Regulation

Reason.tv: Should We Be Free to Eat What We Want?—Nick Gillespie & Liz Williams Talk Culinary Freedom

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The forces of neo-Prohibitionism are afoot everywhere, seeking to minimize not just our choices when it comes to food and drink, but our very pleasure. In San Francisco, health officials have cracked down on high-end bars that make their own bitters. In New York, raw eggs have been banned from use in cocktails such as sloe gin fizzes. When will it ever stop?

To get a sense of the range and causes of the neo-Prohibitionist mind-set, Reason's Nick Gillespie talked with unabashed culinary freedom fighter Liz Williams, the founder and president of New Orleans' own Southern Food and Beverage Museum.

Williams believes we are what we eat, and we should be free to eat and drink what we want. She is a lawyer by training, has served as a Judge Advocate General in the U.S. Army, and is the author of the forthcoming book The Encyclopedia of Law and Food.

Approximately 44 minutes.

This discussion was part of Reason Weekend, an annual conference held by Reason Foundation, the nonprofit that publishes Reason.tv and Reason.com. This year's event took place in New Orleans from April 15-18 in New Orleans.

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  1. It’s not just about freedom or pleasure. It’s really about a mind-set that insists we must be protected from essentially everything. This has become so chronic that huge numbers of people now avoid things that would not otherwise harm them (gluten? sugar?) in normal use and is creating phobia-like behaviors. A friend who owns a restaurant here in my tourist driven town has become incensed at the numbers of people who make outrageous food requests — she’s started to throw them out.

    Also this mind-set is having the ironic effect of making people ill as research increasingly makes the connection between being overly sanitized to being susceptible to numerous auto-immune and other ailments.

    1. But the most amazing thing about American culture is we’ll take a kid straight from a zero-tolerance high school where we worry that some disgruntled teenager might bring a gun to school and sign him up to shoot people and be shot at in some desert country halfway around the world.

    2. I understand we all dislike all the tiresome modern poses — there are so many of them — but I am myself gluten-intolerant and I can assure the writer that it is a very real and very unpleasant condition. If someone really has it, I doubt they r ordering food in restaurant. I don’t even like to smell the bread display at the supermarket. It has nothing to do with modern super-hygiene. I was born in Australia in 1959 and my brothers and I grew up like wild animals in the bush – god the world was better for kids then — but I am now gluten intolerant and realize now that I was then too. Gluten intolerance is real.

      1. Yes, celiac disease strikes some 0.33%-1.06% of the population so sorry for you, but I run into so many people who avoid wheat these days it boggles the mind. Way more than 1% of the population.

        1. Why do you care if other people voluntarily abstain from something and don’t try to use force to prevent you from partaking in it?

          http://heartscanblog.blogspot.com/search/label/Wheat

          http://www.paleonu.com/panu-we…..ns-ii.html

          1. Why do you care if other people voluntarily abstain from something and don’t try to use force to prevent you from partaking in it?

            Because they have a hard time with that 2nd part about not forcing it onto others.

            1. So like the Slashbots, you create an imaginary collective out of individuals with disparate opinions, then attribute the same opinions and motivations to all of them. Bravo.

  2. FRANCIS MALLMANN’S BURNT ORANGES
    WITH ROSEMARY

    Source: Adapted from Seven Fires by Francis Mallmann (Artisan, 2009)
    Method: Direct grilling
    Serves: 4

    Here’s a dessert of such startling simplicity and bold in-your-face flavors, just to hear about it is to want to try it. It comes from the rock star of South American live-fire cooking, Francis Mallmann.

    4 large juicy navel oranges
    2 o 3 sprigs fresh rosemary (2 to 3 tablespoons leaves)
    3/4 cup sugar
    1-1/2 cups cr?me brulee ice cream or plain Greek yogurt, divided between 4 shallow bowls

    Cut off both ends of each orange. Using a sharp paring knife, remove the peel and white pith in strips. Cut each orange in half widthwise and remove any seeds with a fork. Arrange the oranges on a plate cut side up.

    Sprinkle the oranges with rosemary leaves, pressing the leaves into the flesh. The recipe can be prepared up to 1 hour ahead.

    Set up your grill for direct grillingand preheat to high. Ideally, you’ll be grilling over wood.

    If you have a plancha, preheat it screaming hot. If working directly on the grill, brush and oil the grill grate.

