July 25, 2011

"Meddling in Other People's Diets Is 'Fun' and 'Inspiring.'"

Jacob Sullum has at Mark Bittman.
Who will determine what counts as "junk food" and what the appropriate tax rate is? How will the government make sure people are not evading the tax by making their own junk food at home or buying it in the black market? Is it fair or efficient to make lean, healthy people pay a premium for cookies, ice cream, and potato chips because other consumers do not exercise enough to burn off the calories they ingest? Don't worry, Bittman says: "We have experts who can figure out how 'bad' a food should be to qualify, and what the rate should be."

85 comments:

Pogo said...

Got fascism?

AJ Lynch said...

If Medicare was a voucher system and everyone got the same voucher amount to use to purchase their own insurance, we would not be concerned with fat people or how many potato chips they ate.

Matt said...

It's a good point. You can make some killer homemade pop-tarts out of nothing but staple purchases. One would only need to defeat the nanny cam to get away with it.

rhhardin said...

Junk food is anything the dog won't eat.

Complaint to Breakfast Bar manufacturer penned by bigarmedwoman, approximately: "My dog, who will eat her own shit, won't even touch these things."

jrberg3 said...

Of course doesn't this already happen with alcohol and cigs? It's just a matter of time before the government tries to tap this market for more revenue.

Tyrone Slothrop said...

This is leftist philosophy in a nutshell. Use government to force people to behave as you want them to. Of course, the high and wise liberal elite will not be similarly constrained.

mesquito said...

Hey, Bittman.

Fuck you.

dbp said...

Mark Bittman doesn't see the huge problem with trampling on other peoples' rights, for their own good.

Why would any one be surprised that Mr. Bittman doesn't see any problems arising with the administrative part of his scheme?

DrSquid said...

Here's an idea: let the citizens eat whatever they want, and then let them be responsible for the deleterious effects on their health later in life. The problem of spiraling healthcare costs and meddlesome governments are both takenn care or fairly quickly. Of course, smart guys like our NY Times editorialist dont get to exercise his brilliance for all of society, but we'll adjust okay.

mesquito said...

Mark Bittman, smug POS.

http://www.google.com/search?rlz=1T4GGLL_enUS328US328&q=mark+bittman&um=1&ie=UTF-8&tbm=isch&source=og&sa=N&hl=en&tab=wi&biw=1109&bih=630

Palladian said...

The left and the right share one great love: using the power of the State to enforce their vision of personal morality, for "the common good". Ever thus, I'm afraid.

I think the people should impose a heavy tax on government obesity.

The Drill SGT said...

mesquito said...
Hey, Bittman.

Fuck you


I was going to be a bit more polite:

What.is.with.these fucking.NYC.Liberal.Fascists?

Rialby said...

Well, we should all recognize that the problem with the Constitution is that it's a charter of negative liberties, and that it says what the states can't do to you, says what the federal government can't do to you, but it doesn't say what the federal government or the state government MUST do you on your behalf.

reader_iam said...

I really hated that piece by Bittman. I utterly despise the philosophy and attitude behind it and found myself almost physically recoiling as I read it yesterday. Ugh.

Not sure I'd want to read anything by him ever again (even though I read his column for years and bought a terrific recipe app of his), and this is profoundly unlike me.

But there it is. I hated that piece, that stance, that much.

Sullum did a nice job.

Mike K said...

"The left and the right share one great love: using the power of the State to enforce their vision of personal morality, for "the common good". Ever thus, I'm afraid."

This is the caricature of the right. The only people who really try to "enforce their vision of personal morality" are social "conservatives" many of whom are not very conservative at all. The libertarian right is what the tea parties are about.

Stuff like gay marriage is about forcing other people to endorse your choices. I have no problem with the NY law because it protects the churches from harassment by the gay activists who want everyone to participate in those psychiatrist gay sons' weddings.

Rick Perry startled a lot of people the other day by saying he was in favor of the NY law.

DKWalser said...

Technology can solve this. Since how "bad" a food is depends on our own individual metabolism, body chemistry, what else we've eaten that day, etc., people will be required to go through a full body "health scan" to access the proper tax on any food they are about to eat. And, to prevent avoidance of the tax, no one will be allowed to prepare their own food.

