Banning Bake Sales: For the Kids!

Alexis de Tocqueville in his Democracy in America outlined a truly dystopian vision of how democratic politics could produce a pervasive soft despotism:

Above this race of men stands an immense and tutelary power, which takes upon itself alone to secure their gratifications and to watch over their fate. That power is absolute, minute, regular, provident, and mild. It would be like the authority of a parent if, like that authority, its object was to prepare men for manhood; but it seeks, on the contrary, to keep them in perpetual childhood: it is well content that the people should rejoice, provided they think of nothing but rejoicing. For their happiness such a government willingly labors, but it chooses to be the sole agent and the only arbiter of that happiness; it provides for their security, foresees and supplies their necessities, facilitates their pleasures, manages their principal concerns, directs their industry, regulates the descent of property, and subdivides their inheritances: what remains, but to spare them all the care of thinking and all the trouble of living?...

After having thus successively taken each member of the community in its powerful grasp and fashioned him at will, the supreme power then extends its arm over the whole community. It covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.

The this immense tutelary power is not imposed but is voted into existence by the public. Tocqueville explains:

They devise a sole, tutelary, and all-powerful form of government, but elected by the people. They combine the principle of centralization and that of popular sovereignty; this gives them a respite: they console themselves for being in tutelage by the reflection that they have chosen their own guardians. Every man allows himself to be put in leading-strings, because he sees that it is not a person or a class of persons, but the people at large who hold the end of his chain.

By this system the people shake off their state of dependence just long enough to select their master and then relapse into it again. 

What inspires this lengthy quotation from this French observer of 19th century American political and social mores? A proposal to ban bake sales in schools. Why the ban? To keep kids from getting fat. As Bloomberg Businessweek reports

Public school students in Maryland’s Montgomery County know they’d better not even think of holding a bake sale to raise money for the football team or math club. Selling sweets is outlawed during the school day, and officials make the rounds to ensure no illicit cupcakes are changing hands. “If a bake sale is going on, it’s reported to administration and it’s taken care of,” says Marla Caplon of the county’s food and nutrition services. “You can’t sell Girl Scout cookies, candy, cakes, any of that stuff.”

Montgomery is one of a growing number of school districts around the country that have in recent years declared the humble, beloved bake sale a threat to children. Schools in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, and Texas have regulations aimed at limiting bake sales to nutritious food. Massachusetts will soon join them. Beginning in August, it will prohibit fundraisers that sell non-nutritious foods in school, and take it one step further: Kids will no longer be allowed to hand out sugary cookies—or other treats deemed unhealthy—to classmates on their birthdays.

With so many overweight kids, it’s easy to see why schools want to discourage high-calorie snacks. Only, they sometimes have a funny idea of what “nutritious” means. New York City public schools prohibit students from selling unapproved home-baked goods, but allow some packaged, store-bought sweets that meet the schools’ restrictions on calories, sugar, salt, and fat. Under the rules, grandma’s fresh-from-the oven banana bread can be declared contraband, while some Kellogg (K) Pop Tarts are deemed wholesome. “You know what’s allowed? Junk food,” says Elizabeth Puccini, a filmmaker in Manhattan whose son is in first grade. “It’s a ridiculous regulation and should be overturned.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is expected to announce its own set of bake sale standards later this year.

As Tim Cavanaugh reported earlier these bans on bake sales are backed by First-Food-Nanny Michelle Obama. Such a ban is just another example of the process identified by Tocqueville of the immense tutelary power "cover[ing] the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform...." 

Immense tutelary power channeling Marie Antoinette: Don't let them eat cake! 

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  • Eduard van Haalen||

    I would just say there's no evidence whatsoever that Marie Antoinette ever said "let them eat cake," and lots of evidence she didn't.

  • Paul.||

    It was merely the first negative ad of its time.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Plus, the "cake" refers to the shit caked up on the insides of chimneys, but then again very few people know how to use the phrase "sour grapes properly, either.

  • Paul.||

    make the rounds to ensure no illicit cupcakes are changing hands. "If a bake sale is going on, it's reported to administration and it's taken care of," says Marla Caplon of the county's food and nutrition services. "You can't sell Girl Scout cookies, candy, cakes, any of that stuff."

    What makes me so ill about this stuff is the enthusiasm and vigor with which the rules are enforced.

    Marla Caplon is probably a gem of a person. But she has no insight into the petty tyranny she's enforcing and supporting.

  • wareagle||

    what is sad, or frightening, is the conviction with which people like Caplon say the bullshit they say. It must be genetics in statists.

  • Tulpa the White||

    Yes, the brazenness is distressing. I'm fairly sure school administrators have always had a strong petty despot streak, but what's new is that they're not afraid to say it out loud. Which speaks to how obsequious parents have become.

  • np||

    Most of the harm in the world is done by good people, and not by accident, lapse, or omission. It is the result of their deliberate actions, long persevered in, which they hold to be motivated by high ideals toward virtuous ends.
    ...
    Good people wish well to their fellow men, and wish to guide their own actions accordingly.
    ...
    Then there must be a very grave error in the means by which they seek to attain their ends. There must even be an error in their primary axioms, to permit them to continue using such means. Something is terribly wrong in the procedure, somewhere. What is it?

    Certainly the slaughter committed from time to time by barbarians invading settled regions, or the capricious cruelties of avowed tyrants, would not add up to one-tenth the horrors perpetrated by rulers with good intentions.

    - Isabel Paterson

  • Loki||

    Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive.