    Just before serving, sprinkle the cut part of each orange with sugar. Invert the orange halves onto the metal plate or onto the grill. Cook until the sugar caramelizes, that is, turns dark brown, 2 to 4 minutes. Do not let burn or the sugar will taste bitter.

    Using a spatula, arrange the orange halves, sugar side up, on the ice cream. If using a pan, spoon any juices over the oranges and serve at once.

    1. That book is freaking amazing.

    2. I just recently ran across Mallman.

      He is truly a god among men.

  3. Hummus Potato Salad

    1 lb red skin potatoes
    2 oz yellow onion, diced fine
    ? cup celery leaves, diced fine
    4 oz feta cheese, crumbled
    8 oz hummus
    Salt and pepper to taste

    Boil potatoes whole, with skin on, until they yield to a toothpick. Cool on countertop and then chill in the refrigerator until firm. This is best done the night before. Slice into ? inch cubes. Combine with remaining ingredients, folding so as to not break-up the potatoes excessively.

    1. Had this before. Delicious.

  4. Should people be free to eat and drink what they want, YES.

    Does that mean they shouldn’t pay more for making an unhealthy choice NO.

    Realizing that those healthcare costs will almost certainly be passed on (do you really think we will get rid of Medicare?) it makes sense to tax fatty sugary foods at a level that reflects their future healthcare costs (and no more).

    It might also make sense to use part of that money to make sure that healthy foods were avaialble to the poor, to keep their future healthcare costs down as well.

    1. it makes sense to tax fatty sugary foods at a level that reflects their future healthcare costs (and no more).

      No. This petty tyranny would be much more intolerable than a bunch of old fat fucks charging their insulin to Medicare.

    2. This is a perfect example of how socialist programs don’t work without full-blown communism. Every little thing we let the government control, or for which we rely on the government, gives the government more and more incentive/excuse to control more and more aspects of our lives.

    3. it makes sense to tax fatty sugary foods at a level that reflects their future healthcare costs

      And you’re just the man to do it, comrade?

      1. Oh, I see, everyone is against people paying for their own actions?

        I’m not sure why it seems unreasonable that the choices you make reflect the consequences of those choices.

        You want to get fat, that’s your choice, in fact you want to smoke crack, that’s your choice too. Should the price of the fat or crack reflect those choices yes.

        Stop trying to pawn off your bad choices on other people.

        1. No, it’s trying to solve collectivist nonsense with more collectivist nonsense. We shouldn’t be paying for health care for other people as is.

          This is the same line of bullshit that is given about legalizing drugs or making immigration easier.

          The cure for too much government is never more government.

        2. I’m not sure why it seems unreasonable that the choices you make reflect the consequences of those choices.

          You will always suffer the consequences of your bad choices.

          Unless someone steps in.

          1. Yes, but realizing that we are almost certainly never going to get rid of Medicare/Medicaid, or ER care, I want to make sure that the consumer of those choices bears the costs instead of the rest of us.

            1. We won’t have to get rid of them. The unsustainable nature of the system will do it for us.

              Egocentric laws aimed at recovering societal costs just spawn more unintended consequences.

              1. Could you go over some of the uninted consequnces of a tax designed to make the price of food more efficient?

                I honestly can’t think of any, or remember any from when we looked at these types of taxes at UCSB.

                But maybe I’m forgetting something.

                1. Could you go over some of the uninted consequnces of a tax designed to make the price of food more efficient?

                  Well, as all taxes do, it will divert resources from the productive economy to the state, impoverishing us all.

                  1. Actually that’s not necessarily true in this case. A sugar tax etc would be changing one type of tax (say payroll or income) that is currently paying for healthcare, and replace it with a tax on the items that are driving up the costs of the healthcare.

                    So properly designed you would get less deadwight loss on the income tax, PLUS a more efficent price on the food. The total outcome would therefore be MORE efficient, and a boon to the overall economy.

                    1. Yeah, right, and that gambling money is going towards schools, and all that social security money stayed in the SS pot. Believe that ridiculous notion if you want, but the truth is the more they try to control our actions, the more complicated the tax structure, the more IN-efficient and expensive government becomes. It’s already astoundingly in-efficient and expensive, so lets keep making it more so, eh?

                    2. Don’t we already have a tax on sugar in the form of subsidies that drive up the price of sugar? The consequence is that food companies have switched to high-fructose corn syrup, one of the things blamed for the so-called “epidemic” of obesity.

                    3. Yes tax money is fungible. Which is exactly the point. IF we don’t tax this stuff, then the other taxes will go up to pay for it.

