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Reflections In A Cup: On Goverments, And Eating At School

On Goverments, And Eating At School


March 24, 2008
By Stuart Daw

Why do governments do the things they do? And why do we cry out in
seeming helplessness when some government takes a specific action that
seems to fly in the face of reality? Such is the case when we see the
government of British Columbia trying to enact its “policy on health
food in public facilities.”

Why do governments do the things they do? And why do we cry out in seeming helplessness when some government takes a specific action that seems to fly in the face of reality? Such is the case when we see the government of British Columbia trying to enact its “policy on health food in public facilities.”

As pointed out in the last issue of this magazine in the column “From the Editor,” it makes no sense to identify the vending industry as the source of all things bad in food and drink, when it only accounts for four per cent of snack food sales in those public places. But is the correct way of combating this injustice simply to focus on the damage being done to the vending industry? Or is it better to attack the problem at its root, which is government interference in the whole area of food sales?

It may be helpful to grasp the philosophic ideas that underpin such government actions. Now, in the case of food, the government may have a role in monitoring whether a given item is safe and fit for human consumption, though there is a free market argument that disagrees with this assumption. Beyond that, why the heck are they meddling in our business in this case?

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The immediate answer of course is that sacred cow, health costs. Because there is a correlation between obesity and poor health, and because the government (read: us) is paying for it, then it becomes a government responsibility to tell us what we can and cannot eat.

What ever happened to the principle of volunteerism in a free society? What happened to the original idea of making one’s own choices, and taking personal responsibility for one’s own actions? Of course, in the case of public education (read: government schools), children can’t be allowed to make choices, for they are too young to simply follow their animalistic impulses and indulge in whatever whets their appetites.

It is politically incorrect to suggest such a revolutionary idea as parental responsibility in instructing our youth in what constitutes proper eating habits. It may be too much to expect teachers to join in such instruction.

But could we leave the decisions as to what can be sold in schools to the local school boards? Can we allow for some leeway in giving kids what they might like for a tasty snack from time to time? And could we perhaps more vigorously promote physical activity in the schools?

It is important that CAMA takes a strong stand in this issue. It can be all too easy to be nice in negotiations with governments, for it is tacitly understood that government negotiators are, in effect, sitting there during such negotiations with guns in their hands. Being “strong” in such a circumstance is not easy, but courage and a sense of moral righteousness can be very helpful.

One is reminded of what is purported to be the origin of the expression laissez faire capitalism. It seems the minister of finance for Louis the Fourteenth of France, a man named Colbert, was addressing a group of prominent French businessmen.

“How can we in government assist you gentlemen in improving your businesses?” Of course his real purpose in wanting higher profits for the government could receive more taxes to finance Louis’s foreign wars.

One courageous businessman named Legendre arose in the crowd and said: Laissez Nous Faire (leave us alone. Get the h- – – out of the way!” To which we should all say. “TOUCHÉ!”