Nanny State

And the First U.S. County To Ban Trans Fat Is…

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Montgomery County, [Maryland] where only county-run stores can be trusted to sell liquor and where the county has tossed smokers out of bars and restaurants, is now the first county in the nation to ban trans fats. The county council voted yesterday to prohibit restaurants, bakeries and delis from using the unhealthful fats in their cooking and food preparation.

More here (at the fun but strangely named Wash Post blog "Raw Fisher: The Cold Splash of Reality, With a Side of Sizzle" [wtf?]).

I discussed "The Race to Ban What's Bad For Us" in the LA Times here.

Jacob Sullum asks "Who Needs Trans Fat"? here and wonders at "The Fried Logic of Food Police" here.

Why the Nanny State is winning here.

NEXT: The Accidental Modernist

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  1. Is there a more basic freedom than what you eat? There was an op-ed in Wall Street Journal this morning about the poor performance of new washing machines thanks to a Clinton era regulation requiring 35% improvement in all of the new machine’s energy efficiency. Thanks to that, you can’t choose to pay more for a good machine because making such a machine is illegal. Thanks to CAFE standards, you can’t necessarily buy the car you want. Want a decent toilet? No can’t have that, you can only have the “low flow” variety. If the left gets its way, everything you do, down to what you can eat to where you can take a shit, will be regulated by the government. I fail to see how we are in any way a free country when that happens. Something to consider the next time Weigel is on here licking the balls of this or that Democrat.

  2. The revolution starts in 2014, when Khan Noonien Singh (no relation) gets fed up with his toilet not flushing completely and takes to the streets.

  3. Peter Greenberg’s “fond childhood memories” notwithstanding, his attitude today continues to be that of a child — i.e., that things are more “fun” when they are forbidden.

    Perhaps other people find it enjoyable to risk fines, prison and ultimately death, simply as a consequence of engaging in some prohibited act. When I think of those possibilities, “fun” is the last word that enters my mind.

  4. Khan Noonien Singh is from Gaithersburg? I may just join up with the genetically-engineered superman, only this time he’ll be legislatively-engineered. He would have never taken power if not for the trans-fats ban!

    Yo, a shout-out to all my MoCo homies. Don’t you feel healthier already?

  5. I just don’t get it.

    They can use lard, but not trans-fats.

    Sodium nitrates, but not trans-fats.

  6. “Yo, a shout-out to all my MoCo homies. Don’t you feel healthier already?”

    All the more reason to move to Carroll Cty once my lease is up. Where MoCo goes, Howard County is sure to follow.

  7. Interestingly enough, you coined the Revolution’s catchphrase–“Stop Legislative Engineering (or Eugenics)” tomorrow on some libertarian magazine’s web site.

    That’s a cool phrase–“Legislative Engineering”. Makes me feel violated. Maybe the LP should adopt it as an insult to cast about randomly.

    joe,

    What of raw eggs?

  8. Everyone’s trying to get into the Trans Fat game.

    Even Brookline, MA.

  9. All the more reason to move to Carroll Cty once my lease is up. Where MoCo goes, Howard County is sure to follow.

    The missus and I are pretty much set on just leaving the whole damned area. She was born here and I’ve been here most of my life. We’re done with the meddling, mediocre schools and outragous cost of living.

    I get to pay half-million dollars for a house, just so I can live a 1/4 mile from apartment ghetto. But, I guess that ghetto should go away once the “living wage” trickles up, right?

  10. The worst thing about this is that it has gone so far down the road that people don’t even debate the principle anymore. We all sit around and talk about this as a regulatory issue, is transfat really bad for you, are other fats just as bad, is the science good and so forth. Instead, we should be talking about this as a freedom issue. This is about whether people have the right to choose for themselves what they eat. My answer is that they absolutely do and I don’t care how bad transfat is for you, it is none of mine or the government’s business if people choose to eat it or sell it. At most the government has an interest in assuring that business properly disclose what is in the food they sell. It has no interest in telling them what food they can sell.

  11. These bans, aka zero-tolerance, are the real coarsening of the culture.

  12. I just don’t get it.

    You’re not supposed too; that cramps the whole game.

    Just know that the legislature has a hard-on for your dangerous sins. That warm and fuzzy feeling you are supposed to have from their brave action is from them repeatedly rubbing it against your leg as they slay more and more dangers of modern life.

    Just feel good about it and don’t complain about the stains, OK?

  13. Joe:
    Actually the law of unintended consequences is in full play on this one.
    The ban was on artificial hydrogenated vegetable oil.
    But it has morphed into a ban on trans fat with a content of no more than .5%.

