Bad Government, No Snack

March 27, 2010

Libertarians amuse me. Particularly fascinating is their insistence that government can’t get anything right, and that somehow, miraculously, the free market will handle all manner of goods — market and non-market, exchange and non-exchange — with greater efficiency and better quality than any other possible social coordination mechanism. Most of the time, the insanity of libertarians is simply an amusing aside, too stupid to bother with. Sometimes, however, it’s a fabulous parody of itself, as in this humble video screed from Reason [sic]. Read the written article, watch the video below, and see how many logical fallacies you can spot.

I’ll play along too by commenting on the video. More after the jump…

Let’s start at the beginning. Apologies for any transcription errors. I typed this myself:

1) Our host begins: “Hey, I’m Michael Moynahan for Reason[sic].tv, and that was British Celebrity Chef Jamie Oliver, whose campaign against delicious food like this [he points to McDonald’s] has come to our shores.” “Delicious” is a matter of taste, bro. Doesn’t help your argument one way or the other. Nor does the question about taste refer to the nutrition or health of the food, as you seem to imply.

2) Host: “Though Americans are surely in need of a collective diet…” Not sure what this means. You mean that each of us could go on a diet and function as a collective group of individuals on a diet, or that the diet could be conducted collectively, with each of us contributing more or less to the diet, so long as the entire collective was a part of that diet? And what’s with the collective language anyway? I thought you were libertarians.

3) “…the CDC recently reported that obesity levels are finally leveling off.” Well that’s a relief. I guess “leveling off” means that we don’t have any problems with obesity. And, btw, can levels really level off? Aren’t they already level?

4) Host: “This sort of overheated rhetoric has attracted the attention of some influential people.” Yeah, well that sort of overheated rhetoric and a bunch of other stuff, like the fact that we have a lot of obese people, and we have astonishingly high death rates due to obesity related disease, and that people are just plain obsessed with weight gain and loss in this country.

5) Host: “But not everyone agrees that better school lunches and more money would help fix America’s obesity problem.” Right. Not everyone agrees. Whenever is it the case that everyone agrees? But shall we dig further? Who doesn’t agree? Ah, one of your own people, Katherine Mangu-Ward (KMW). No doubt, she’s an obesity expert and a public health demographer. (Wait. What’s that you say? She’s a writer at your magazine? I see. I like her earrings.) And incidentally, are we talking about whether they would “help” fix the problem or “fix” the problem. Big difference, no? If the former, then the burden is relatively minimal. You initially went with the former, so I will to; in which case, I anticipate that KMW will offer up knock-down evidence that better school lunches either contribute to the problem or are a complete and total wash.

6) KMW: “they’re not fat because of school lunch.” Those must be Katherine’s public health credentials speaking.

7) KMW: “School lunches could be better, but if we have $5B to spend, I’ve got a lot of things I’d like to spend it on that are gonna improve the lives of kids…” I bet you do. Now that you mention it, though, that’s interesting, because you don’t, actually, have things that you want to spend our collective $5B on. If I understand your platform correctly, you’d rather not have us spend $5B on anything. Free markets and free minds, I thought. Oh well. Maybe that’s not your point. Maybe your point is that if we’re going to spend government money on things, then there are different things we should be spending that money on. As it happens, I feel the same way, rather than spending my money to heat my house and feed my family, I’d prefer to spend it on slot machines and strippers. Alas, the world just isn’t working in my favor, and my family needs to be kept warm and fed.

8. KMW: “…before we get some organic kale.” Hahaha. Yes, organic kale. Jamie Oliver is a douchebag. He wants to feed kids kale. Devastating.

9) KMW: “Part of that mandatory lunch is the protein and vegetable requirements which come from the federal government…” Holy smokes! The federal government requires protein and vegetables be a part of a school lunch?? What were they thinking? If school lunches are a part of our obesity problem (which obviously they’re not, see #6), then the federal government is complicit in the obesity problem too. It stands to reason that it is the protein and vegetables requirement that is behind this.

10) KMW: “…and which are provided in, often, giant surplus food tubs provided by US Department of Agriculture.” Yuck. Tubs are disgusting. I wouldn’t eat out of a tub. Down with tubs! And how often, really, are they provided in these tubs? If seldom, would it be such a problem?

11) KMW: “Corporations provide America’s food. They just do.” I guess that settles it. Why complain about school lunches, which are not, incidentally, partly responsible for the obesity epidemic (see #6)? School lunches, as we’ve learned, are provided by the USDA, which has mandatory protein and vegetable requirements and serves children food in disgusting tubs. Corporations, which provide the rest of the non-school lunch food for Americans, are much better at providing non-obesity contributing food.

