Liberal societies vs top down (centrally planned) societies

Michelle Obama is absolutely correct to criticize food served in many school cafeterias as contributing to an epidemic of obesity. I grew up knowing that white bread, especially enriched white bread, was bad for me. My mother, who like all mothers loved her children and wanted them to be healthy, had read every word of Adelle Davis three times over. Moreover, compared to whole wheat and multigrain breads, white bread has no taste. So why are some kids today—fat kids no doubt—throwing whole wheat bread and fruit in the trash? “Michelle Obama’s school lunch agenda faces backlash from some school nutrition officials” WP/2014/05/29/

I believe it is ignorance, which the First Lady wishes to help overcome, and rebellion. The ignorance is a bad thing to be over come, and the rebellion, if that is what it is, is fundamentally a good thing—resistance to being dictated to from above. If loving mothers and their children understood the importance of nutritious food to their well-being, do we really believe they would throw it in the trash? These are children we are talking about, who must be taught everything they know. If on the other hand, the government and school administrators simply try to impose healthier food on them, they will resent having their candy taken away from them and will rebel.

This all speaks directly to a frequent theme of mine—the sanctity of the individual vs. the power of the state. If the government thinks it knows better than Johnny and Betty what is good for them to eat, what should it do? The top down, central planning mentality calls for better food standards imposed on schools. After all, pizzas etc. are cheaper and easier to prepare as well as more fun to eat and the government shouldn’t allow these shortsighted considerations to dominate. Respect for individuals, even children, suggests a very different approach. It suggests improved education (the same arguments I have made against the war on drugs). If mothers, and through them their children, understood better what food was good for them and the implications of eating or not eating healthier food, most would choose it. The companies that make it are interested in selling their products and if there is demand for healthier food, then that is what they will make money producing.

The Newtown, Connecticut Tragedy

Most public disputes involve issues for which there is no obvious solution. If there were, it would have been taken already. Even our fractious politicians have been able to pluck the low hanging fruit. To reduce the number of innocent people slain by crazy gunmen (they have all been men/boys) should we tighten gun controls, liberalize institutionalization of the (probably) insane, or restrict violent games and movies or all or none of these. Any of these measures involve tradeoffs between safety and freedom. The preferred boundary shifts from time to time in the face of events and public sentiment. The following two articles are particularly insightful on this topic.

Charles Krauthammer:  “The roots of mass murder”   http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/charles-krauthammer-the-roots-of-mass-murder/2012/12/20/e4d99594-4ae3-11e2-b709-667035ff9029_story.html

Senator Jon Manchin:  “Obama and the NRA both fall short”  http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/sen-joe-manchin-between-obama-and-the-nra-another-path-to-stopping-mass-violence/2012/12/21/181d4e94-4adc-11e2-9a42-d1ce6d0ed278_story.html