their time working out the nutritional information on what they serve though. Whilst it may be simple for a large chain to supply such information on an unvarying menu, consumers would be worse off if bistros etc had to spend their time counting calories rather than inventing/preparing dishes, particularly daily specials.

  • ||

    I am a total bear when it comes to regulation... iow, i almost always want less. but when that regulation is merely an issue of notification, not prohibition, i'm usually for it. iow, telling businesses they can't serve transfat dishes (NYC etc.) is wrong. requiring restaurants to advise their dishes HAVE transfats - i have no problem with. let the consumer make an informed choice.

    as for calories. I am a weight-classed strength athlete. So, I pretty much watch every calorie that goes into my body, especially close to competition, when I need to make weight. With that in mind...

    Ceteris paribus, more calories for the same price is a good thing - iow, it's a value thing.

    1000 kcals for $10 vs. 200 kcals for $10.

    and what's the caloric breadown? show me a meal with 1000 kcals, but 40% of them from protein, and that's 400 kcals of protein, which = 100 gms of protein, and is a little more than 50% of what i need to get every day in terms of protein. depending o n the price, it might be an excellent value.

    if people want to eat themselves into fatassedness, that should be their decision, not nannystate govt. , but they should realize and have to pay themselves the consequences of their actions - higher insurance or whatever. CDC says over 2/3 of chronic disease are due to diet and/or smoking. iow, personal choices.

    i'm not going to be dissuaded from eating a double qtr lb'er with chees (le royale), large fries, two apple pies... and a diet coke (lol) because the calories are listed on the box. they are already listed on the wall at Mcdonalds, and in pamphlets at the store. contrarily, "haute couture" restaurants AREN'T required to list calories, etc. and a french restaurant for example doesn't tell you how many calories are in its pommes frites or pate de foie gras.

    i do think it's reasonable to only require caloric and macronutrient breakdowns for restaurants that are of a certain size. in the same way that small businesses with less than (12 iirc) are free from many of the regulations and laws that affect larger businesses, it would be a heavy burden for a small bistro to have the analysis done of all their dishes. otoh, an applebees or mcdonald's doesn't have that problem.

    providing the consumer with more information is almost universally a good thing. since the consumer is 100% responsble for what they eat (no suing mcd's for being fat, etc.), it's good to give them notification of what they are eating. this is FAR FAR better than any sort of bans or regulation of what restaurants can serve.

  • Elemenope||

    What I'd be curious about is just how costly such a regulation would be for the affected businesses.

    Yes, it matters.

  • ||

    What I'd be curious about is just how costly such a regulation would be for the affected businesses.

    Here you go with the utilitarian arguments again.

  • Kolohe||

    I think what most of the critics harpped on was the line: "What about the consumer's right not to know?" which, at the very least, has a marketing problem.

  • Elemenope||

    Epi --

    Crazy me. I think that practicality means a lot in a world based on what we can and cannot do, rather than what would be nice if. Freedom exists in the interstitial zones of practical free action between centers of power. It does no good to be free to do something if you *can't* do it.

    I for one think that unless the cost is overly burdensome, printing menus that fully inform the customer and are checked independently for veracity provide not just a service to the customer, but also shield the business from many frivolous suits.

    If someone can show me that the cost of this mandate is more than the probable cost of dietary-related out-of-court settlements from customers, then fine. But I have a serious doubt that such evidence could be produced.

    Please, prove me wrong.

  • Elemenope||

    p.s. dunphy also makes an interesting point. Not everyone is looking for *fewer* calories. A good subsection of customers, like athletes and morbid fatties people who like fatty foods, may find the higher calorie counts as a selling point rather than a detraction.

  • ||

    So who is lazier?

    The guy who won't eat the "healthy" food?

    Or the guy who won't go look up the calorie count for himself of what he eats and instead forces everyone else to do it for him?

  • ||

    If someone can show me that the cost of this mandate is more than the probable cost of dietary-related out-of-court settlements from customers, then fine

    1) That's not your call to make, it's the company's.
    2) The cost is that interfering with people's food choices becomes seen more and more as acceptable. So it will get worse.

  • dee||

    Has anyone heard of the acceptable risk-taking theory? To wit, humans are natural risk takers and the more the do-gooders and nanny-staters try to wrap us all up in bubblewrap to prevent us from harm, i.e., cigarette smoke, obesity, accidents (example: motorcycle helmet laws), etc., the more people will raise their risk-taking activities, to (pardon the pun) add alittle spice to their lives. I think Larry Elder talked about this in one of his books. Food for thought . . .

  • ||

    The nanny-state fans and their not-quite-perfectly overlapping demographic, liberals, take this line of argument all the time. More information, more information. They have this arrogant belief that if people we just educated on a subject, then they would automatically agree with the liberal viewpoint.

    This mentality was at work in An Inconvenient Truth. A smug arrogance that the only people who disagree with them are ignorant, and just need to be led into the light. In this, they are no different from witnessing Christians. Liberals think they bring the Good News and that what they believe is so obvious, mere exposure will convince people. That liberalism has no principled opposition that understand the issues just fine, but simply reject liberal solutions never crosses their mind. (Every global warming debate here swirls down this gaping drain.)

    This attitude explains the consternation they experience when they deal with most libertarians. That's why they fall back on us being greedy and evil to explain our beliefs. We are the unapologetic atheists in the educated-people cult of liberalism.

  • kinnath||

    Everyone has a right to walk into a business and ask for calorie information.

    Every business has a right to say fuck you.

    Each individual may then choose to continue the transaction or not.

    Government intervention is not required.

  • Fluffy||

    Wait a second.

    Sullum's original argument was that calorie counts aren't available now due to insufficient demand.

    A counterargument has apparently been offered, saying "Oh no Sullum, you're crazy. The truth is that the first restaurant to voluntarily post calorie counts on its menu boards as a way of attracting weight-conscious diners would instead scare customers away by emphasizing how fattening its dishes are, giving restaurants that kept nutritional information inconspicuous a competitive advantage."

    Am I the only one who notices that this isn't a counterargument at all, but an affirmation of Sullum's point?

    The people making this argument are conceding that whatever demand exists for calorie count information is outweighed by demand that calorie count information remain absent. They are saying that if calorie count information were posted by one restaurant, consumers would demonstrate their preferences by leaving that restaurant and going elsewhere.

    Why is the desire of some consumers to have calorie-count information posted on menus more important than the desire of a larger group of consumers for calorie-count information to not be posted on menus?

  • J||

    You missed the point.

  • Elemenope||

    1) That's not your call to make, it's the company's.