Just think of all the resources our society will save by not having to build and supply kitchens in every home and apartment? It'll be much more efficient for us to consolidate all food preparation into government built and supplied food preparation centers -- think school cafeterias for everyone! Why should the rich eat better than the rest of us? Food's as much a right as healthcare!

Of course, once we start to live in this utopia, we won't need health scanners to properly access the tax on our food choices. The helpful and friendly staff at the food preparation centers will fill our plates with what's good for us (and make sure we eat it).

Quaestor said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pragmatist said...

There are a lot of things that cost "society" money. Fat people and potato chips is just one. How about blow hards with guns, backyard athletes throwing out a back and volvo driving yuppies running a red light. Its funny how just certain select behaviors make the cut in the Nanny State.

Quaestor said...

This is what tar and feathers are for.

Lucien said...

Just as poorer people are likely to spend more of their disposable income on alcohol, tobacco, lottery tickets, and gasoline than richer people are, so it will be with the "bad" foods.

So, once again, the pople who say they most want to tax the rich will actually be enacting a regressive tax regime.

Also, I can't wait to see which food companies favored by those in power (Heinz??) will get waivers.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Depends on what the definition of junk food is:

Junk food I make at home and I dare the government to stop me

Whoopie Pies

Almond Joy Cheese cake

French Fries

Ice Cream with heavy cream

Really really salty soft pretzels

Egg McMuffins (not as good as the McDonald's ones though)

Chocolate walnut fudge

White Chocolate Apricot Almond Fudge

SUGAR...BUTTER....CREAM...SHORTENING...SALT......

Bwhahahahaha.....just try to stop me.

mesquito said...

Imagine how happy this would make lobbyists and members of the Ways And Means Committee.

chickenlittle said...

A Modern Fractured Fairytale

Barack Sprat could eat no fat
that Michelle she sure was mean
But Bittman bit a bit too much, and e'er since he's not been seen.

BJM said...

The ongoing govt power grab at every level of our society reminds me of this graph:

"Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.

This is known as “bad luck.” – Robert A. Heinlein


Oh just perfect...Google wants my phone number to "safeguard" my account access in the future. Fuck them and the jackass they rode in on.

PatCA said...

After 30 years of giving people umlimited food (food stamps, school breakfasts and lunches, second harvest giveaways), people are fat. Big surprise!

Please 2012, come soon, before these people destroy us.

kcom said...

Mequito said everything that needs to be said:

Hey, Bittman.

Fuck you.

Quaestor said...

Whoopie Pies?

Are these the ones that make a farting noise when you sit on them?

Actually we needn't worry too much about Mark Bittman and health Nazis like him. Obama has ripped the mask off "Progressivism" allowing it's ugly and incompetent face to show through. For that Obama deserves some thanks at least.

By the time America is ready to listen to this trash more than two minutes Bittman will need Poli-Grip and orthopedic shoes.

traditionalguy said...

It is those breathers who breath out co2 like it is free or something.

Tax them quickly before the air gets poisoned.

We cannot be too cautious.

BJM said...

@DBQ

SUGAR...BUTTER....CREAM...SHORTENING...SALT......

Bwhahahahaha.....just try to stop me.


Um...Debit cards already track consumer purchases for marketing purposes and the govt rejects non-approved purchases on their debit cards...so it isn't that much of a stretch to see certain foods or goods taxed or rationed at the point of purchase.

We ain't in Kansas anymore, Toto.

kimsch said...

@DKWalser:

Det. Thorn: It's people. Soylent Green is made out of people. They're making our food out of people. Next thing they'll be breeding us like cattle for food.

edutcher said...

They can have my Tasty-Kakes and Wise Barbecue Potato Chips when they pry them from my cold, dead hands.

Incandescent bulbs are one thing, but this is war.

PS Surprised Bittman didn't say, "We have top people who can figure out how 'bad' a food should be to qualify.

Top.

People".

mariner said...

Remember, these are the people who claim conservatives like to meddle in other people's lives.

Fred4Pres said...

