Remember your grandmother’s advice? “Everything in moderation”? Today it seems that moderation doesn’t leave much room for heavy-handed policies. And for that reason, health officials are pushing a new lifestyle prescription: “Everything in all-or-none.” This week, TIME magazine covered a study claiming that one “bad” meal is all it takes to permanently damage our bodies. London’s Daily Mail told readers yesterday that from bread to apples, “nothing is safe” in our grocery stores. And after advising readers not to “make broad, sweeping statements,” The State newspaper issued a blanket condemnation of fast food.
Fortunately, most of us still recognize that life is rarely about absolutes. Like questions in business, romance, and daily living, choices in health rarely fall along lines of good or bad, right or wrong. But regulations like trans fat bans, fast food zoning, and soda taxes suggest otherwise. The rest of the world operates on shades of gray, so instituting black-and-white laws is simply counterintuitive. (It’s like trying to push a square peg through a round hole.)
In what sounds like stating the obvious, economics professor Steven Landsburg commented in today’s New York Times: “Public policy should not be designed to advance moral instincts that we all reject every day of our lives.” Ain’t that the truth.