12) KMW: “…and they [corporations] could be providing better food to America’s kids if it weren’t for huge government programs that are distorting what kids eat and why.” I’m getting confused. Huge government programs are distorting what kids eat by serving them food in tubs and contributing (but not contributing) to the obesity epidemic by requiring that any food lunch served to a kid has to meet with minimum nutrition requirements. That about right?

13) Host: “A point often ignored by Jamie Oliver is the role of the government in providing substandard food to children.” I get it. You don’t like the government.

14) Host: “According to a recent investigation by USA Today…” Yes, that’s a reliable source.

15) Host: “…the government has provided the nation’s schools with millions of pounds of beef and chicken that wouldn’t meet the food quality or safety standards of many fast food restaurants.” A point often ignored by ignoramuses at Reason magazine is the role of the government in providing food quality and safety standards to many fast food restaurants.

16) Host: “School lunch programs don’t just provide welfare to lower income students, but also to American agribusiness…” Yes, down with lower income agribusiness.

17) Guest: “Well, there is a sort of perverse irony there that the stuff that we think is the healthiest for kids to eat is the stuff that they least want to eat.” First of all, this isn’t irony, and it’s not overly perverse. It’s a fact about fucking kids. Stick them with a bar of chocolate and a fat ice cream sundae, and they’ll pick that any day over the salad. Second, it’s not whether we “think” it’s healthier, it’s that it’s fucking healthier.

18) Guest: “You have to have people in the kitchen who know about what they’re doing and care about what they’re doing, and that’s gonna cost more money too… if they don’t provide the meal, they don’t get the money, and all of a sudden, they’re running a deficit.” Oh noes. Not the money. This is all selected by the Reason[sic] editorial staff to emphasize the money.

19) Host: “This provides a strong incentive to serve kids cheeseburgers and pizza…Students routinely avoided healthy snacks in favor of less healthy alternatives.” Great, so change the incentive structure.

20) Host: “In Britain, Olivers succeeded in pressuring the government into increasing school lunch funding by $1B dollars.” He’s obviously a socialist who doesn’t give a flaming shit about your houseboat.

21) Host: “The results have been mixed. In some schools, some students have even taken the opportunity create junk food black markets.” Clearly Oliver’s fault. Go check out Season four of the Wire and get back to me.

Skipping ahead now, cuz i’m getting tired of this garbage:

22) KMW: “There is, uh, something to be said for eating fresh food, but fresh food and healthy food aren’t the same thing.” No shit, Dr. nutritionist. I’m sure that Oliver, Obama, and Bruske are arguing for the fresh but unhealthy type of food. I really like your earrings.

23) KMW: “You can take two dollars and seventy cents and get a perfectly good lunch. People do it every day.” Hey, I’ve got a response for you: “Good food” and “healthy food” aren’t the same thing either.

24) KMW: “It’s the microwaveable Healthy Choice, it’s the lunch of choice for many, many working adults.” There is no bottom for the shill.

25) KMW: “We could give that to kids.” Um, no. For one, can you imagine the banks of microwaves we’d need to install? And for another, they’ll certainly burn the roof of their mouths on the steaming hot and flavorless food. Care you so little for the roofs of children’s mouths?

26) Host: “Look…” No, you look. You’re annoying and you need a haircut. Try some of those sexy hoop earrings your pal Katherine is wearing.

27) Host: “…the problem with fat kids in America isn’t pizza and burgers in a cafeteria or a lack of funds…” Yes, you’ve just done a marvelous job of neglecting to establish that. But okay. I’ll bite, what is it?

28) Host: “…but of the consumption of fatty foods…” Right, now we’re getting somewhere. It’s the fattiness of the foods, not the fact that the fatty foods are served in a school cafeteria.

29) Host: “…increasingly sedentary lifestyles…” Jamie did say that once the school lunches were fixed, kids could sit around and play Wii all day.

30) Host: “…and a government monopoly on school food distribution.” But school lunches aren’t the problem, dumbfuck. It’s the tubs.

31) Host: “So Jamie, thanks for the advice, we’ll consider it.” Smirk. “In the meantime, I’m gonna eat this delicious cheeseburger.”

Enjoy your cheeseburger, nimwit. There’s a reason you were teased in high school. Rand won’t save you and John Galt is a fiction. Meanwhile, I’ll be introducing my kid to the wonders of good (fresh and healthy) food.

One comment

  1. Ben, this timely article makes for an interesting counterpoint.

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