And Mark Bittman, I don't think he adds value to anyone's TV show. He doesn't come off well on TV. Let's put it that way. I saw him make paella once on a TV show; he's been dead to me ever since.

Anthony Bourdain.

sorepaw said...
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Fred Drinkwater said...

Hell's bells. This garbage, right after Sci Am published a debunking of most of the last 20 years of scientific & government wisdom about salt consumption? (Not that I have much respect for Sci Am anymore.) And how many times has the food "pyramid" been rearranged in my lifetime?
What this really is, is a government employee's union full-employment scheme for the type of people who can't get a productive job.

Beta Rube said...

He said "Don't Worry". What's all the fuss about?

SunnyJ said...

Can't wait until the approach Paula Dean and tell her the calorie and fat laden recipes she makes are now "junk" food.

Or better yet, how about those gormet dinners they serve at the WH or where the elites like to dine...let's do a calorie and fat count on all of those.

My grandpa always said, "one man's junk is another man's treasure"!

HT said...

Is it fair or efficient to make lean, healthy people pay a premium for cookies, ice cream, and potato chips because other consumers do not exercise enough to burn off the calories they ingest?

There's one misunderstanding right there. It's not just a matter of exercise. Exercise has little to do with it. Not sure I can go on reading with a flawed premise.

Shanna said...

We have experts who can figure out how 'bad' a food should be to qualify, and what the rate should be.

Because the "experts" have done a fine job the past 30-40 years by giving everybody piss poor advice and making us fatter?

Michael said...

I ran five miles yesterday and five todayvsobthat i can eat wtf i want to eat. I would prefer we tax people by the pound. We could retire our debt in no time. Fat fuckers crowding me in airplanes, everywhere! Dont tax their food tax their gross fattiness. Double tax the fucking fat poor for adding stupid to their other miseries

Michael said...

Ht. No, exercise does not make you lose weight, but it does curb the appetite and introduces the very unusual concept of dpself discipline into ones life. People are fat because they eat too much. Period.

kcom said...

"Not sure I can go on reading with a flawed premise."

An attack of the vapors? Do you need smelling salts?

HT said...

People are fat because they eat too much. Period.

Again, only a part of the story. It's what we're eating.

Michael said...

But who will supervise such a program? The govt employees i have observed are fat as shit. Surely we arent going to have a bunch of fat asses working in the bureau that will be established to promulgate this idiotic idea in every town and hamlet in the land. They cant find enough fit people to run a program!

Michael said...

These are presumably the same experts who told us that fat made us fat and we should all eat pasta, until it turned out to be the other way around. And that dietary salt caused all kinds of terrible things, which per Scientific American doesn't seem to be supported by, like, evidence.

Rialby said...

Bitumen has built his argument on the costs of healthcare to society. So I must ask - when are we going to start regulating sex again? Sex probably causes more health problems than food. Gay sex and HIV anyone?

Alex said...

Hostess cupcakes, mmmm mmmm. Moar!

Jay said...

Don't worry, Bittman says: "We have experts who can figure out how 'bad' a food should be to qualify, and what the rate should be."

Kind of like they did with salt?

How'd that work out?

Cedarford said...

Nothing new here. Liberal fascists just imitating the fascism of 1930s (Stalinist-style) Soviet, Italian, German regimes. Who got their inspiration from the Jewish Bolshevik theoreticians. Who got their inspiration from the 1848 Commune and the Jacobites.

And maybe Breivik and other soon to be violent conservatives seeing fascist solutions needed to prevent Muslims from taking over Europe will see their fascist solutions inspired by Bittman and others of the Fascist Left.

Freeman Hunt said...

Experts have been telling us to load up on bread products. They've told us that eating saturated fat and cholesterol will give us unhealthy lipid profiles. As has been mentioned, they told us to cut salt.

Basically the supposed experts in this field have no idea what they're talking about, so even apart from the obvious fascistic nature of this, it's stupid.

Freeman Hunt said...

Oh yeah, and thanks experts for getting us all onto eating vegetable oil. Now you can't find anything not cooked in it, so all of us have blown out our Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratios.

chrisnavin said...

