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Monday, October 25, 2010

How the Other Half Lunches

Fast Food Eaters of the world unite!  You have nothing to lose but your clogged arteries!

Best was responding to recommendations the province ban smoking in apartment buildings — an idea she rejected — when she was asked about the Double Down, and said it was something the government could investigate.

“It’s not something that we have discussed but it's certainly something we may look at and review,” Best told reporters.

However, her office later issued a statement in which Best claimed to “reiterate” that there were no plans to review the availability of any food products in Ontario.

“Consumers have the right to choose the food they wish to purchase,” said the updated statement from Best's office.

The Hudak Tories have had a field day with Health Promotion Minister Margarett Best's misstep. Leaving aside why we have an Orwellian sounding ministry like "health promotion,"  there is no indication that the provincial government intended to ban KFC's new larded concoction, the Double Down. The insurgent provincial Tories are not, however, going to let a little thing like the facts get in the way of good copy.

Harping - if you'll pardon the expression - on the McGuinty government's propensity to ban things that annoy busy bodies and frighten soccer moms, the provincial Tories are trying to paint the government as micromanaging statists. The implication being that should Hudak & Co. form the next government, away would go the pit bull bans and dietary secondary guessing. A new age of freedom would dawn. Though they try to avoid actually using the word freedom. It tests poorly with focus groups in Ontario. Sounds too American, or worse, Albertan.

Despite the pile on of the Dalt's nanny statism, it's unlikely the Ontario PCs would govern much differently. The Dalt has settled himself quite comfortably in the middle of the political spectrum, known locally as Bill Davis territory, and the progressive conservative opposition is hunting for votes on much the same ground. While the Hudak Tories offer the same great Mike Harris look (recall protests over photo radar), they combine it with same old soppy McGuinty taste and feel (hedging their position on the HST). Like with John McCain, the sound is hard rock conservative, the lyrics are conventional statist pop.

While the Dalt can see a political loser a mile away, recall how he tap danced around John Tory in 2007 over religious schools, those not seeking election are freer with their opinions on the Double Down:

Trevor Norris, a consumer specialist at the University of Toronto, says it's time governments protected people from corporations who create major burdens on society, such as future health care costs, from grossly unhealthy fast food products. 

I'm sure Mr Norris is great fun at parties. I might be missing something, but the last time I checked KFC wasn't driving people into their stories at gun point. Perhaps the local KFC where Mr Norris lives has an especially aggressive sales manager. He's gonna make you a two for one offer you can't refuse!

Now Mr Norris probably knows that fast food companies, for all their machiavellian wiles, frown on their employees physically threatening potential customers. We understand, instead, that large evil corporations manipulate people not through physical coercion, but through slick ad campaigns. People see bright lights, which confuses them, and glossy pictures of beautiful happy people eating salted, larded and over-lighted junk food. They can't help themselves, and respond like pavlov's dogs to a door bell.

Now which "people" are we talking about? These gullible and hungry fools? Is it Mr Norris himself?Or his friends and colleagues at the University of Toronto? Or perhaps the editorial board of the Toronto Star? The residents of the faculty lounge at Ryerson University? No, of course not. The "people" are the lower classes. Mr Norris and his friends don't eat at fast food joints. Perish the antipasto! It's working class people, and teenagers, who eat at these houses of caloric ill repute.

Teenagers grow up, eventually, and get tired of burgers and cheap pizza, at least the ones who get into U of T. It's the working class stiffs who shove these coronaries in the making down their throats, and those of their little wards, that is the issue. The anti-Double-Downers have a paternalistic view of life. We must protect the lower classes from their own stupidity! This goes, however, beyond grossly unhealthy diets and into every aspect of life.

Forced contributions to Canada Pension Plan? Well ordinary Canadians aren't smart enough, or long range enough, to plan for retirement, so we will force them to save and have the government "invest" the proceeds. Ordinary people can't provide for their own health care, so the ministry of health will do it for them. The attitude of the Canadian Statist Establishment is one of patronizing paternalism. Their message is a simple one, you the people are too stupid to run your own lives, so we will run them instead. 

The Double Down is just a case in point. Yes at a grossly unhealthy 540 Calories, 30 grams of fat and 1,740 milligrams of sodium, you want to minimize the number of Double Downs you down. But it's not even the worst fast food offender. Even at more respectable outlets the food is little healthier. Some of the delights on sale at your local Starbucks are about as bad as the Double Down, though not quite:

Banana Nut Loaf has 490 calories and 19 grams of fat.

Cranberry Orange Scone has 490 calories and 18 grams of fat.

Raspberry Scone has 500 calories and 26 grams of fat.

Zucchini Walnut Muffin has 490 calories and 28 grams of fat.

The Fruit Nut & Cheese Artisan Snack Plate has 460 calories at 29 grams of fat.

The Sausage, Egg & Cheese on English Muffin is 500 calories and 28 grams of fat. (The Egg McMuffin, by contrast, is 300 calories and 12 grams of fat)

But let's say you prefer to drink your way to lard heaven. For venti sized drinks (that's extra large for you proles) with 2% milk:

White Hot Chocolate is 520 calories and 18 grams of fat.

Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha is 590 calories and 15 grams of fat.

White Chocolate Mocha 510 calories and 15 grams of fat.

Double Chocolaty Chip Frappuccion Blended Beverage is 500 calories and 9 grams of fat.