    - C.S. Lewis

    The quote seems to fit. As it always does with nanny state fuckwits.

  • NoVAHockey||

    Every time I think Fairfax does something stupid, I'm reminded it could be worse. Thanks Montgomery County

  • anon||

    Wow. Your comment contains a word that is too long (50 characters).

    Holy shit.

    The end is nigh.

    Also from Reason while submitting:
    Your comment contains a word that is too long (50 characters).

    Yup. Confirmed.

  • anon||

    Yet still get the same response while quoting the lady about reporting bake sales and having them "taken care of."

  • Paul.||

    When pasting quotes sections, remove and retype all apostrophes and quotes.

    You'll note the extended character set ones are slanted, where the standard set are vertical. Same thing happened to me. Hopefully Reason will fix this.

  • Soc Indv Sparky||

    Once they take away bake sales I can only imagine what idiotic forced labor the schools will be putting on the kids. Or does the banning of bake sales mean that schools are finally admitting they have enough money?

  • fried wylie||

    making leather wallets won't make them fat...handbags, or shoes, could also work

  • Mo' $parky||

    I guess this gives me an idea for next school year. If my kids come home with fundraiser catalogs to sell junk from and there is any kind of sweets or candy included I'll just send them back with a note saying I refuse to sell anything that might make someone fat.

  • Pip||

    They could make iPods and iPhones. They could even live at the school.

  • ||

    Magazine subscriptions. And those fucking catalogs.

    Fuck door to door sales. I'm sorry but my kid is not your personal ATM machine.

  • ||

    Everyone knows that raffles are better fundraisers anyhow. And why would anyone object to a raffle?

  • R C Dean||

    Its gambling. Believe me, there are people who object.

  • ||

    I can't believe I caught you with sarcasm.

  • fried wylie||

    More important than fighting the junk food is the fight to ensure that any-and-all funding is derived by force and not through voluntary transactions.

  • Paul.||

    There's no exercise of power in a voluntary transaction.

  • sarcasmic||

    How can you know a transaction is voluntary if the parties aren't forced into it?

  • AlmightyJB||

    If the government didn't make it happen, then it didn't happen.

  • sarcasmic||

    If you're not allowed to do anything except that which you are authorized or ordered to do, then nothing can happen without the hand of government.

  • AlmightyJB||

    "soft despotism"

    soft?

  • AlmightyJB||

    Also, was Tocqueville from the future? 'Cause it's ridiculas how prescient his work is.

  • sarcasmic||

    The logical conclusion of creating rules for everything, and responding to the consequences of bad rules with more bad rules, is totalitarianism.

  • BoscoH||

    I think the only reason he gets any play is because his name is "Tocqueville". Dr. Dre approved!

  • anon||

    Tocqueville was definitely a man of uncanny observational skills. I re-read Democracy in America recently and was astounded by the accuracy of his foresight.

  • Tulpa the White||

    I heard he was Nostradamus' illegitimate grandson.

  • ||

    As Tim Cavanaugh reported earlier these bans on bake sales are backed by First-Food-Nanny Michelle Obama.

    Get it right: she's National Mom.

  • ||

    As the members of the Founding delegations distort space-time by the ferocity of the spinning in their respective graves, and the republic is worn away by authoritarianism, even county-level governmental officials manage to fuck it up further and bring us down yet another notch -- this time to near-European levels of dumbfuckery.

    Congratulations, Michelle, you fucking troglodyte, because it appears you're getting what your worthless fat ass wanted.

  • aelhues||

    Everytime I see another one of these reports, I am reminded that I am grateful, that I live in a backwards, behind the times school district. They do their fair share of moronic stuff, but nothing like what I hear about in more modern school districts.

    My middle kid is going to NASP Archery nationals this weekend. Think they'd allow the shooting of pointy projectiles at these schools? Hell no....

  • ||

    I am seriously considering just bringing my daughter to work with me and teaching her there.

  • ||

    If I ever have kids, it's private school for fuckloads of money or homeschooling -- absolutely doubtless on that one.

  • Loki||

    It's too bad I'm not in school anymore. My mom and grandmother were both really good bakers, so I would have been able to make a fortune off of black market baked goods.

    If I hada kid who was school aged I think I'd encourage them to do exactly that. Call it a lesson in practical economics and how government gets in the way of voluntary victimless transactions.

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    "Free baked good with the purchase of any pencil."

    Fuck you, Marla Caplon.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Yet another example of liberal-flavored authoritarianism.

    Suck it, Democrats.

  • Seamus||

    At last! A way to suppress those affirmative action bake sales without drawing first amendment objections!

  • PapayaSF||

    I think there's an obvious compromise: allow bake sales, but make it illegal for them to sell anything fattening to anyone obese. What could go wrong?

    Seriously, I hate the "fair" and "democratic" principle that means a few people spoil it for everyone. It's one thing to have basic laws that apply equally to everyone (e.g. murder, theft), but to me it seems quite different to say "This is bad for X% of the population, therefore nobody can have it, even the people who would not be harmed at all." Why is it somehow "fair" to have a law that prevents skinny people from buying something at a bake sale, but it would be horribly unfair to not sell to the obese people the law is supposedly aimed at helping?

    It's such a basic collectivist assumption that it rarely seems to get explicitly challenged.

  • NoVaNick||

    So, how many of the moms out there who vote for the politicians most likely to support this kind of nonsense are self-described foodies who swoon over the thought of $10 cupcakes?

  • دردشه عراقية||

    Thanks

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