    Not quite. More frivolous suits equals more tax dollars being wasted as the courts chew through them. If you could throw out a suit on principle grounds ("you had all the information you needed, fattie, get the fuck out of the courtroom"), you wouldn't have to wade through the very expensive evidentiary part. I don't want to pay for that part. Do you?

    2) The cost is that interfering with people's food choices becomes seen more and more as acceptable. So it will get worse.

    I'll be the first guy to "fuck you!" the legislator that wants to take food out of anyone's mouth, but that's not what this is, and you know it.

  • ||

    when that regulation is merely an issue of notification, not prohibition, i'm usually for it.

    There's no difference. You are prohibited from operating your restaurant unless you provide calorie counts.

  • J||

    For example, the point would also suppose that if every restaurant had calorie information, and one took it away, that restaurant would not start reeling in customers who actively dislike it being posted, but rather suffer a smaller customer group.

  • J||

    Yes, consumers can behave irrationally.

  • kinnath||

    Yes, consumers can behave irrationally.

    As well as regulators.

  • Fluffy||

    Not quite. More frivolous suits equals more tax dollars being wasted as the courts chew through them. If you could throw out a suit on principle grounds ("you had all the information you needed, fattie, get the fuck out of the courtroom"), you wouldn't have to wade through the very expensive evidentiary part. I don't want to pay for that part. Do you?

    LMNOP, I have to tell you, this is nuts.

    You're saying that regulation is required because otherwise asshole consumers will waste your tax dollars with frivolous litigation.

    News flash: asshole consumers are going to waste your tax dollars on frivolous litigation no matter what you do.

    You're also basically saying that the regulatory burden on individuals should be set at a level dictated by the stupidest jury one can find in Mississippi or other plaintiff-friendly venues. And that's crazy.

    If your solution is to create a situation where we can throw out frivolous suits on principle grounds, why don't we just throw them out based on the principle "You knew you didn't have calorie information and you bought the food anyway, so step off, Fatty"?

  • ||

    Elemenope | August 22, 2008, 4:23pm |,

    If you think calorie information being on every surface, wrapper, and employee uniform is going to stop the coming wave of food lawsuits, you got mighty high in just three minutes.

    If anything, it will become one long series of "gotcha"s. CSPI will get a sixteen Big Macs, test them all and the find one or two that come back with the wrong numbers because the teen on the line made two passes with the mayo instead of one. Press releases and calls for constant independent testing to follow. Lawsuit for false advertising. Douchebag DAs file criminal charges on behalf of some retard diabetic who took too much insulin.

    The restaurants should fight it in court until they extract some sort of immunity. The "if you don't like, don't shop there" defense should be all they need, but it seems waistlines and IQs have a inverse relationship.

  • ||

    I don't want to pay for that part. Do you?

    What Fluffy said.

    I'll be the first guy to "fuck you!" the legislator that wants to take food out of anyone's mouth, but that's not what this is, and you know it.

    O Rly? You don't see similarities to the creep of smoking bans?

  • Elemenope||

    Fluffy --

    So basically you're saying "you know what, instead of engineering a way to minimize those suits *and* provide people with information so they can choose amongst competing products, hell, fuck it. I'm going home."

    That's what it sounds like. And to me, that's pretty ridiculous.

    And, p.s., no, the regulatory burden should be set directly against the *average* suit, not the snowballs-chance-in-hell suit with the dumbest jury that god can create. There will still be suits, but there will be fewer of them that make it to the stage normally reserved for "claims with actual merit".

    Hey, dude, those tax dollars were taken from me by force, and I'll be damned if they'll be used to sustain idiotic litigation that can be avoided by comparatively minimal regulation.

  • Fluffy||

    For example, the point would also suppose that if every restaurant had calorie information, and one took it away, that restaurant would not start reeling in customers who actively dislike it being posted, but rather suffer a smaller customer group.

    This doesn't have anything to do with anything.

    I went back to the other thread, which I had not read, and read your arguments. Basically your complaint about the heuristic factors here boils down to "Consumers like not knowing the food is fattening, and if one restaurant started publishing the data, it would lose customers because people would perceive their food was more dangerous and the food from non-labelling restaurants was more safe". And my response to that would be: So what?

    If consumers prefer to not know their food is fattening, that is a legitimate preference and a legitimate aspect of consumer choice. I enjoy a good steak better if I don't have some asshole standing over me using a megaphone to tell me that it's clogging my arteries. What a surprise.

    Again, the terms of your argument are conceding that consumer preferences are already being satisfied - you just don't think those consumer preferences are valid, so you want to frustrate them with a universal regulation you think will lead to a more satisfactory outcome. Well, fuck that shit.

  • Fluffy||

    And, p.s., no, the regulatory burden should be set directly against the *average* suit, not the snowballs-chance-in-hell suit with the dumbest jury that god can create. There will still be suits, but there will be fewer of them that make it to the stage normally reserved for "claims with actual merit".

    Dude, you're still basically saying that we should take the corruption of our civil court system as a given and build regulation around it, instead of reforming our civil court system.

    How's this? We all know that a civil court system that would award judgments against McDonald's to fat bags of shit who ate too much because "McDonald's seduced them" or some such nonsense is a corrupt, evil, unjust, and pathetic civil court system. So instead of talking about what we regulations we should put in place to try to placate or mollify that system and minimize its absurdities, why don't we talk about what we're going to do to get rid of that system and put a better and more sane one in its place?

  • Elemenope||

    Epi --

    re:smoking bans et al.

    Much like my stance on drunk driving, I'm a results-focused guy when it comes to the law. That is to say, I care much more about what happened than why it happened. Likewise, I care more about the practical effects of a piece of legislation much more than the ideologies that were rattling around in the brain of the guy who wrote it.

    So, sure, the same guy that writes this reg may do so because he has a fiendish ultimate plan to ban all foods that taste good. But I don't care about his fiendish plan. When he tries to do *that* I will oppose *that* regulation. Till then, this regulation to me is all that it is, nothing more or less.

  • ||

    So instead of talking about what we regulations we should put in place to try to placate or mollify that system and minimize its absurdities, why don't we talk about what we're going to do to get rid of that system and put a better and more sane one in its place?

    I say we take off and nuke the place from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.

  • Elemenope||

    Dude, you're still basically saying that we should take the corruption of our civil court system as a given and build regulation around it, instead of reforming our civil court system.

    How would you reform our civil court system? The reason I favor this piddling regulatory approach in mild doses is because re-writing the entire civil code would, I think, be more expensive and more difficult, emphasis on expensive and difficult. Also, there is much greater probability of a complete cock-up in such an undertaking.

