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Argument: Calories on menus is a malign form of government social engineering

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Jeff Jacoby. "Want a warning label with those fries?" The Boston Globe. January 11, 2009: "THE WORTHIES who govern Massachusetts haven't been able to keep the state's population from dwindling, its property taxes from soaring, its budget from imploding, its Big Dig from leaking, or its politicians from getting arrested. But failure hasn't diminished their ambition -- or their presumption: Now they're going to keep the rest of us from overeating. [...] On Thursday, Governor Deval Patrick's administration launched Mass in Motion, a new war on obesity that it calls 'the most comprehensive effort to date to address the serious problem of overweight and obesity in the Commonwealth.' [...] the heart of the new campaign, as with most government initiatives, is coercion. Following the lead of California, New York City, and Seattle, Massachusetts officials plan to compel restaurant chains to conspicuously post the calorie content of all their offerings, either on the menu or at the counter. Obesity warriors want restaurants to be forced to publicize the nutritional content of the foods they sell so that consumers can make a reasoned decision about what to eat.

[...] Jacob Sullum of Reason magazine puts his finger on it: 'A legal requirement is necessary not because diners want conspicuous nutritional information but because, by and large, they don't want it.'

Nanny-statists find it easy to disregard consumers' wishes. After all, they reason, it's for their own good -- obesity is a deadly scourge that government must not ignore. Massachusetts Public Health Commissioner John Auerbach warned darkly last week that 'unless we make progress' -- that is, unless the government imposes new restrictions on liberty -- 'overweight and obesity will overtake smoking as the leading cause of preventable death in Massachusetts.'

That always seems to be the nannies' bottom line, whether the risk is said to be from tobacco, global warming, or cars without airbags: We must take away some freedom or more people will die."

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