Maybe Bittman can branch out into politics, culture, and do some op-eds at the Times, like Frank Rich and Modo....

and then get a gig at the Center for Strategic Health Initiatives and Public Policy at Ivy U...

which will lead to a National Health and Nutrition Czar for the People...

and then while guility eating some chocolate or a greasy burger in his kitchen after some dinner party in D.C one night....think to himself..."fuck the people"

Freeman Hunt said...

On the radio tonight there was an ad for Unicef about actual starving people followed by an ad going on about 1 in 6 Americans struggling with hunger.

That one sixth must all live together in some secret place.

Freeman Hunt said...

Worse, the ad tried to say that a guy who works down the hall from you could be one of the guys struggling with hunger. Right. Some guy in your office building is starving. He gets a paycheck, but somehow he doesn't ever get around to buying food. What is he supposed to be buying before that? Or is he supposed to be some poor person who's been enslaved and receives no remuneration? In that case, I think slavery should be the bigger issue with an ad about it.

PatCA said...

The good old FDA defines and redefines hunger and food insecurity all the time, so it's basically whatever a politician wants.

Henry said...

Freeman Hunt is on fire! (and in the post after this one too).

* * *

Bittman himself notes that our Federal Government dramatically subsidizes the unhealthy foods he complains about. (Here's one entertaining visualization.)

If only he could have restrained himself to minimalism. Just let the government get out of the subsidizing business. But no, he believes "the federal government [should fullfill] its role as an agent of the public good and establishing a bold national fix."

This is called throwing good money after bad.

But Bittman is impatient. He writes, "the food industry appears incapable of marketing healthier foods..." It's as if Whole Foods doesn't exist. It's as if a food writer named Mark Bittman (any relation?) can't get an audience. Forget those losers. Let's get the government involved. What could go wrong?

kimsch said...

Freeman, what's sad is the fact that my school district as well as many others offers free breakfast and lunch Mondays through Thursdays all summer long because some children on free and reduced price lunches "wouldn't get to eat" if the gubmint didn't offer this.

I would venture to say that many of those children could be eating breakfast and lunch at home if their parents made better choices about what to spend money on.

Henry said...

@kimsch -- At my kid's school the free breakfast (for all kids) often features donuts. My son is always impatient for the bus to arrive so he doesn't miss out. Luckily he has a metabolism like a spider monkey.

@freeman -- All day. All day you've been on fire. Great comments in the brain post.

Eric said...

That one sixth must all live together in some secret place.

They've simply redefined hunger to include grossly obese people who spend all their EBT money on junk food and then have to eat rice crackers for a few days until the card gets recharged.

sorepaw said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Freeman Hunt said...

Thanks, Henry.

Freeman Hunt said...

I am in sympathy with reader. I liked Bittman's food columns, but this turn to Food Fascist makes me not want to read him anymore.

Freeman Hunt said...

Also, let's face it, Bittman and others' belief that healthy food is too expensive comes partially from their total alienation from the non-rich. They go to places like Whole Foods, and think, "My God, how could poor people ever afford this!" It never occurs to them to check the prices at Walmart.

Crimso said...

"Again, only a part of the story. It's what we're eating."

It's more than that. Little-known work by Denis Burkitt in Africa nearly 40 years ago strongly suggests that measuring caloric "intake" by the caloric value of what you put in your mouth and swallow is wrong. IIRC, he found that 40% of the calories swallowed by British soldiers he studied were never absorbed (and thus were never actually eaten in the common understanding of the term; what goes down your throat isn't in your body, yet). 60% of the calories swallowed by nearby native Africans exited in the feces. So substantial amounts of the calories you eat never get into your body, and the amount that does get absorbed can vary considerably. Until these issues are fully addressed neither counting calories nor assessing the types of food eaten will allow for a truly comprehensive understanding of diet and nutrition.

HT said...

Please feel free to elaborate.

I have Celiac disease, so I am starting to learn about absorption/malabsorption issues. Although it's ... vexing is the word that comes to mind.

Michael said...