    We are privileged to live under the only government that has been successfully rewritten into existence. Can you imagine just how many ways that constitutional convention could, and in all probability would, have gone wrong?

    Any civil system that is worth a damn should be able to ration burden onto the appropriate parties, and the only way to do that is to place the bar of entry practically at the floor (because, like as not for most Libertarians to admit it, it is infinitely easier to screw over poor people than it is to screw over wealthy ones). In order for such a system to not clog, the best defense is to introduce an *evidentiary* standard to show that the harm was not reasonably avoidable by the damaged party. To do that requires open and easily-accessible and accurate information.

  • SIV||

    If we have any tar and feathers left after the Steve Chapman party I say we use it on anyone here supporting mandatory restaurant nutritional disclosure.

  • Gene Berkman||

    In 1987 I was in Anaheim (California) for a poltical event, and ate in the hotel restaurant where the event was taking place. The menu listed calorie counts and other nutritional information.

    I don't eat in restaurants enough to know how widespread that practice was in 1987, but I found it charming. I assumed it was a reflection of the restaurant's desire to serve their well-heeled customers.

  • Fluffy||

    In order for such a system to not clog, the best defense is to introduce an *evidentiary* standard to show that the harm was not reasonably avoidable by the damaged party.

    What we need is a liability standard that holds the defendant blameless if more than 50% of the responsibility for the harm lies with the plaintiff.

    That would mean that you would not be able to get an award for damages if you got drunk and drove your car into a tree, even if the car was "defective". You would not be able to get an award for damages if you fell through the skylight of a building you were burgling. And you would not be able to get an award for damages from a restaurant because you are a fat slob.

    Problem solved.

  • ||

    Fluffy,
    No the disadvantage is that the places without it posted can pretend that their food is lower calories, by emphasizing different points. For example, one would guess that the Mediterranean Veggie sandwich at Panera bread is lower calories than a Big Mac. No meat, feta cheese rather than American, etc. However, the Panera sandwich has 610 calories and 13 g of fat compared to the Big Mac's 540 calories and 29 grams of fat.

    People aren't good judges of caloric content, so the first people to do it would be at a disadvantage. Also, the reason fast food restaurants posted the nutritional info is because of pressure from the same groups that are trying to make it mandatory.

  • Fluffy||

    In 1987 I was in Anaheim (California) for a poltical event, and ate in the hotel restaurant where the event was taking place. The menu listed calorie counts and other nutritional information.

    I don't eat in restaurants enough to know how widespread that practice was in 1987, but I found it charming. I assumed it was a reflection of the restaurant's desire to serve their well-heeled customers.


    And that's one consumer's preference.

    But now I have to go all Lewis Black for a minute:

    For myself, I admit to having an occasional bout of sympathy for the anti-brand movement, despite the fact that most people in it are crunchy hippie commies. For me, it's not based so much on hating da evil corporations as it's based on aesthetics: there are too many damn signs and logos and shit all over everything. One reason I like farmer's market food: no damn signs. One reason I like plain t-shirt's: no damn signs. Et cetera.

    So one reason I find nanny statism of this sort galling is because the world is already too full of annoying signage and labelling telling me stupid shit that anyone with half a brain should already know. When I look around at our world of too-many-damn-signs, I'm struck by how many of them are there either because of government mandates or because of civil court absurdities. "Don't stick your infant in this bucket upside down and then fill it with water", "Don't attempt to light this gas pump on fire" type shit. Every mandated label is one more piece of condescending nonsense that clutters up the world.

    So to me not only are you stomping on these restauranteurs, you're also helping to retardify the world. Please, guys, I already know not to stick my dick in electrical sockets and I already know that if I eat a lot of Big Mac's I'll get fat. Can't you just dial down the technocrat sign pollution a bit?

  • ||

    Bunch of wussies. What should be mandated is a 15 minute lecture from a nutritionist before anyone is allowed to order off a menu, waivers signed, etc. etc.

    Had to visit the motor vehicle bureau the other day. Fattest group of employees I ever saw. Shouldn't the government deal with its own employees before it hectors the rest of us?
    t

  • kinnath||

    People aren't good judges of caloric content, . .

    So what. Learn or die.

  • Fluffy||

    People aren't good judges of caloric content, so the first people to do it would be at a disadvantage.

    That may or may not be true. My argument has been that if it is true, it's an example of consumer preference. Consumers prefer the Panera sandwich partially because they're flattering themselves that they've made a healthy choice. That looks like a consumer preference to me.

    You may not think it's a fair consumer preference, but I don't think that's relevant. "But it's not right! It's only because consumers are stupid that they prefer the Panera sandwich for that reason!" So what? Consumers also only prefer watching wrestling to watching FrontLine because they're stupid. Nobody promised anybody consumers who choose things you think are "right".

  • kinnath||

    Until such time as McD's begins to kidnap people, strap them to a table, and force-feed them through a tube, THEY HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO RESPONSIBILITY FOR WHAT THE CUSTOMER PUTS IN HIS OR HER FUCKING MOUTH.

  • robc||

    lmnop,

    How about just fixing the court system instead of fucking around with other industries in order to prevent the problems the court is causing?

    Loser pays would help. Might not be the perfect or best solution, but its a move in the right direction.

  • Elemenope||

    So what. Learn or die.

    Sez the guy whose alive today, likely as not, because of mandatory vaccinations.

  • bubba||

    One small detail. If you read Subway's fine print, you discover that you have to skip the cheese and oil to get those low calorie/fat counts.

    How often have you seen that happen?

    For some reason, they don't plaster the default calorie content on their signs.

    And they don't offer you a discount if you skip the 40 cents worth of cheese.

  • Elemenope||

    robc --

    Loser pays would work only if it were a probable likelihood that the loser would be able to pay. Usually, in frivolous suits, there would be no money to be had.

    But, yes, I agree there are things that could be done to tweak the court system *too*.

  • robc||

    Usually, in frivolous suits, there would be no money to be had.

    Thats what debtors prisons are for.

  • kinnath||

    Sez the guy whose alive today, likely as not, because of mandatory vaccinations.

    Nice misdirect. But the originating comment was that people in general are too stupid to understand what they're putting in their mouths.

    Mandatory vaccination against communicable disease is an entirely different issue.

  • robc||

    Mandatory vaccination against communicable disease is an entirely different issue.

    Exactly. I think it is like the drunk driving issue. Should people be charged for driving drunk or only if they injure someone?

    Should people be considered negligent for not getting vaccinations for communicable diseases or only if they cause an epidemic?

    Neither has anything to do with calorie postings.