                      I would rather the people that make the bad choices pay for their decisions than the rest of us.

                      I thought libertarians were supposed to be for indvidual responsiblity, and people paying for their own actions.

                    4. I thought libertarians were supposed to be for indvidual responsiblity, and people paying for their own actions.

                      Hence the objections to ObamaCare, MediCare, ……eh, why bother. Krone is right, we’ll never win, lets just dig in for our piece of sugar-free, non-dairy, Pie.

        3. What that’ someone wants to the prices of what we buy to reflect the societal costs? What a communist,

          oops wait, no he’s an economist. Same difference.

          1. What that’ someone wants the state to set the prices of what we buy to reflect the societal costs?

            An authoritarian a-hole?

            1. Actually the state wouldn’t be setting the final price, just adding in an amount to reflect the estimated healthcare costs.

              As noted in my reply to Greer, as long as healthcare costs are being born by society instead of the indvidual, then to get the efficent price of bad foods, a tax is going to be required.

              If you can get society to stop passing on those healthcare costs, I would gladly drop my support for taxing stuff that drives up those healthcare costs.

              1. If you can get society to stop passing on those healthcare costs, I would gladly drop my support for taxing stuff that drives up those healthcare costs.

                Ah, you see, but you have to do the latter to achieve the former. Starve the beast, and the unsustainability of the policy will become more and more apparent, until people ARE forced to pay for their own care.

                Taxing more to pay for a policy against which you’ve already admitted defeat just digs the hole deeper.

            2. Actually the state wouldn’t be setting the final price, just adding in an amount to reflect the estimated healthcare costs.

              Potato, Potahto.

              1. Actually I think there is a big difference. For example,

                The government mandating that gas stay a certain price (price controls) resulted in gas lines, the government imposing a gas tax did not.

        4. Oh, I see, everyone is against people paying for their own actions?

          Exactly the point. Since no one IS paying for their own actions, the actions of others becomes the business of everyone else. Hence, the Socialist/Communinist charge.

          Let people decide if they want to smoke three Camels while they eat a Baconator and a beer and let THEM suffer the consequences.

          1. Yes and if that happend, then we wouldn’t need the taxes.

            But does anyone on this board honestly believe that we will EVER get rid of Medicare, Medicaid, or manadtory ER care? REALLY???

            Moreover, the people that are MOST likely to demand government healthcare services are usually the most likely to eat poorly.

            1. No, I don’t expect we’ll get rid of them, but I will fight for greater freedom and less government regardless. I will fight for simpler and more efficient, not more complex and onerous. Do I think it’s a losing battle? Yes, but it’s better than doing nothing, or encouraging tyranny like you are doing.

              1. You have a strange definition of tryanny. Making sugary/fatty foods a bit more expensive to help pay for the healthcare costs associated with those foods is a LONG way from tryanny.

                1. Encouraging tyranny….asking government to “help” us be better people through taxation or other means, not specifically taxing sugar.

                  Any time the federal government tries to influence behavior, I question it. All I want them concerned with is legal or illegal. I don’t approve of federal taxation on any specific item or group of items or services, regardless of what the current trend is, or appeals to future costs to the taxed. I despise cigarette smoke, but don’t want them taxed by the feds. On the flip side, I don’t approve of subsidies either. Misguided policies screw with our economy entirely too much already. When it comes to the feds…keep it simple, stupid.

                  1. You misunderstand, I’m not asking government to help us be better people, I’m saying that the prices of items should reflect their actual costs.

                    Also, I would much rather have an item taxed say drugs, or alchohol, than be illegal.

    4. Does that mean they shouldn’t pay more for making an unhealthy choice NO.

      Make up your mind. The power to tax is the power to destroy.

    5. The problem is, debate still rages on regarding what is “healthy”. Is fat considered healthy today? Are carbs okay today? This is where this whole thing breaks down in my opinion. The goverment, the same one who came up w/ the BS food pyramid, is the one who will make the call… and it will be the wrong call.

      1. Exactly! So glad someone brought up this point. The government has absolutely no idea what is healthy. Our nutritional policy reflects food industry favors, not actual science.
        And on top of that, forcing people to pay an equal tax on “bad” food is unfair. As we all know people are different and while some will get diabetes from eating excess sugary foods, the person who never develops disease from these foods still bears the same cost.

  5. I’d be great if people walked more, let’s chain them to a treadmill.

    1. Are you joking? Wheels of Pain are what we need.

      1. can’t generate green electricity from a wheel of pain…

  6. i dont give a damn if you poison yourself. as long as you dont spread the cost to other people thru using insurance. waddle your fat-a$$ into the hospital & pay cash.

