A couple of weeks ago we reported on a hearty result for food freedom advocates: A poll by the Associated Press (AP) found that 59 percent of Americans opposed food and soda taxes and 74 percent balked at New York-style portion control laws. Commentators calling for government to force us to eat the way they prefer like Upper West Side food scold Mark Bittman of The New York Times, would-be “food movement” commander Michael Pollan of the University of California, Berkeley, and scaremongering endocrinologist Robert “No soda under 17” Lustig might get most of the media play, but they don’t speak for the majority.
An analysis by the AP’s national political editor tries to reconcile the debate in left-right partisan political terms with conservatives and Republicans opposed to coercion and liberals favoring it, but she acknowledges that this can’t be the whole story. She notes that a New York Times poll found that even in the traditional big-government bastion of the Big Apple, six in ten residents opposed the city’s soda ban.
But there’s more evidence that even liberals and Democrats aren’t on board the train to food regulation. To the New York City polling, we can add the results of soda tax ballot measures and Proposition 37 in California (a measure to compel the scientifically pointless mandatory labeling of foods produced with biotechnology), all of which failed in jurisdictions that President Obama won.
So a big-versus-small government model doesn’t work very well at all. Instead, what we see is a class divide. While Times readers (but not the Times itself), university professors, National Public Radio listeners, and multibillionaires are ready to call in the full force of government to shrink the people, most of us aren’t willing to accept the intrusions into our private decisions that such a regime would require.
Outside of the faculty lounges and newspaper bullpens, Americans’ thoughts on obesity are clear. As the AP commentator notes, Americans want “what they need to make their own choices.” We trust ourselves and are willing to accept the consequences if we err.