  • robc||

    lmnop,

    *too*

    Your too is the problem. this is exactly like all the school issues. Instead of fixing the damn problem, people keep fighting over a million different tiny issues. Separate school from state and almost all the million problems go away, because they can be decided by the market. Fix the damn court system and we dont have to worry about fat ass lawsuits against McDs. They will be valid or they wont be, we wont have to worry about our money funding the courts either way.

  • ||

    Heh. Can you believe I actually buy (and eat) food that does not have (gasp!) nutritional labels? (not mandatory in Vz)... I wonder how I'm not a fatty or dead?

    Really, stop being such pussies... It's 5pm Friday, I gotta go have a beer...

  • ||

    "They have this arrogant belief that if people we just educated on a subject, then they would automatically agree with the liberal viewpoint."

    i am not saying that at all (but then of course i'm not a liberal (lord forbid).

    I have no idea whether giving nutrition info on menus would result in better or worse dietary choices, nor DO I CARE.

    What I think is good is when people have more information. It REINFORCES personal responsibility... iow, it makes it less likely that stupid anti-mcdonald's type lawsuits will succeed.

    personally, i think anybody has the right to as much fat-assedness as they want. it's THEIR choice, and their responsibility to suffer the consequences.

    Again, I'm a strength athlete, so I want to be able to make informed choices. I have nothing against double qtr lb'ers and i eat them sometimes. the information as to their nutritional content is available, and I eat them KNOWING the costs/benefits.

    I don't think private business is like government (iow, we don't have FOIA for private business), but when it comes to something as elemental as what we put in our bodies, it's pretty minimal intrusion on business to simply inform the consumer what they are eating

    we ALREADY do it with grocery products. this is no different than product labeling on a box of cereal, except it's for restaurant (prepared food) vs. unprepared food.

    are people against mandatory food labeling.

    fwiw, I think the left is completely wacked on a lot of nutritional issues. for example, I have no problem with hormones in my beef. they are NOT bioavailable and there is not a scintilla of peer reviewed evidence that bovine growth hormone or other hormones negatively affect beef. period (milk and igf-1 is another matter, i might add).

    people should be 100% free to eat as much crap as they want. i just see no problems with requiring (large) restaurants to provide the SAME INFORMATION that companies do in the foods that are sold at grocery stores.


    and remember what chris rock said. there is nothing wrong with red meat. the green meat, otoh...

  • Elemenope||

    Nice try, kinnath, but you were the jackass that wrote an ungirded sentence: "Learn or die."

    That encapsulates an ideology, which I imagine you'd like to apply to fat people waiting in line at McDonalds, but not to the people who would be dead right now of polio or measles if they had gotten hung up on the whole autism-vaccination thing and were actually able to exercise their, um, freedom.

  • Elemenope||

    dumphy sez it so I don't have to.

    Nor am I a "liberal". Lord forbid.

  • Elemenope||

    robc --

    I think you are wildly underestimating just how much would have to be torn out at the roots to *fix* the court system.

    Every once in a while, I get terminally frustrated by the cruftiness and unwieldiness present in our body of law, and am all about rebooting the fucker from scratch. And then, five minutes later, I calm down and realize just *who* would be re-writing those laws, and I abandon the idea like it was birthed from rotting hells.

  • No Name Guy||

    A little story on calorie information:

    I hiked the Pacific Crest Trail a few summers back. The trail crosses I-15 at El Cajon pass, north of San Bernandino, in So Cal, about 330 miles from the start (~3 weeks of hiking will build an appetite). There's a McDonalds about 1/4 mile from where the trail crosses under the freeway in a drainage tunnel.

    We pulled in there around 10:00am and didn't leave until 2 or 3 in the afternoon. We used the tray liner nutrition infomation to figure out what had the MOST calories per unit volume. I made three trips to order food putting down ~3000 calories, but the real champ was a 20 year old guy who did over 6000 calories in that one sitting. Of course, this guy also used a pillow case for his food bag - nearly would fill it up for the typical 4 to 5 days between town stops.


    Ah yes.....for that summer, I could eat 6000 calories a day and weigh in at about my high school weight (and actually at times be so far below it, it was scary how I scrawny I was). No more - I'm back to where I started the trail, plus 8 pounds.

    Anyways - to those that want to mandate this crap...cut it out. The nagging JUST WONT WORK as a means to control the so called obesity epidemic. Besides, a person's weight is probably mostly driven by their genetics. Some are programmed to be blimps, some are programmed to be heroin chic, I'm programmed to have myself a nice little beer gut.

    Also, since when is it anyones business what someone else tips the scales at? Don't pull the red herring of health care costs since the so called overweight and mildly 'obese' actually have better life spans and better outcomes of health events such as strokes, heart attacks and cancers than the so called healty weight and underweight folks.

    Busy bodies, just go the hell away and leave me alone in peace to slam down my two big macs.

  • Neu Mejican||

    The nanny-state fans ideologically inclined and their not-quite-perfectly overlapping demographic, liberals, partisan of any stripe take this line of argument all the time. More information, more information. They have this arrogant belief that if people we just educated on a subject, then they would automatically agree with the liberal, conservative, libertarian, communist, green, their viewpoint.

    Libertarians are no less inclined to this approach to the world than any other ideologically defined group. If you identify yourself according to some ideology, you probably believe it is correct and that others who do not see the world that way are incorrect.

  • Elemenope||

    No Name Guy --

    Strawman. I don't want to meddle in anyone's choices or do much of anything about the so-called "obesity epidemic". My issues have little to do with public health, and more with

    a. Better objective information leads to more efficient markets

    b. Better objective information leads to fewer frivolous suits that would have grounds to stand up in court on the issue

    c. It costs practically nothing in the scheme of things for the chains it would actually apply to, many of whom voluntarily do it *already* in some form

  • kinnath||

    Nice try, kinnath, but you were the jackass that wrote an ungirded sentence: "Learn or die."

    Gee, I didn't resort to calling you names. And I won't bother to return your act of kindness.

    Let's see, case 1a: ignorant bastard consumes too much food over a period of 20 years and dies of sudden heart attack.

    Case 2: unwitting individual contracts a virulent disease and becomes contagious before onset of symptoms that allow a medical professional to diagnose said disease.

    Yeah, those are exactly the same.


    Exactly. I think it is like the drunk driving issue. Should people be charged for driving drunk or only if they injure someone?

    Case 1b: individual spends night getting rip-roaring drunk, then gets in car and kills someone.

    Case 2: same as above.

    Again, I am astounded to see those are exactly alike.

    Mandatory vaccination against small pox. Tough call for a libertarian, but there is probably a rational public safety argument for vaccination.