Crimso. Nice, but for many thousands of years most people were nof fat. What happened here in the last thirty years that made things different. What nuanve am i missing

With Freeman Hunt i would love to know where our starving people reside outside wishful. Or are they the prodct of wishful thinking of our bureaucracy.

HT said...

There's lots of theories, including processed food.

Is it that people are starving or have hunger issues? One in 6 seems too high. But as for who they are, maybe they're seniors. It's not like you are going to stumble upon a community and see hunger all presented to you nice and neat and easy to see.

Michael said...

Freeman Hunt. Upon reflection the one sixth that are hungry must be some percentage of fat people who are always hungry. That would explain it. They are hiding in plain sight

AJ Lynch said...

Freeman:

Walmart? If some of the lib haters crossed a Walmart threshold, they would be shocked that they did not turn into stone.

AJ Lynch said...

Michael:

Isn't it difficult to hide in plain sight when you are fat.

Henry said...

Isn't it difficult to hide in plain sight when you are fat.

It is their thinness that is hidden by their fat.

William said...

I'm one of those one in six who struggle with hunger. It's called dieting. I think the number is actually higher than one in six. There are fat people, and people who go to bed hungry...In the course of my lifetime, many behaviors have changed. People didn't use to routinely buckle up their seat belts. Cigarette smoking has become verboten in most places. When I was a kid, they used to allow smoking everywhere except church. (There was a smoker's Mass at 6pm.) Public intoxication is not often seen, and there seem to be more coffee houses than bars around town. Demonstrably behavior does change. I would guess a certain amount of judicious nagging by the government is partially responsible for these changes, but who really knows. Right now heavy drinking is more unfashionable than during Prohibition. Thus, whatever caused that behavior to change didn't come from the government.....Look around. The besetting vice of Americans is gluttony. Every third person you see is morbidly obese, and their lives look burdensome and painful. OK, obesity is caused more by free will than by MacDonald's, but just publicizing the problem makes people pause and reconsider their food choices.

Joe said...

Henry, rumor is that your son actually is a spider monkey. On speed.

Ren said...

Losing weight is easy, once you realize it's really just lots of exercise and eating mildly healthy.

I love Bittman's main book, How to Cook Everything, but wouldn't listen to anyone about diets. They're, well, goofy.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Dust Bunny Queen,

Junk food I make at home and I dare the government to stop me.

As I said to someone on the Reason thread who insisted that you couldn't make a meal from stuff at the grocery store w/o HFCS or trans fats, I described a meal I made last week [I inadvertently left out a couple of ingredients there]:

Ingredients: Ground beef, grated mozzarella, pancetta, pesto, garlic, fresh tomatoes, onions, and lettuce, Worcestershire sauce, russet potatoes, peanut oil, sea salt, freshly ground pepper, and HFCS-free hamburger buns.

That is to say, stuffed pan-broiled burgers and French fries.

Bad for me? Probably. I'm not making that every day. The fries are a bit time-consuming, and peanut oil is expensive.

But no HFCS or trans fats in sight.

wv: emenecit. I suppose that's what foodies take when they accidentally eat a burger.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Posting again purely for the wv:

dispan. That is what happens if I leave the rice at too high a temp for too long.

Crimso said...

"Nice, but for many thousands of years most people were nof fat. What happened here in the last thirty years that made things different. What nuanve am i missing"

I'm not sure it's safe to say that people were not fat for many thousands of years, and that it's changed in the past 30. If I allow the assumption that people were thin for all of human history until very recently, the explanation could be as simple as for most of human history people have barely eked out a living. They simply couldn't acquire enough calories to become overweight.

But things are seldom that simple when it comes to living organisms. There are obvious things that can be accepted as true regarding human diet. All other things being equal, caloric intake and physical activity do generally correlate with body weight. But there are many exceptions. My point was that the exceptions may occur because our understanding of material and energy balances for human bodies has been based on a flawed model (calories eaten=calories absorbed; any chemical engineering student, given an understanding of the digestive system, would see the problem with this, and Burkitt's research provides hard evidence of it). Part of the problem is precisely that little is known beyond Burkitt's research (I've done the literature search, and unless I've missed something then it might be accurate to say that nothing is known beyond Burkitt's work). Any nutritionists reading this that can give me some references where additional work has been done on caloric content of feces, please do so. I'm genuinely curious, and not in a Titus way.

