Food police are stifling free speech in the name of ‘freedom’

T. Elliot Gaiser Host, CPR Podcasts
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The Obama administration recently released “voluntary” rules banning companies from advertising foods to children that don’t meet new nutrition standards. Yes, you read that correctly. If these guidelines are followed, gone shall be the days of brightly colored Cap’n Crunch and the “silly rabbit” of Trix.

Kate Havard reports in The Weekly Standard that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration wants to restrict how “unhealthy” foods are marketed, so that children will not be drawn into consuming such obvious causes of childhood obesity as corn flakes, Raisin Bran and Special K.

Havard notes that even foods like peanut butter (too much saturated fat), jelly (too much sugar) and Cheerios (too much sodium) don’t meet the latest government standards.

While the administration will deign to allow these obesity-inducing foods in grocery stores, it will not permit companies to market them in a way that appeals to kids. This includes commercials during kids’ TV shows, and charity promotions with kid themes like “Box Tops for Education.”

Cereal boxes with colorful cartoon characters are too alluring to vulnerable eyes and are thus banned. Take a hike, Tony the Tiger.

While these surprisingly extreme rules are “voluntary” for now, there are rumblings that they will become mandatory in the future. And they’re perfectly consistent with American progressives’ philosophical vision.

Here’s how economist Thomas Sowell describes one of the two basic philosophies that divide the political spectrum: The “unconstrained” or progressive vision sees mankind as basically good and rational. Like Rousseau, progressives believe that people are able to reach the fairest and best decisions only when conditions around them are right. We’re only truly “free” if we are not conditioned to choose things that are not best for us. If people were only educated properly, the theory suggests, they would do what is proper.

Sowell argues that progressives see external attempts to influence Americans’ free choices as abridgments of their ability to make up their own minds. If you are drawn to a product because it is marketed well, you have been unduly compelled through your own desires — especially if the professional experts have agreed that consuming it isn’t in your own best interest.

This is one reason why the progressive left in Western democracies has waged a persistent war on cigarette marketing, with the Obama administration’s FDA now mandating gruesome pictures of cancer patients on each pack. The photos include cancer-racked lungs, rotting teeth and even a dead body. Along with the pictures will come blunt warnings such as “Cigarettes cause fatal lung disease” and “Cigarettes are addictive.”

As this progressive viewpoint has taken hold in American courts, legal liabilities have taken up residence on the packaging of every product we buy.

In the liberal legal mind, unless facts the “experts” deem important are clearly displayed on every paper coffee cup and every ceiling fan instruction manual (and in every conceivable language), coffee consumers and ceiling-fan purchasers won’t be truly free.

And it is this philosophy that threatens to stamp out the free speech of food producers competing for your voluntary business. All in the name of “freedom” — yours and your children’s.

T. Elliot Gaiser is a senior at Hillsdale College and the host of CPR Podcasts at www.conservativeprivateradio.com.