'Prohibition Has Never Worked'


In an article on the "obesity epidemic" last week, The Washington Post reported that Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson rejects the idea of requiring schools to ban high-calorie snacks and drinks. "I don't want to start banning things," Thompson said. "Prohibition has never worked."

I'm glad Thompson has seen the light on prohibition. Still, the concern about obesity does suggest a new argument for banning marijuana: Imagine how much we'd be eating if everyone were stoned all the time. We'd have a munchies epidemic.

[Thanks to David Boaz for the tip.]

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  1. I still don’t understand why government-run schools ought to be making unhealthy foods widely available to schoolchildren.

    Is the school’s role in the obesity epidemic overblown? Sure. But I don’t see how providing local governments a financial incentive to fatten up our kids is the right way to go, from a libertarian perspective.

    In what possible way does it further the educational mission? For what possible reason would we want schools to be making money off this stuff? Since when does libertarianism imply we ought to favor more ingenious ways for the government to bring in revenue?

  2. “Imagine how much we’d be eating if everyone were stoned all the time.”

    True enough in my youth when I couldn’t gain an ounce to save my life and health food was plain donuts instead of glazed. But now as I approach middle age and my slower metabolism conspires to ever increase my pants size, I find that the occasional joint has the opposite effect. It usually accompanies creative work, and I just don’t have the time or desire to stop for food.

  3. OS,
    Actually, marijuana has been shown to increase metabolism, so if you don’t snack all the time it will help you lose weight.

  4. OS,
    Mo is right. Have you ever seen me fatten up after all these years?

  5. Maybe Thompson’s views come from a certain brother of his in Wisconsin…

  6. I don’t think stuff should be banned by the feds, but neither do I think schools should just feed kids whatever they want. If ever there’s a place for paternalism, it’s in the schools, for obvious reasons. And while maybe there shouldn’t be state schools in the first place, while there are, they can be run with the kids’ health in mind.

  7. It’s more complicated than that, fyodor. Schools have to base their lunch programs on federal regulations, so as long as that’s true, there’s going to have to be some standards for what the schools can serve. Thompson isn’t opposed to this system (do you see him calling for its elimination?), he’s just opposed to making the standards more like what a nurse, doctor, or nutritionist considers a good diet, and less like what the beef, dairy, wheat and corn lobbies consider a good diet.

  8. I should add that I’m often smoking a cigar as well. Partagas and Twinkies? Yuck. So who’s healthier: the thin occasional smoker or the obese non-smoker?

    Food for thought.

  9. “Prohibition has never worked.”

    So WHY in God’s generic name is the government still hell-bent on proving that it does work by trying it out on other venues or trying to ressurect it in piecemeal? How many times do they have to get metaphorically hit in the head with a hypothetical brick before it sinks in?

  10. David2:

    How many times do they have to get metaphorically hit in the head with a hypothetical brick before it sinks in?

    Probably shortly after the brick ceases to be hypothetical.

  11. joe,

    Are you saying the federal regulations require schools to serve bad foods?? If not, why do schools need a change at the federal level to eliminate the junk? I’m not being facetious, I really don’t understand. Why not exceed those federal standards?

  12. Oops. I jumped the gun, and thought he was talking about school lunches. The servings are based on USDA guidelines, which call for way too much meat, dairy (ever notice how much cheese is on school food? and how thick the slices are – not what you get at the deli), and starch, making unhealthy options ok, and sometimes prohibiting healthier meals.

    But the article seems to deal more with the unquestionably bad foods, like soda and anything with the word “cheez” on the package – not what’s served in school lunches.

    I think it’s a little silly to refer to the regulations that one government agency imposes on another as “prohibition.” As a city planner, am I being persecuted because I can’t spend HUD block grant money in rich neighborhoods? Free joe!

  13. “prohibiting certain sugary, fatty products in schools.”

    They might be talking about getting rid of crappy foods in vending machines, in which case Thompson’s point might be that kids could get the stuff elsewhere, which of course is true. Still, that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done cause A) we’re talking about kids here, and B) amount matters, so availability does too. Pretty ironic, though, that a government official is saying that “prohibition doesn’t work.”

  14. “Thompson urged Congress to pass legislation granting tax credits to people who lose weight”


  15. What if you’re already skinny, like Jennifer? Don’t you get any credit for not gaining weight in the first place?

    How about some kind of pro-rated, cholesterol-density-proportioned, sliding-scale-deductatory, grease-laden-amortization schedule E that one could fill out along with the rest of the forms at the bar on the night of April 14th (with a quick double-visioned drive down to the P.O. each year)? Once you’ve had a couple of Guinesses, it all goes pretty easy, I’m hear to tell ya.

