NAFTA not nannyish enough for NYT

Advocates claiming the mantle of public health would like to introduce scary new warnings on foods high in sugar, salt, or fat, and restrict marketing, as by banning the use of cartoon characters. For years they’ve been trying to advance their schemes through the use of international organizations and institutions, but now the United States, or at least its federal government, has begun pushing back. The New York Times doesn’t like that one bit and my latest Cato post examines the difference between what a principled position might look like, and the position the Times actually takes. Excerpt:

Like international organizations, treaty administration bodies tend to draw for guidance on an elite stratum of professional diplomats, conference-goers, NGO and nonprofit specialists, and so forth, most of whom are relatively insulated from any pushback in public opinion. That might be a good reason to minimize the role of transnational panels in governance where not absolutely necessary. It is not a good reason to adopt the Times’s implicit position on lobbying for international standards, which is that it’s fine when done by our side but illegitimate when done by yours.

Related: Good piece on sugar/fat wars, with one proviso: when it’s Stanton Glantz spreading a tale, don’t just call it “University of California” [David Merritt Johns and Gerald M. Oppenheimer, Slate]


  • In a materialistic, pleasure seeking society, it is so incongruous to be upset about fat and sugar. Why not enjoy your life a die 2 year sooner? Who decided that an ascetic lifestyle is the best? Should we all sleep on the bare floor, wear hair shirts, and walk everywhere? Why? The quest for purity is fine for yourself (though perhaps silly) but evil when you want to impose it on everyone else. Are we going to ration how much candy people have? The Brits have already passed a law about candy bar size.
    And when they reach this idea society where there is no salt in the food, no fat, people are all their ideal weight, will they leave us alone? hahahaha no

  • I want to die while I am living, not live while I am dead.

  • Nobody is more opposed to obesity than me. As a 5’10” 155# male, I am very disturbed by the fact that 2/3rds of Americans are obese or overweight, and the cost to society. I maintain my weight by strictly counting calories. The math and physics behind weight gain is well known–for every 3100 more calories a person consumes than what his body burns in a day, you will add a pound of fat. This is true for everyone.

    However, I do not advocate restricting certain foods or putting warnings on them. Used responsibly, there are no good foods or bad foods.

    Rather we should make sure that the cost of obesity is borne by the obese. Why should publically-funded health care pay for expensive treatment options for an obese type-2 diabetic when the best treatment may be for the patient to lose weight — something that costs nothing?

    Let insurance companies charge premium prices for the obese and overweight, and if weight-loss is the best treatment for a specific ailment, then that should be the option available by our public health system. (They’re free to pay for other options out of their own pockets.)