    This includes lard, milk and eggs.

    We are no longer substituting one oil for another.

    New York City has essentially decided that people need to learn a new way to bake and fry foods. Not a simple task considering we have been using the same or similar methods for thousands of years.

  14. The good news is that I’m moving out of Maryland at the end of August.

    The bad news is that I’m moving to California, which will undoubtedly follow suit.

    The good news is that California is such a nice place to live that it outweighs the nanny state BS.

  15. The good news is that California is such a nice place to live that it outweighs the nanny state BS.

    Or, it’s a nice place to live because of the “nanny state BS”.

  16. I sense the machinations of Big Microwave.

    I just heard that Florida is planning on getting rid of the state song, “Old Folks at Home” for something tamer and less likely to offend. Now the song’s reference to “darkies” on the plantation is certainly offensive, but the song is also strongly associated with the state. Why not modify the lyrics or leave those verses out of the official song? I think maybe we should leave stuff like this laying around, to remind us that things were different once and that we actually have improved in many ways.

  17. My sister in law and her husband live in Montgomery County, MD. They have a son who has obvious learning disabilities. MoCo has taken a stance that they don’t want to pay to educate these children, so they will drag their feet and litigate until the parents give up or run out of money. They are going to try to get services, but if they can’t, they are going to move and put him in a private school.

    Montgomery County sucks, as does most of the county governments in Maryland.

  18. Instead, we should be talking about this as a freedom issue.

    Well, it’s not a freedom issue. Nobody’s forcing you to live in a community where you don’t like the rules.

    This is about whether people have the right to choose for themselves what they eat. My answer is that they absolutely do and I don’t care how bad transfat is for you, it is none of mine or the government’s business if people choose to eat it or sell it.

    But it’s also none of your business what a community that you don’t live in decides to make law.

    At most the government has an interest in assuring that business properly disclose what is in the food they sell. It has no interest in telling them what food they can sell.

    And who died and left you to decide what other governments’ interests should be?

  19. Yeah, Dan T, the California legislature has mandated good weather and hot women…

  20. Whenever I read a story like this one, I often get annoyed that the reporter didn’t ask what are (to me) spectacularly obvious questions. Like this one, which should have been asked of the jackass politicians who voted for this bill: “Representative So-and-so, if you don’t think adults are responsible enough to make their own choices about what they eat, how can they possibly be responsible enough to vote and make choices about who should lead them?”

  21. Dan T., should the leaders of your community have the right to decide what you do in the privacy of your own kitchen?

    What about the privacy of your own bedroom?

    Should the leaders of your community have any right to decide what you do in the privacy of your own kitchen if there’s another consenting adult in your kitchen?

  22. “…so I can live a 1/4 mile from apartment ghetto.”

    You live in Giatherburg then.

  23. Well, Jennifer, if adults were responsible enough to chose what they eat we wouldn’t need these laws in the first place. But as we’re seeing now, if left totally to their own devices Americans at least will eat some amazingly nasty and unhealthful stuff.

  24. Let me try that again:

    “…so I can live a 1/4 mile from apartment ghetto.”

    You live in Gaithersburg then.

  25. “…will eat some amazingly nasty and unhealthful stuff”

    There is not wrong with haggis!

  26. Dan T., should the leaders of your community have the right to decide what you do in the privacy of your own kitchen?

    What about the privacy of your own bedroom?

    Should the leaders of your community have any right to decide what you do in the privacy of your own kitchen if there’s another consenting adult in your kitchen?

    Well, I’d certainly prefer that they did not, but if other communities feel like they should then that’s fine with me. As long as people have the freedom to leave and find another place where the rules are more to their liking I don’t think true freedom has been compromised.

  27. “Well, Jennifer, if adults were responsible enough to chose what they eat we wouldn’t need these laws in the first place. But as we’re seeing now, if left totally to their own devices Americans at least will eat some amazingly nasty and unhealthful stuff.”

    OK. That settles all debate. Dan T is a sock puppet for someone doing an ironic comedy of the typical leftists. No one could seriously beleive that. No one.

  28. As long as people have the freedom to leave and find another place where the rules are more to their liking I don’t think true freedom has been compromised.

    OK, so let’s suppose that a community passes a law that requires women to wear headscarves. Or a law that bans two men from having sexual relations. Or a law that requires members of an ethnic minority group to use separate bathrooms.

    What do you say to that law? Do you think that freedom has been abridged?

    I realize that the situations I outlined differ in many ways from transfat bans. But you argued that the transfat bans are no big deal because you can always move. I’m just asking if you apply this reasoning as a matter of general principle.