    Mandatory vaccination of young girls against HPV. Blatant overreach by the government, no rational public safety argument for vaccination.

    Enjoy your weekends.

  • Elemenope||

    kinnath --

    If you would like to avoid being called names, don't say silly, over-broad things like "learn or die."

    And this is a fascinating sentence:

    Mandatory vaccination against small pox. Tough call for a libertarian, but there is probably a rational public safety argument for vaccination

    Really? I thought libertarians didn't care about such piddling things as public safety. That's what I've been hearing for the last week, anyway.

  • Jordan||

    Really? I thought libertarians didn't care about such piddling things as public safety. That's what I've been hearing for the last week, anyway.



    Government exists to protect us from collective threats. Communicable diseases are one such threat. Eating poorly is not.

  • ||

    Anyone want to place some bets that Ezra and Kevin couldn't accurately describe Coase's Theorem? I'm opening the odds at 100 to 1 that they actually know what it is.

  • J||

    For example, the point would also suppose that if every restaurant had calorie information, and one took it away, that restaurant would not start reeling in customers who actively dislike it being posted, but rather suffer a smaller customer group.

    This doesn't have anything to do with anything.

    I went back to the other thread, which I had not read, and read your arguments. Basically your complaint about the heuristic factors here boils down to "Consumers like not knowing the food is fattening, and if one restaurant started publishing the data, it would lose customers because people would perceive their food was more dangerous and the food from non-labelling restaurants was more safe". And my response to that would be: So what?

    If consumers prefer to not know their food is fattening, that is a legitimate preference and a legitimate aspect of consumer choice. I enjoy a good steak better if I don't have some asshole standing over me using a megaphone to tell me that it's clogging my arteries. What a surprise.

    Again, the terms of your argument are conceding that consumer preferences are already being satisfied - you just don't think those consumer preferences are valid, so you want to frustrate them with a universal regulation you think will lead to a more satisfactory outcome. Well, fuck that shit.


    And again, you don't get it. I am saying that the preference against the first store might possibly artificial because of the market starting point, and it would be actually against the preference from a different starting point.

    I honestly am not saying that they prefer not to know. I think there are people like me who don't care and will ignore it, but that also don't care if the information isn't there at all. There may be some who actively dislike knowing it, but what I am positing is different: they want to know, but get the wrong impression from a limited data set of one restaurant. For example: they think the first food is less healthy than it is because they see how unhealthy it is, whereas they don't see the information somewhere else. For people that aren't seeking healthy food but would prefer the healthier alternative, this is a likely scenario, especially given how people process information.

    As I also stated before, I AM against this measure. I am just saying that the idea that the market always gets everything ideal for all parties is dumb. Consumers might be happier if companies voluntarily did this, and the companies might even be better off overall but without the incentive to move in this direction because of the initial cost.

    It's not that complex.

  • kinnath||

    If you would like to avoid being called names, don't say silly, over-broad things like "learn or die."

    Pain is an essential part of life, we learn valuable lessons from pain. Unfortunately, we don't always survive our most profound learning experiences.

    Not mine, paraphrasing from memory.

    Calling me a jackass was not warranted. If you want to be taken seriously, address the issue and leave the personal stuff at home.

  • ||

    "Pain is an essential part of life, we learn valuable lessons from pain. Unfortunately, we don't always survive our most profound learning experiences."

    The columbian proverb says it more eloquently...

    "one learns best with blood"

  • ||

    "If consumers prefer to not know their food is fattening"

    this is a colossally stupid argument. if you don't want to know what the caloric etc. content of a food is - DON'T READ THE LABEL (or menu or whatever).

    it's just like that old saw about free speech and radio. if you don't like it - CHANGE THE CHANNEL.

    if you are actually arguing that a restaurant publishing nutrition information causes some kind of harm to people who wish to remain ignorant , I have nothing more to say except - (to paraphrase trey and matt)... dumb dumb dumn dumb dumb. the nice thing about INFORMATION is that you are free to ignore it. this is why i draw a bright line between regulation that forces you to do STUFF or prevents you from doing stuff vs. regulation that merely mandates information.

    if govt. says you can't sell transfat foods, or meals over X calories, or you have to have 1 healthy dish for each "bad" dish, or any other such tripe - that's anti-libertarian crap.

    if govt. says you just need to let consumers know what's IN your food, that's entirely different.

  • ||

    "Government exists to protect us from collective threats. Communicable diseases are one such threat. Eating poorly is not."

    exactly. protecting us from OTHERS - good

    protecting us from ourselves - BAD.

    although i don't see food (or restaurant labeling ) laws AS "protecting us from ourselves". That's why I'm not against them.

    a label takes NO choice from me. I can still choose to eat my double qtr. lb'er with cheese . or not. if I'm trying to make weight a week out from a contest I'll skip it. But it aint GOVERNMMENT's business if i am eating X or not eating X.

    you can't get more libertarian than caveat emptor. and these labeling laws just help us with the first part.

    the only rare circumstnaces where govt. should have any authority to directly affect how people eat is - 1) in prison 2) in the military 3) in schools (in loco parentis). in none of those cases are we dealing with free individuals. government HAS to make choices as to what (for example) to provide in school lunches. but they can't make a student eat it anyway. kid can always bring a bag lunch.

    all these regs do is put restaurants in the same position that food manufacturers are - label food.

  • robc||

    lmnop,

    learn or die is perfectly applicable 99% of the time. There are some cases where it doesnt apply properly so stop trying to apply it to those cases.

    kinnath's distinction between small pox and HPV makes sense. "learn" to get vaccinated for hpv or possibly get cancer and die. The difference with small pox isnt that I will be harmed if I dont get vaccinated but that you will. The fact that I might die still falls under "learn or die".

    Im not a big fan of that phrase, I prefer "Stupidity is often fatal".

  • MJ||

    all these regs do is put restaurants in the same position that food manufacturers are - label food."

    Except that restaurants are not anywhere near the same position as food manufacturer's. They are not making a mass produced even product that you can get a general labeling for, as well as having to deal with "special orders". All the people on the pro side do not seem to consider the cost, effort, and time taken to get each different dishes adequately tested. As well, as limiting a restuarants ability to alter it's menus and recipes, such regulations limit flexibility. Oddly enough, the kind of restaurant that is most prepared to comply with this sort of regulation are the McDonald's of the world: the bland, cookie cutter type, who have a huge corporation behind them with laboratory resources. You favor regulation, you favor corporatism.

