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Hornberger's Blog is a daily libertarian blog written by Jacob G. Hornberger, founder and president of FFF.
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Nutrition and the Nanny State


Even while bombing and killing people overseas, the federal government hasn’t forgotten its important role of being a daddy for the American people. According to an article in today’s New York Times, the Food and Drug Administration is issuing rules directed to food companies that target children in their advertising. Since child obesity is a national problem, the FDA is telling the companies that they had better get their act together and stop promoting unhealthy foods to the nation’s children … or else.

Wouldn’t you think that what children eat should be a responsibility of parents? Shouldn’t a kid’s diet fall exclusively within the realm of family decision-making?

Not when people are living under a nanny state. And hey, it’s not as if the federal government is watching over only the nation’s children. It’s also the daddy for American adults — people whom federal officials look upon as child-adults — that is, adults who must still be treated by the state as children.

Isn’t that what the drug war is all about? Doesn’t the federal government possess the authority to punish child-adults for putting unhealthy things into their mouths? Can’t a child-adult be sent to his room in a federal penitentiary for several years if he’s caught violating the government’s drug laws?

Consider country singer Willie Nelson. He recently got busted for possession of marijuana at one of the federal government’s notorious Soviet-like immigration checkpoints inside the United States. He’s 77 years old but the government is still his daddy, punishing him for possessing (and ingesting) substances that our daddy says are bad for us.

But lest you think that the government’s role as our daddy is limited to dangerous drugs, not so. The government watches over the nutrition needs of his adult-children as much as he does his children. After all, the adult children are suffering from obesity too, right?

Recently the FDA issued rules to chain restaurants directing them to publish nutrition information, including calorie counts, to their customers, including the adults. That sort of thing couldn’t be left to consumers to request restaurants to do because irresponsible, fat child-adults might not request it. So, our daddy had to step in and take care of us by forcing the restaurants to tell us what we might not want to know.

Of course, the logical next step would be to impose punishments on the child-adults themselves if they fail to make responsible decisions after being advised of the nutrition information. Perhaps a sentence ranging from 1- 10 years in jail would be appropriate, depending on how many pounds overweight the child-adult is. Why not? If they’re going to put people into jail for ingesting unhealthy drugs, why not the same for ingesting unhealthy foods?

What the FDA is doing perfectly reflects the mindset of the statist, of the collectivist. It is a mindset that views people as drones in a bee hive, existing to serve the greater good of the hive. If a drone doesn’t take care of himself, he isn’t being as productive as he could, which hurts the hive.

The idea of keeping people healthy is that people in the private sector need to be productive citizens in order to provide the tax sustenance needed by the welfare-warfare state to wage its wars and provide its welfare. A citizen that isn’t taking care of himself is hurting “society,” which hurts the machinery of the welfare-warfare state.

Let’s keep in mind that our nation was founded under libertarian principles that rejected the paternalistic state. The Framers believed that people should be free to decide for themselves how to live their lives and raise their families. They understood that being taken care of by the state constituted slavery and that freedom entailed making one’s own decisions in harmony with others in the marketplace. It’s a heritage that Americans of today should revisit.

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.