JAL said...

@ Freeman On the radio tonight there was an ad for Unicef about actual starving people followed by an ad going on about 1 in 6 Americans struggling with hunger.

That one sixth must all live together in some secret place.


You and I have heard the same ad -- I numerous times over the past 6 months at least.

The examples are ludicrous. I mean really --

Now lest I sound like a hard hearted uncompassionate rich Republican know nothing ....

Our family has always been on the lower part of the middle class financially. My husband was significantly unemployed for quite a while way back when. I was working part time. 3 kids.

(One time in recent years I was asking one of my [now grown] kids about the demogaphics in the school at the time -- about whether she was aware of "poor" kids. "Mom," she said. "We were poor." Oops.)

But anyway -- we never went hungry. We didn't eat fancy. We didn't eat junk. No potato chips. No ice cream. No soda. The kids always ate breakfast AT HOME. We never missed a mortgage payment, phone bill, or light bill. We didn't have food stamps.

We weren't sad. We didn't feel deprived. It was tough times. We lived on what we made and paid our bills first and ate macaroni and cheese and all beef hot dogs and cheap chicken if we had to.

No one in our family is or was obese. Neither were we emaciated.

We didn't need the federal government to fix us.

I look around, and yes, there are people who are hurting -- in our area they utilize the food bank at the local Baptist church -- but like Freeman, I wonder if the 1 in 6 (and I live in Appalachia -- albeit not Kentucky) are in a van down by the river.

JAL said...

Bittman: "We have experts who can figure out how 'bad' a food should be to qualify, and what the rate should be."

Just like those "professional politicians" who we look up to and bow down to who know what is best for us?

Gack.

The government simply would be "fulfilling its role as an agent of the public good,"

Simply?

Nothing the government does is simple.

And who says the government's role is as "an agent of the common good" (whatever that means)?

The union we established to promote the General Welfare should not be letting "experts" take away the Blessings of Liberty.

What was that Reagan line? "The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.'"

"since heart disease, diabetes and cancer are all in large part caused by the Standard American Diet."

Bittman's been hanging out with the nutritianity folks. They make a big deal about "SAD."

Social engineering is not a good place to go.

And it will be interesting in the near future to see some more of the "healthy food" mantras evolve like AGW morphed into "climate change." Those bacteria are everywhere ....

JAL said...

Eat enough of my famous whole wheat chocolate chip cookies and you will die.

Freeman Hunt said...

Is it that people are starving or have hunger issues? One in 6 seems too high. But as for who they are, maybe they're seniors. It's not like you are going to stumble upon a community and see hunger all presented to you nice and neat and easy to see.

Only 13% of the population is over age 65. Even if every single senior were starving, that wouldn't be enough. Additionally, the poverty rate of people over 65 is 10-20% depending on how you measure it.

One in six is a fiction.

Shanna said...

Also, let's face it, Bittman and others' belief that healthy food is too expensive comes partially from their total alienation from the non-rich. They go to places like Whole Foods, and think, "My God, how could poor people ever afford this!"

Seriously. Frozen veggies are so, so cheap. (as are bananas and any fruits and veggies that are in season) So much cheaper than potato chips. I always spend more when I buy junk food than when I buy healthy stuff.

What is expensive is alaskan wild salmon and organic out of season papayas, and although those things are nice, you don't need them to eat good food. Canned salmon and in season peaches are just as healthy.

Scott M said...

I always spend more when I buy junk food than when I buy healthy stuff.

The problem with that is indicative of most of our other problems. Buying junk food is ready out of the package. Buying cheap, healthy food requires prep before serving.

As I said, indicative of so many of our problems.

SGT Ted said...

I think its time to open up a hunting season on people like Bittman. His type need a culling to improve their manners.

Clyde said...

I'm sure that Herr Bittman's article was better in the original German.

"Gemeinnutz geht vor Eigennutz."

Translation: The common good comes before selfish interest. It was engraved on German coins in the 1930s.