    Besides, so what if you can move? A person is established in his home, in his neighborhood, in his job, having a good time, fairly happy. And then people who might not even be a part of his life, who might not live in his neighborhood or work in his business, come to him and give him a choice: If he wants to stay in the life that he’s established, he has to give up something that he enjoys, even though he isn’t harming anybody else with that practice (or at least not harming anybody who isn’t willingly and knowingly participating).

    You don’t see the problem?

  29. Did anyone else go to the MoCo Liquor Control Board web site and read this gem: “One result of control method of distribution is that private profits are replaced with revenue generated for the community to more effectively support public policy goals of moderation and revenue enhancement.”

    If this statement is true about booze, why not every thing else?

    One more reason to dislike MoCo even more than I dislike Howard County.

  30. OK. That settles all debate. Dan T is a sock puppet for someone doing an ironic comedy of the typical leftists. No one could seriously beleive that. No one.

    But it’s so true. Have you seen what kind of stuff people eat on a regular basis? You haven’t observed how fat and unhealthy looking a good percentage of folks are these days?

    Even if you don’t think it’s the government’s business you must admit that the free market in junk food is causing some real problems.

  31. Actually, the bill doesn’t ban possession or use of trans-fats, just the sale of foods contaiing them in restaurants.

    thoreau and Jennifer’s objection is comparable to looking at health codes that specify maximum bacteria counts on surfaces in restaurant kitchens, and asking why the city doesn’t trust adults to wipe down their own counters.

  32. Have you seen what kind of stuff people eat on a regular basis? You haven’t observed how fat and unhealthy looking a good percentage of folks are these days?

    Yes…And it is none of my business anymore than the most unhealthy looking person I know eating habits – he is a vegan and looks like death walking.

  33. But you argued that the transfat bans are no big deal because you can always move. I’m just asking if you apply this reasoning as a matter of general principle.

    I would say that it can be used as a general principle. Consider it a “free market” of communities – cities and towns compete with each other to attract people and keep them.

    If the ban on transfat makes Montgomery county a worse place to live, people will leave it. If it has benefits, it will make the area more attractive to people looking for a good place to live.

    In a way, the libertarian is guilty of attempting to enforce his personal views onto others – this idea that all governments must remain small and ineffective, whether you like it or not.

  34. When counties compete we all win!

  35. Yes…And it is none of my business anymore than the most unhealthy looking person I know eating habits – he is a vegan and looks like death walking.

    So explain why what somebody eats is none of your business yet the laws passed by a county you don’t live in are?

  36. That settles all debate. Dan T is a sock puppet for someone doing an ironic comedy of the typical leftists. No one could seriously beleive that. No one.

    John, Dan’s trollery was established long ago. This is a guy who claimed Kerry Howley will abandon her political principles just as soon as she gets herself knocked up.

  37. I WAS BORN IN MONTGOMERY COUNTY, MD!!!

    But fortunately, my parents had the good sense to get me out of the hospital and into the relative safety of the Belleview housing projects as soon as possible.

  38. Dan, care to comment on Jim Crow?

    joe-

    There is a qualitative difference in the harm posed by transfats and the harm posed by bacteria. For starters, we all know which foods are fatty, but bacteria are invisible. That’s an important difference, in terms of information.

    Also, exposure to high levels of bacteria can potentially kill you in short order. However, moderate consumption of transfats is probably fine, and indulgence can be compensated for by subsequent changes to lifestyle.

    I’m not interested in protecting people from things that they are fully aware of, which they can easily choose to not consume, and which are only dangerous if consumed in excess over a long duration.

  39. John, Dan’s trollery was established long ago. This is a guy who claimed Kerry Howley will abandon her political principles just as soon as she gets herself knocked up.

    Let’s be fair – on that thread I apologized to Kerry for bringing that element of her personal life into the mix. (Although I don’t think she accepted it.)

    Still, as much as you don’t like it, I’m probably right.

  40. Dan, care to comment on Jim Crow?

    What’s to comment? It was a system that nearly everybody agrees was a bad one so we got rid of it.

  41. Well, Dan, since you’re a big fan of no-holds-barred federalism I thought you might want to offer a few nuanced points on it.

    For the record, I’m not a no-holds-barred federalist.

  42. You live in Gaithersburg then.

    No, but MoCo is full of these little islands of scum and villiany. Some bright-eyed urban planner had the idea 40 years ago or so that these vast tracts of garden apartments will be swell for all the prols to live in as they take the bus to work.

    joe swears they’ll get high-density planning right this time!