    The scary thing is, the IRS has some chomping-at-the-bit, tatood, pin-striped-suit-wearing, metal-faced, young accountant interns working on this as we speak. Not the country I signed up, don’t know bout that fellow Joe …

  16. Since high-schoolers are some of the most image-conscious people in society, let’s have a resurgence of heroin-chic. Then the kids can choose between popularity and Twinkies. Empower them to become adults, with choice, outcome, and personal responsibility.

    Damn that J-Lo for making it acceptable to be a fat ass!

  17. Why not just let everyone pay their own medical bills?
    And let insurance, if you want it, charge what they want
    according to your age, condition, weight, genetic factors, etc.
    It is all enough to make you a libertarian, ain’t it!

  18. “Why not just let everyone pay their own medical bills?”


  19. Here’s a cool article on a school restaurant, the Health Nut Cafe. The principal is a former hotel and restaurant manager and knows what he’s doing. The extra costs will be financed by catering lunches to parents.


    Americans knowledge of cooking with actual ingredients instead of out of a box or a can is shameful. Little wonder that we don’t know how to eat.

  20. Why should the schools feed the kids at all. Is it that hard for mommy or daddy to make a sandwich and put in a paper bag for their kid to take to school for lunch. I know the left wing wacko’s will say that some parent’s can’t afford to feed their little kids and thats why the schools must do it for them. What about all the welfare money we taxpayers are paying out? Is it not being spent to buy those kids something to eat? Are they starving in mass droves during summer vacation when school is out? I don’t think so.

  21. > Why should the schools feed the kids at all.

  22. Now we know what Tommy Thompson really thinks or what passes for thinking among bureaucrats.
    When might we be treated to what Colin Powell really pseudo-thinks?

  23. Lord KnowNothing, until you demonstrate that you can feed a kid, keep the heat on, and get to a workfare job on $380/month, might I suggest you stop spouting off about the lives of people you’d jump off a cliff to avoid ever meeting?

  24. Can we get an audio or video clip of Tommy Thompson saying “Prohibition has never worked” and send it to

    Karen Tandy, DEA
    John Ashcroft, DOJ
    John Walters, ONDCP


    Maybe the four of them can have lunch one of these days! Tommy is said to be a real charmer, so perhaps he can make the other three see the light. If not, maybe we citizens can exercise a little taxpayer oversight by burning the audio or video clip onto CDs or DVDs and sending them en masse to the above-named officials. I’d love to see each of ’em get a million discs. They’d be nostalgic for the days when they were on AOL’s prospect list.

  25. For better or worse Americans have decided they want welfare. So then one must decide the best way to deliver it to reduce tthe incidence of welfare.

    Feeding kids that come from dysfunctional homes may help them to absorb the three Rs. better.

    The libs would do much better if they could keep in mind two things.

    1. What they want
    2. What the American people want

    Before you can talk the American people out of welfare you may have to prove yor bonafides by improving it’s function first.

    Either that or stick with the utopia or death program.

  26. An observation: Tommy’s kind of wigging me out with all that extra flapping face skin from his weight loss. He looks like a bloodhound. I hope Spencer Abraham doesn’t get into this weight loss thing.

    A question: Is ketchup/catsup still a vegetable in the eyes of the state?

  27. Joe, you’d be surprised at the breaks you get when you make that kind of money (plus, even at minimum wage, you make three times that much take home). A lot of people considered poor have cable TV, new washers and driers, 3 color TVs and a lot of stuff I don’t have. They’re able to feed the kids just fine, if they can handle money worth a dang.

    The only way to be seriously poor in this country (as in low on food) is to be downright stupid.

  28. Jimmy, I recognize the data you’re using there, and it’s wrong. A recent study showed that about half of families in poverty have a color TV. About half have a microwave. About half have a dryer. Etc. But you don’t get to add those up and say that half of poor families have all of those things – elementary statistics.

    Anway, a two bedroom where I live (which is a city with much higher than average poverty for the region) costs $900 or more per month, in the bad neighborhoods. Do the math, and tell me the kids from that home don’t need help getting enough to eat.

  29. Joe, excuse me, a $900 house??? Well, yeah, even people who have good jobs don’t always get to rent a house in the big city – there are apartments way cheaper than that in any city short of NYC (an exception as they have rent control, plus what the hell are ya doing in New York City? is my answer to that one).

    Out in the country you can rent a single wide for a few hundred, yes you need a vehicle, but it doesn’t have to be anything from the late ’90’s.

    I’ve been there Joe, and it’s not pleasant having to worry about each $5 all the time, but that gives one an incentive to get serious about life.

    I could lay out a whole budget for you, if you want. I stand by my statement: No one in America is poor to the point of not having enough nutrition for themselves and kids, without being completely mental or stupid. PERIOD.

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