Much of the justification for the various forms of Twinkie Tax that the self-anointed “food police” have demanded for the better part of two decades rests on the premise that healthy food is more expensive and less available than more calorie-rich food. We’ve always been skeptical of that premise, and there’s new data that should make people even more dismissive of the tax-bringers’ claims.
U.S. Department of Agriculture economists reported last week that by assessing the price of a food by weight or per-serving rather than per-calorie, healthier items are cheaper than the more calorie-dense. Put more plainly, they found that people can get more satiety (fullness) for less money with fruits and veggies.
This should also put the lie to another food activist talking point. During the rollout of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) report earlier this month on how to employ aggressive public policy measures against obesity—we said its title should have been the “Social Engineer’s Manifesto”—we caught the broader “public health” activist community engaging in rhetorical sleights of hand.
Personal responsibility is the only possible solution to a problem caused by personal irresponsibility. But in addition to attacking its defenders as bigots, our would-be masters in Atlanta, Washington, and New Haven have an additional insidious line of attack against our right to choose cheeseburgers, soda, and potato chips. Apparently, we’re just too weak to make the “correct” decisions in what activists call the “toxic food environment.”
Our betters then claim that all the nanny state has to do to nudge us in the proper direction is to change the “default” option to the one they prefer. They offer to do this with the classic formula of sin taxes, “virtue” subsidies, and mandates. That way, we allegedly retain consumer choice. But our eventual choice is—to borrow from the Newspeak of Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four— doubleplusgood, “for the children.”
Of course, as anybody who enters a grocery store knows—even if that person lives in a “food desert,” which each passing study reveals to be little more than a mirage—healthy choices already exist and are prominently visible. And now, we have more evidence that they are affordable and filling. (Don’t tell Mark Bittman.)
So, will the activists accept our decisions and lay off our choices? If their other choice-destroying theory, namely that food is just tasty heroin, is any indication, the answer is not a chance.