My Inalienable Right to Fast Food 24 May 2006Posted by VARANGALI in Politics, VARANGALI.
There has been a flood of anti-fast food rhetoric in the past few years. From books (Fast Food Nation) to movies (Supersize Me) to the 400-pound teenager who testified that McDonald’s made him obese, we are constantly warned of the menace fast food poses to society. And the data suggests that it does: a supersize meal can alone exceed the total daily calorie quota, eating a lot of fast food triples the risk of obesity, and obesity causes 2.6 million American deaths each year.
Fast food is the new tobacco. Once socially acceptable and widely consumed, cigarettes now exist on the fringe, thanks to regulation, taxation, lawsuits, and public awareness campaigns. With the tobacco crusade effectively over, fast food is the new enemy of good American living, and is receiving the tobacco treatment.
Yet I do not believe that fast food should be regulated and taxed into oblivion like big tobacco. In a society based on the freedom of choice, the freedom to damage one’s own health ought to be as guaranteed as any other. John Stuart Mill noted that his right to extend his fist ended at the next man’s nose. This is where cigarettes crossed the line: secondhand smoke reduced others’ quality of life. Looking at fat people just does not cause the same damage.
The first round in the war went to the moralists. Earlier this month, most carbonated drinks were banished from public elementary schools. That’s all good – children cannot be held responsible for decisions they make, and children were bound to be at the center of the first skirmish:
…it’s easy to wage moral crusades when the only freedoms in the way are those of children. Americans have long been driven by two deep longings. The first is to be left alone. The second is to tell other people what to do. On most moral issues — abortion, porn, video games, alcohol, tobacco, guns — the easiest way out is to inflict our piety on minors. All the righteous satisfaction, none of the libertarian backlash. (William Saletan)
I expect the fast food industry to fight back now that the battle front is moving on to more neutral ground. Not that I am personally glad: I rarely eat fast food, and have eaten at McDonald’s and Burger King perhaps only a dozen times in the twenty-six years of my existence. But my right to eat grease-soaked fries, “chicken” nuggets, and cardboard-like beef patties? Inalienable.