The food activist book industry has been hyperactive the past few months. Robert Lustig’s holy war against sugar was extended into book form. Melanie Warner proclaimed a crusade against so-called “hyperprocessed” food—of course, never turning to criticize the processed foods her prospective readers enjoy. And Michael Moss of the New York Times insinuated a supposedly vast conspiracy, extending to every kitchen and kebab shop from Times Square to Tikrit, that people change food to make it taste too good.
With the activists looking to whip up a whirlwind against the pleasures and conveniences of modern food, in steps economist and university professor Jayson Lusk with a dollop of common sense. In his book The Food Police, Lusk challenges the mythmaking of Michael Pollan and his so-called food “movement” (that doesn’t win many converts or ballot-box contests, we would add).
Whether the foodies and their allies want to make everyone eat “organic” or “local” foods, to ban or severely restrict the use of biotechnology in food production, or enact “fat taxes” to make foods they don’t like cost more, Lusk stands athwart the effort to reduce choice. Using economic thinking, Lusk debunks claims that the food elite’s views of health, food fashion, and people’s inability to choose should be extended by law to everybody.
The problem Lusk describes isn’t that some people like to eat organic food, avoid GMOs, or not drink cola. Instead, the “food movement” wants to use the law to make people who have different preferences and make different choices follow those same preferences. To a regular reader here who has followed the developments in food cop politics over the past decade it might be a re-hash, but to newcomers who want the story of how a few cranks took over how a country thinks about food, The Food Police provides an excellent primer.