  7. Perhaps we should just institute a tax based on body fat percentage? Seems pretty cut and dry. I mean if the government has a stake in everyone’s general health, then they certainly have an interest…..no….responsibility to oversee our fitness.

    1. Woman naturally have a higher bodyfat percentage then men, I can imagine the heads exploding at femimisting right now.

  8. No, it is NOT okay for everyone to eat whatever they want.

    Well, it’s okay for me and my husband, and my tubby-assed kids, but not for you little people.

    1. mama knows best

  9. “it makes sense to tax fatty sugary foods at a level that reflects their future healthcare costs”
    But how are we to know what those future costs are? If this plan was implemented 30 years ago, we would taxing butter to subsidize margarine sales. We would be trying to tax away all cholesterol and pushing corn syrup over cane sugar.

    1. Not only that, but tax revenues raised this year are going to be spent this year, not squirreled away somewhere to be used twenty years from now when those donuts you bought with your food stamps give you diabetes.

    2. Quiet, you. Government is all knowing and perfect! Experts are infallible!

  10. it makes sense to tax fatty sugary foods at a level that reflects their future healthcare costs

    No, it makes sense to let people pay for their own health care costs.

  11. Perhaps some sort of locking box, in which to sequester all of the “sin-tax” revenue. A “Lock-Box”, if you will.

  12. Basicially, if I put a pair of raw huevos in my mouth, I get to march with the LGBT community in their annual New York City parade. If I put a pair of slightly undercooked eggs in my mouth, the restaurant that gave them to me faces legal action from New York City.

  13. As noted in my reply to Greer, as long as healthcare costs are being born by society instead of the indvidual, then to get the efficent price of bad foods, a tax is going to be required.

    Actually, no. Whether or not a price is efficient has nothing to do with whether the government is picking up the tab for second- and third-order effects.

    The notion that a tax can result in a more efficient price is predicated on the absurd notion that the government can actually identify the external costs of a transaction.

    For example, why should I pay an obesity tax on sugar to cover the costs of diabetes treatments, when my sugar intake is quite low and will not cause me to have diabetes? How is a higher price on the sugar I buy a more efficient price for that transaction?

    1. I think you are confusing your indvidual preferences, with the aggragate.

      Efficiency is concerned with the equilbirum price. Maximum efficiency would be when ALL costs (including exteranlities) are taken into account.

      So yes if there are hidden costs that are not being born by the user, but are being born by others those costs should be reflected in the price. That way the efficient (or correct) amount will be consumed with the minimum of dead weight losses.

      1. I think you are confusing your individual preferences, with the aggregate.

        Confusing? No. Replacing? Yes.

        On a side note, did you attend the John School of Spelling? Or are you just John, in here trying to rile us up for kicks?

      2. I think you are confusing your indvidual preferences, with the aggragate.

        Not at all. I am merely pointing out one of the problems with pretending that you can impose an “efficient” price.

        I will be interested to hear how you can say that the State has arrived at the “efficient” price, via taxation, when large categories of transaction unders that price are actually less efficient.

        Am I the only one getting auto-ads for Baconnaise and Mars chocolate in the sidebar?

        1. @Wylie,

          I’m actually dysleix (yes a dysleix economist, CPA). Mainly it REALLY fucks up my spelling.

          I could spell check before posting, but that gets rid of some very amusing bloopers.

          1. I type “jsut” every time i want “just”…but i go back and fix it. I guess I’m just anal and humorless.

  14. in a society with personal responsibility then yes…eat what you want…smoke what you want…drink what you want, but this is what you end up with when 47% of americans don’t pay income tax and the other half has to pay for their health care. implement the fairtax, butt out of health care, and be free to eat what you want.

  15. Short answer: Yes, but don’t be so goddamn stupid about it.

    I don’t mind healthier food in schools, as well as more activity. Kids love recess; don’t you remember being put off when you “outgrew” it? The kids these days… incredible. Yes, school is only part of their day, but it’s a large part of their life for 12 years. And it’s sometimes 2 meals a day for them. Damn good watch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jIwrV5e6fMY. Enjoy the bit where the kids don’t know what a tomato is!

  16. Gentlefolk: Soon….very soon in fact, there will 10 billion people on this planet. Your discourse on food is trivial. What to do what to do? I already know what Libertarians will say. But golly, will they be outnumbered……

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