  • ||

    "Except that restaurants are not anywhere near the same position as food manufacturer's. They are not making a mass produced even product that you can get a general labeling for, as well as having to deal with "special orders". All the people on the pro side do not seem to consider the cost, effort, and time taken to get each different dishes adequately tested. As well, as limiting a restuarants ability to alter it's menus and recipes, such regulations limit flexibility. Oddly enough, the kind of restaurant that is most prepared to comply with this sort of regulation are the McDonald's of the world: the bland, cookie cutter type, who have a huge corporation behind them with laboratory resources. You favor regulation, you favor corporatism."

    except i only favor it for the large restaurants - mcdonald's applebees outback etc.

    of course it would be ridiculously burdensome for mom & pop's, bistro's etc. to do this.

    just like many regulations don't apply (as i already mentioned) to smaller companies, but apply to larger.

  • AM||

    1. The statement that all these restaurants provide this information in brochures or on their website is false. Example: Applebee's does not. Anywhere. Period. And there are others.

    2. The poster who pointed out that this is simply requiring for prepared food what is already required for grocery goods was correct. This is not the "creep" of state power, rather the fulfillment of the government's proper role as setting the ground rules in markets. This is mandating that restaurants estimate what the hell is in the food that they serve.

    3. Yes, this information cannot always be 100% accurate, but it is definitely possible for the people who make the food to give a good estimate. I have had quite enough meals at Chilis and the like to know that these things don't vary too much.

    4. All the people on the pro side do not seem to consider the cost, effort, and time taken to get each different dishes adequately tested.

    Neither do you, I can see. Restaurants purchase their ingredients, they know exactly what they put in the food, they know how they prepare it. Do the math. Of course small restaurants will have trouble with this. That's why -- horror of horrors -- a compromise was made! In the NYC law, only businesses with at least 15 locations nationwide have to comply. See, when laws are made, things tend to get hairy at the edges, that's why arbitrary limits must be set at times.

    "Arbitrary!" You cry. Yes, believe it or not, just repeating "no initiation of force" does not a law system make. Why can't 17 year-olds vote? Because they aren't 18. It is somewhat arbitrary, but it is necessary to set a limit somewhere.

    5. No one is telling you what to eat. This is not that argument. They are simply telling what you are eating.

    6. There is no "right not to know" in this matter. As another poster wrote, if you don't want to know, ignore it. Wow, that does sound awfully similar to an old libertarian stand-by, doesn't it?

    7. The author calls this nagging. Often, what separates nagging from any normal statement is how it is conveyed. When your spouse tells you to take out the trash, it may be nagging at times, but it may not. I was recently in NYC, where a law of this sort is in effect. I, nor any of the people I dined with thought that the calorie count was nagging them. Some, myself included, were dismayed at the counts of some dishes (IHOP omelettes almost all around 1000 calories), but none of us just felt like we just couldn't get away from those awful naggy numbers. At the IHOP, specifically, my friend and I both knew we weren't there for healthfood. My friend was out to enjoy his meal, and he did, all 1000+ calories of it. As did I. I couldn't decide between two dishes though, so I just picked the one with fewer calories. I, nor anyone else could have made that small decision in absence of the law. We both agreed it was good to know, even if we didn't particularly care.

    Note: IHOP was another restaurant that simply refused to give any nutritional information prior to April 2008, when it was forced to by the New York City Board of Health. It still refuses to in the rest of the country.

    8. I see that the author chose to ignore, or at least didn't read (which I really can't blame him for, as my comment on the other post was quite a ways down) my argument that this law may reduce taxpayer burden. Either he doesn't much care, or he is too busy wishing government health programs into nonexistence to actually work towards reducing their burden pragmatically.

    9. The person who justified their "creep" argument by referring the experience with smoking is simply off base. Putting labels on cigarettes that tell the truth was a good thing, and is somewhat similar to this matter. Eating too much makes you fat; smoking can heighten the risk for a variety of respiratory conditions. In order to lessen these problems, information is provided.

    The other part of "law v. smoking" is what the poster's argument rests upon. The fact that it is now banned in many places shows that there is a slippery slope, or so the argument goes. There is some scientific evidence that second-hand smoke may impact the health of others. Myself, I don't really know and don't care to get into that debate, but the fact remains that there is an argument that smoking in some areas may in fact harm others, thus justifying the ban.

    There is absolutely no such thing as second-hand fatness. This is a completely different matter.

    I would just love to respond any other questions or maybe even some rebuttals.

  • AM||

    Also, from the author's column:

    In a 2007 survey of California voters, 84 percent said they thought the government should force restaurant chains to display calorie numbers on their menus and menu boards.

    ...

    Yet the desires that people express in polls are often at odds with the preferences they reveal in the marketplace.

    Of course the auther goes on in this article to use polls, not sales numbers, to convince people that they don't really want what they say they do.

    But even at Subway, calorie information seemed to make a difference for just one in eight customers. Of those who reported seeing the calorie information at Subway, 37 percent-12 percent of all Subway customers-said it affected their purchases.

    But, watch his hands, he uses some poll magic in this new post:

    Clearly, there is some demand for this sort of thing, but even at Subway the vast majority of the customers (nearly nine out of 10, to judge by the New York City health department's survey) do not make use of the nutritional information.

    Wait. By the numbers you gave, only about 32% of customers reported they even saw the calorie information. Subway must be doing a poor job. In the NYC law, the caloric information must be by the title of the item in the same size and font. Only the blind would miss this (if the menus are not provided in braille, that is). So this evidence from Subway does not show that under these new laws the information would be ineffective. In fact, quite the opposite.

    Under this law, it is nearly impossible to miss the information, but I will still spot you 10%. So if 90% of people see the information, and the same proportion of those who see the information as in the Subway survey use it, then this would translate into a full 1/3, 33% of ALL customers using this information. That is quite a different number than the 12% you tried to pass off as damning evidence of the ineffectiveness.

    And then, in this second post, you further reduce it to 1 in 10. This is an error. An error in your favor, strangely enough. 1 in 8 is different than 1 in 10.

    This, combined with your persistent ignorance of the fact there are some chain restaurants that do not provide nutritional information anywhere (Applebee's, Olive Garden, Outback, Red Lobster, etc.), shows that you are either purposely misleading your readers, or simply incompetent.

    My money is on both.

  • robc||

    AM,

    If Applebee's doesnt provide the info, then why are they being sued for providing the wrong info?

  • robc||

    Simple market solution, if you want the info and your restaurant choice doesnt provide it, GO SOMEWHERE FUCKING ELSE. HOW FUCKING HARD IS THAT YOU FASCIST FUCKERS?

  • AM||

    Well, Applebee's gives information on a subset of their menu. From their website:

    We provide nutritional information on all of our Weight Watchers® items, including fat, fiber and calorie counts and Weight Watchers Points® values. We do not provide nutritional information on other Applebee's® items - with approximately 1,900 locations in the U.S. alone there are many different vendors, which makes it extremely difficult to obtain nutritional information for our items.

