Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Fast Food & Free Will?

Pictured Above: Another Victim of the Corporate Oligarchy.

Three interrelated and implicit tenants of progressive thoughts are: individual choice is illusionary because corporate entities limit them and accordingly they are victims who need to be protected and guided by a benevolent big brother. No where is this better seen than in the debate on fast food.

A progressive associate of mine and I share a concern with the costly epidemic of obesity and believe that fast food restaurants are a major component in this epidemic. Where we differ is our belief in the source of this problem lies.

My progressive associate believes that people that choice is only a minor part of the equation, because people are coerced into eating at McDonalds and Taco Bell. He points out to the fact that in many areas, especially in impoverished rural and urban communities, fast food chains proliferate and its virtually impossible to find a healthy restaurant. By supposedly limiting the knowledge of healthier options and through aggressive marketing they in effect coerce individuals to eat there.

My answers are:

1. Even in areas where fast food predominates individuals can and do make healthy choices. Don't like McDonalds? Cook your own meal! Have to go to McDonalds because you don't know how to cook? Order a salad when you're there!

2. Don't know what foods are healthy or unhealthy? Open a book or check the internet! Don't have the money to buy a book or have internet service? Go to the public library! Can't read? There are free literacy programs throughout the city!

3. "But," you ask, "isn't healthy food too expensive..." Basic stables such as legumes (beans), whole grains (rice, etc.), vegetables (lettuce, spinach, etc.), some fruits (lemons, apples, etc.) and some fish (such as tilapia) are not only healthy, but remarkably affordable.

4. A huge reason why there are not more healthy restaurant or grocery stores in poor neighborhoods is a general lack of demand. If a "greedy" corporation or entrepreneur thought there was a demand for healthy food in a poor neighborhood, they would generate a supply in a heart beat. If you doubt this principle, ask yourself this question - if a cheap, healthy Thai restaurant opened next to a McDonalds in Englewood or rural Alabama, how long would it last?

Of course I am troubled by the choices that many people make, however it is beyond our capacity or even constitutional authority to coerce the public into making wise decisions. The most we can hope to do is educate the public and hope they use the information wisely.

I suspect that the progressive vision is at least partially driven by ulterior motivation. The day that we as a society acknowledge that individuals have the power to exercise their free will and don't need "enlightened guidance," is the day that a whole cadre of progressive bureaucrats, experts and educators will lose their jobs.

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