  43. Dan T

    You keep using the word “community” to describe the actions of a few leaders who think they know what’s best for their sheep…I mean constituents…

    Care to point me to a referendum or other indication this actually had broad “community” support?

  44. Dan T

    You keep using the word “community” to describe the actions of a few leaders who think they know what’s best for their sheep…I mean constituents…

    Care to point me to a referendum or other indication this actually had broad “community” support?

    I assuming that the leaders in Montgomery country were elected by the people. I imagine that if the people strongly disagree with this trans fat ban then they’ll elect leaders in the future who will repeal it.

    Or they’ll leave.

  45. SO LONG AS MORE PEOPLE THAN NOT AGREE UPON WHAT TO DO, THEN IT’S OKAY. THAT’S DEMOCRACY, THE HIGHEST GOOD.

  46. “So explain why what somebody eats is none of your business yet the laws passed by a county you don’t live in are?”

    It’s a county that I am in very often, like every weekend, and am about 1.5 miles (or less if I could fly like a crow) away from right now.

  47. thoreau,

    I wasn’t comparing trans-fats to bacteria. I actually agree with you that health codes against filth make more sense than health codes against unhealthy ingredients.

    I was attempting to draw a distinction between regulations on businesses and those on individuals, which your “privacy of your kitchen and bedroom” comments elide.

    You might as well have responded to OSHA regs about non-slip mats on the factory floor by saying that the government is telling us what carpet to lay in our bedrooms.

  48. Perhaps that explains why I left Mongomery county.
    Also, it’s full of government employees.

  49. Even if you don’t think it’s the government’s business you must admit that the free market in junk food is causing some real problems.

    Actually, the free market itself is causing the problem. Those people have too much money and waste it on excess food. The clear solution to the obesity problem is to mandate poverty. We must disallow anyone from taking home more than $3K a year.

  50. Actually, the bill doesn’t ban possession or use of trans-fats, just the sale of foods contaiing them in restaurants.

    Just like Prohibition! It didn’t ban possession or use of alcohol; only the manufacture and sale of it.

  51. That’s not even true, Jennifer.

    You can manufacture, and even sell, items containing trans-fats under this bill. You could even manufacture and sell big jars of hydrogenated oils.

    For a “Prohibition” comparison, you’d have to postulate a law that made it illegal to serve people drinks at a bar or restaurant, but still allowed distilleries and liquor stores.

  52. Nonetheless, Joe, you’re pretending that a ban on what is sold in restaurants in no way infringes upon the freedom of those who would go to restaurants. And the only reason to support this is the belief that restaurant-goers are too stupid to make their own decisions, and need the government (elected by those same clueless fools) to protect them from themselves.

  53. Actually, the bill doesn’t ban possession or use of trans-fats, just the sale of foods contaiing them in restaurants.

    Similarly, the 18th Amendment didn’t ban the possession or use of alcoholic beverages, simply their sale, importation, and manufacture. So it’s all good.

  54. Whoops. Jennifer beat me to it.

  55. I assuming that the leaders in Montgomery country were elected by the people. I imagine that if the people strongly disagree with this trans fat ban then they’ll elect leaders in the future who will repeal it.

    Or they’ll leave.

    So if Dan’s community bans the sale of condoms, or the New York Times, he’ll either get like-minded citizens to elect new politicians, or he’ll leave. Because he believes that “cities and towns compete with each other to attract people and keep them,” so that if such a ban makes a locality “a worse place to live, people will leave it.”

  56. “SO LONG AS MORE PEOPLE THAN NOT AGREE UPON WHAT TO DO, THEN IT’S OKAY. THAT’S DEMOCRACY, THE HIGHEST GOOD.”

    like all those Nazis? they thought genocide was a fine idea. (I know, Nazi Germany wasn’t a democracy – but it was a case nasty case of groupthink, wasn’t it?).

  57. whoops, that was supposed to be anonymous under the pseudonym Godwin, but I guess I fsck’d up.

    for the record, I live in MoCo. I agree on some level with Dan’s assertion that the free-market of communities gives me the chance to move elsewhere. who knows, I might do that soon.

    what strikes me as odd is that the same people who passed this ban would no doubt object to a ban on abortions in their community, even if it was passed by a democratically elected council. the right to choose doesn’t apply to what you eat, drink, or smoke. I’m pro-choice about all three (and more).

    (crap, abortion and Nazis, what am I thinking?)

  58. I just want to pile on the MoCo hatred. I moved to Gaithersburg about a month ago. This place is teh suck. Also, it is the epicenter of New Urbanism. Coincidence? (Probably).

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