    Found at: http://www.applebees.com/GuestFAQ.aspx?q=2

    Also, I assure you I am not a fascist (crypto-fascist?). I can't assure that I am not a fascist fucker, though. :(

  • ||

    If you need posted calorie counts to discern if food is fattening I have to ask.

    Does your mommy know you are out alone?

    Be an adult and quit friggin' whining. Take some minimal level of responsibilty for your own damned life.

  • ||

    "If you need posted calorie counts to discern if food is fattening I have to ask."

    get a clue. this is not about if food is fattening (that's a small subset of the info).

    it's about what the macronutrient breakdown is, and even info on trace micronutrients, efa's, fiber, etc.

  • Robert Goodman||

    instead of talking about what we regulations we should put in place to try to placate or mollify that system and minimize its absurdities, why don't we talk about what we're going to do to get rid of that system and put a better and more sane one in its place?


    I agree with LMNOP's comeback about this, although not enough to favor this type of regul'n. Fixing the justice system is intractable. Every reform I've seen fits into one or more of these:
    nibbling around the edges of problems;
    arbitrary deprivations of due process;
    reforms too radical to be adopted.
    I'm for many items that fit the 1st but not the 2nd. We can all discuss items of the 3rd but it won't get us anywhere.

  • dpsc||

    Elemenope says "More frivolous suits equals more tax dollars being wasted as the courts chew through them."

    So are you saying that basic freedoms should always be conditioned on there not being a tort regimen bizarre enough that those freedoms could cost it money? Seems problematic to me.

    For instance, if we were to start allowing people to sue for damages because some speech had offended them, would you then argue that the state should proscribe that speech because "More frivolous suits equals more tax dollars being wasted as the courts chew through them."? Or would you suggest that there was a problem with the tort system? That's a rhetorical question (I hope I'm justified in assuming that your answer is "no")- the real one is, how is this different?

  • ||

    the way it's different is that the state is NOT proscribing any behavior (except for selling food in large scale restaurants without labeling, but you know what i mean). fat-assery is not being restricted, nor is gluttony, debauchery, etc. this is not a trans-fat ban. i see this as a restaurant analog to grocery store food labeling. i am for the labeling of drugs and UNPREPARED food. i see prepared food as in the same class.

    do you think there is a problem with govt. requiring food or drug labeling?

    the govt. is NOT telling me what to eat, or telling restaurants it can't sell fatty foods or salty foods or whatnot.

    THE LOCUS OF CONTROL REMAINS WITH THE CONSUMER.

    and the business is free to sell food that is completely unhealthy. they jsut have to LABEL it so the consumer knows what he is getting.

    so, to answer your question - THIS is how it is different.

  • dpsc||

    dunphy, what you are missing is that it is basically impossible to determine the calorie content of menu items in good restaurants (good is here measured by my standards). If you had worked in a kitchen much you would understand why.

    I might, as a cook or chef have one sort of fish, but run out and substitute another- the second might be fattier than the first. If I'm much of a cook at all I am unlikely to measure much- I won't have time anyway. An extra tablespoon of olive oil is 120 calories. So I can give you a broad idea of the calorie count, but the error is likely to be a pretty significant fraction of the total. Also, I might want to use some new ingredient and not know what the calorie count is for it- if my hasty internet research is wrong I might be liable :O.

    The result is that you destroy the kind of food that I, a not-fat consumer, like, and replace it with chain restaurants who have the resources to work out the calories in a dish, and kitchens that are able to faithfully replicate that dish, probably because it is flash-frozen at a central point and reheated just before I get it. The result is that you have deprived me, the consumer, of choices, and worse than that, made me go to Applebees. And you don't do any good by this- the fat just keep getting fatter on things labeled as having 2500 calories for a single dish.

    It is as if you required everyone speaking on a political subject to have.. hmm... what is the phrase.. "layers of fact checkers" before speaking. I'd argue that it is a right as basic as speech to be able to cook some food and sell it to people as long as you are basically forthcoming about what is in it, and how it was prepared. If people really want to know what they are eating they can buy and weigh, as many people do when they _have_ to lose weight for some reason.

    If you make it impossible for businesses to give me what I want, guess what: THE LOCUS OF CONTROL IS NO LONGER WITH THE CONSUMER.

  • AM||

    dpsc:

    No.

    The 15 locations or more rule pretty much guarantees that restaurants affected by the law are chains that already hold themselves to standards of consistency.

    The restaurants you speak of, those with creative chefs who change things on the fly, do not fall under this category. I challenge you to provide one example of a restaurant that does this and has 15 or more locations. You see, sometimes regulators aren't wholly idiotic; they thought about exactly what you are saying, and found a reasonable solution.

    And of course if a customer asks for something special they cannot expect to get the same level of information as they do about items on the menu, and the law reflects this.

    When you assume that everyone else is an idiot, and do not even do a modicum of research, the quality of your objections suffers.

  • Fluffy||

    "If consumers prefer to not know their food is fattening"

    this is a colossally stupid argument. if you don't want to know what the caloric etc. content of a food is - DON'T READ THE LABEL (or menu or whatever).


    Go fuck yourself, cunt.

    I don't want to see a label. The restaurant guy doesn't want to print a label. We are the only two participants in our individual economic transaction. Any attempt at intervention you make is hectoring bullshit.

    When you accept my sitting in your home loudly shouting at you through a microphone to critique every choice you make about what you eat, watch on TV, wear as clothes, etc., we can talk. Until then suck my cock.

  • Fluffy||

    Again, I'm a strength athlete, so I want to be able to make informed choices.

    Here is the core of the matter. You are personally an obsessive-compulsive about your health, so you want to burden restauranteurs and to annoy me so that you can have information accessible it would otherwise cost you time and effort to uncover for yourself. You apparently don't have enough fingers to calorie count on your own, so you want to make it everyone else's job to track your obsession for you.

    Any other requests? Want to mandate that I carry your pedometer for you and count your steps everywhere you go? Maybe I could carry a parasol for you to shade your precious skin from the sun?