I can personally attest to the high quality of each of these beverages. I would rather get fat drinking the fabulous White Chocolate Mocha than eating the Double Down. It's a matter of taste, as in something with as much salt as the Double Down has no taste. But there is little outrage over Starbucks' high caloric offerings. Why? Because, well, you know the people who go to Starbucks are grown up enough not to overindulge. Unlike the mouth breathers lined up at KFC.

The argument that ordinary people aren't smart enough to make basic life choices, and therefore government must intervene to save them, is an old one. It's at least as old as Plato. The flaws of paternalism have been obvious since Plato too. How does someone else know what's good for you? You're an individual, not some fraction of a collectivist whole.

Perhaps you'd prefer to eat yourself to an early grave, rather than munch on celery well into senility. There is no right and wrong with matters of personal preference. Burger or biscotti, it's not an ethical dilemma or political quandary.

The obverse of freedom, however, is responsibility. Clogged arteries should equal higher health care premiums, since they are associated with higher health care risks. It's a common sense policy, which will never be implemented so long as Medicare stands in its current form. Universality of care destroys the responsibility of the individual, just as it destroys his freedom. When you refuse to make people responsible for their actions, in time their freedom will be curtailed. The only way to expand freedom of choice is by accepting responsibility. Something that will never happen so long as Canada's elites treat ordinary Canadians as children.  

Posted by Richard Anderson on October 25, 2010 | Permalink


Leviathan has to always keep in mind that people who eat at fast food joints pay taxes on that food,leviathan loves taxpayers.
Also the shorter there lifespan the less CPP They will collect.

Posted by: don b | 2010-10-25 9:03:08 AM

Leaving aside why we have an Orwellian sounding ministry like "health promotion," - Publius

That's really the point. As long as we have those ridiculous empty seats to fill, some nanny statist will gladly fill them and grow leviathan, drawing the debate into the trivial acting on the margin rather than the premise.

Everyone who can walk, talk and chew gum knows that lack of exercise, smoking and too much fat is unhealthy. My cigarette-smoking parents knew in the fifties that it would eventually kill them, and it did.

As you stated, the disincentives should be up to those responsible for funding the externalities, the insurers through preferential premiums. With leviathan in charge of that too, the ratcheting growth of the state will continue, acting on the premise of its de facto ownership of all the humanity under its thumb. Suits working for insurance companies competing for business are much preferable to smarmy, do-gooder, slime ball politicians with an endless agenda.

It's too bad that we won't address these things proactively before leviathan takes us over the fiscal abyss.

Posted by: John Chittick | 2010-10-25 10:38:28 AM

I've had an actual conversation with a nanny stater on the topic of the Double Down who believes that such products should come with warning labels, as if that would stop anyone from eating them.

Thanks to the prevalence of collectivist notions in our culture such as collective responsibility, we are now witnessing an explosion of warning labels on a plethora of products. The towel dispenser where I work, for instance, has a warning label on it which, in effect, asks people not to commit suicide with the hand towel.

While warning labels might have been effective when they first came out, today the sheer numbers of such items lead most people to tune them out. It's a simple case of information overload. Anyone who has tried to sort out the competing claims as to which foods are supposedly good for you versus which are bad experiences the same phenomenon. I'm all for a free flow of information in the marketplace, but having the state step in and start approving/disapproving various things does not make the process better, just much more complicated. In the end, we are no safer than if the nanny-staters had just minded their own business in the first place.

Posted by: Dennis | 2010-10-25 11:46:27 AM

Is it not amazing how people managed to survive and even to thrive prior to the era of multiple busy-bodies to tell them what to eat, what to drink, not to smoke if it is tobacco, to wear seat belts, to wear helmets and never to put one's head in a plastic bag.

Posted by: Alain | 2010-10-25 7:27:59 PM

That is why we need private health care so the self destructive pay their own medical bills.

Posted by: StanleyR | 2010-10-25 10:51:24 PM

The mindset of all these self-appointed do-gooders is no different than that of the religious: they want to save everyone from a terrible fate. This is the mindset of the fanatic and must be destroyed. Indeed, these the same do-gooder that promote another statist policy that will save us all. These people are superstitious and childlike in their thinking, but far more harmful than any mass-murder. Hitler was such a do-gooder, as was Stalin. The person who always want to save humanity is always the next tyrant.

Posted by: AB Patriot | 2010-10-26 4:45:32 AM

StanleyR, sorry but you are wrong. It has nothing to do with health care, socialised or private, not that I am defending our present system of health care. AB Patriot is however correct, for these busybodies do not limit themselves to health issues. I agree that they are no different than religious fanatics.

Posted by: Alain | 2010-10-26 11:09:25 AM

I keep wondering how anyone who grew up in the 50's, 60's and 70's survived the supposed perils now threatining western society, and why most of them are still alive. Live clean, eat healthy, die anyway. The most expensive disease on the horizon is altzheimers and senilety in general.
Junk food is much cheaper to the taxpayer than longevity. Save our pension plan and medical system.....double down.

Posted by: peterj | 2010-10-26 9:23:13 PM

Today I read that the KFC double down is the greatest seller in KFC history.

Dont you just love it when someone pisses in the health nazies cornflakes ??

Posted by: peterj | 2010-10-28 9:15:58 PM

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