  • ||

    "You are personally an obsessive-compulsive about your health, so you want to burden restauranteurs and to annoy me so that you can have information accessible it would otherwise cost you time and effort to uncover for yourself. You apparently don't have enough fingers to calorie count on your own, so you want to make it everyone else's job to track your obsession for you."

    much like a typical liberal, you think that you have a right NOT to be annoyed. you don't.

    this is NO different than the long accepted practice of food labeling. anybody who want to ignore food labels can. true libertarians (drink) believe that choice is pretty important. this doesn't limit choice. i can eat my double qtr lbers now and i will after this law passes.

    others have correctly pointed out this does not apply to an individual chef but onlt to large scale restaurants.

    also, much like a liberal, when you have no rational argument you resort to name calling and hyperbole (obsessive etc.)

    typical

  • ||

    "The result is that you destroy the kind of food that I, a not-fat consumer, like, and replace it with chain restaurants who have the resources to work out the calories "

    except your entire argument is based on a lie.

    this doesn't apply to joe chef at yer local bistro. it applies to large scale restaurants that have established menus.

    i ate kimchee and squid at 2 am this morning. that restaurant would not have to label

  • AM||

    Yawn. Every response to my arguments or dunphy's have been either straw man arguments, in which key parts of the debate are ignored (e.g. the "more than 15 locations" rule), or the type of ad hominem attacks that I would more expect from the Daily Kos.

    Congrats. This means you lose.

  • kinnath||

    much like a typical liberal, you think that you have a right NOT to be annoyed. you don't.

    Dear Dunphy, this ranks near the top of the list of stupid comments I've seen in about 5 years of visiting H&R.

    Your argument, as far as I can understand it is, that you put a high personal value on seeing nutritional value printed on the wrapper of your food. Since few business want to meet your expectation for that information, you wish the state to levy all the power it has at its command to force all businesses to comply with your wishes. Because its useful to you, and maybe to many others, and it really doesn't cost the businesses that much, and you can make a better decision, etc etc etc.

    To be honest, if you were a wild-eyed zealot trying to save the world from bad choices, you would actually be a lot easier to tolerate. But in reality, you just want to make utilitarian arguments that its OK for the majority of the population to negotiate away the rights of some people (business owners), because you see some net value in it for society. Apparently you can't see that no one is free so long as the state can strip away our rights one little slice at a time to achieve some "positive" outcome from some cost/benefit analysis.

    I imagine you find most of us libertarians to be chicken littles, screaming the sky is falling, because we see every little regulation (so much benefit for so little cost) as an affront to personal liberty. But to us, extremism in defense of liberty is not a vice.

  • AM||

    kinnath:

    Your use of language is manipulative, it muddles the debate, and it is the height of self-indulgence. Couching this matter in terms that you do makes this issue out to be some transcendent struggle against fascism.

    You define this debate into non-existence, without providing any justification for your definitions.
    ========

    Example:
    Action "X" is guaranteed by "liberty."
    Any modification or curtailing of the exercise of "X" is an unjustifiable offense to "liberty."
    Any offense to "liberty" justifies further offense to "liberty," therefore any restriction on "liberty" is the total denial of "liberty."

    Not giving basic nutrition information about the food I serve is my inalienable right; it is an essential part of my liberty.

    ========

    Debate over, right?

    No. It is all well and good to shake your finger at cost/benefit utilitarianism, but you have not given any real warrants for your own claims.

    If your view on how markets work is correct, then everything is pretty simple. A transaction is a sacred contract between individuals, and the state has no business in questioning it, right? One of the many troubles with this line of thought is that many contracts are implicit, and problems only are revealed ex post. Because these conflicts appear after the fact, it is difficult to design a solution for them in the contract, and doubly so when the contract is implicit. Your solution to this is for the party claiming a problem to simply walk away and not do any more business with the other party. The trouble being of course, is that this is often not the most efficient or socially beneficial way of solving the problem.

    After I order the Fudd's Dozen Cookies at my local Fuddrucker's, I ask for information about what I just ate. I am told that it is company policy not to provide this. When the contents of the implicit contract are questioned, who decides what the outcome ought to be? It seems clear to me that if there is no recourse to arbitration, then the advantage lies with the businesses, because as a customer I should have predicted all my ex post problems before I do business. This is unrealistic and is inefficient.

    It is very possible that non-optimal equilibria occur in the market, for a variety of reasons. The one oft-cited in this debate, for example:

    Their main point is that the first restaurant to voluntarily post calorie counts on its menu boards as a way of attracting weight-conscious diners would instead scare customers away by emphasizing how fattening its dishes are, giving restaurants that kept nutritional information inconspicuous a competitive advantage.

    Now if the rules of the market change, and every businesses must introduce this information at the same time, then it is likely one ends up with a more efficient and transparent market. This either happens through state action, or collective action by consumers or the businesses. The transaction costs are simply lower for the government, because it already has the requisite infrastructure and pool of skills to accomplish such a task.

    For someone who seems to hold contracts so sacredly, you seem to know very little about the complexities of real contract law and how it interacts with market efficiency.

    Also, why do you think

    extremism in defense of liberty is not a vice.

    Is it because Goldwater said it? What exactly comprises extremism and liberty? Because if extremism is the way you argue, then I despair for the future of our liberty.

  • kinnath||

    No. It is all well and good to shake your finger at cost/benefit utilitarianism, but you have not given any real warrants for your own claims.

    If your rights can be negotiated away on the basis of a cost/benefit analysis, then they're not rights, they're priviledges that you get use until such time as you don't.

    If you don't get that, then I can't help you.

    After I order the Fudd's Dozen Cookies at my local Fuddrucker's, I ask for information about what I just ate.

    Are you serious here? You paid your money, you got your cookies. Contract complete, what's so fucking complicated. If you ask for more after information after you've paid your money, you're simply making a request that the other guy/gal may or may not fulfill based upon his/her goodwill. It has nothing to do with the transaction that you arlready completed.

    Your use of language is manipulative, it muddles the debate, and it is the height of self-indulgence.

    You think I could make a go of it in politics?

  • dpsc||

    Am and Dunphy: First, your argument about the number of restaurants is a poor one. You assume that no-one will ever open a chain of restaurants that features real cooking. Then you supply a regulatory mandate that will ensure that that is the case.

    Second, you assume that this sort of regulation will not spread, and that the additional regulatory powers granted will not be abused. This is wishful thinking, given the history of things just like this. Take a look at the process you have to go through (and the small fortune you have to spend in outright bribes) to sell _beer_ in NYC and tell me that more regulation of the restaurant industry over stuff that is not an immediate concern to people's health is a good idea.

    The worst thing about this is that it will do nothing to make people slimmer. Fat people are fat because they eat too many foods that they know will make them fat. I have some sympathy- for some people it is very difficult to not do that. This law is as useless as the one that mandated that cigarette packages tell people that there was nicotine in the cigarettes, but it's likely to be more damaging.

    At a certain point you have to ask: how far up your ass do you want the government? For me this is an anal dildo too far.

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