Libertarians seem to be an exceptionally health-conscious bunch. In believing that life has an inherent value, many of us cultivate that life by making healthy food and exercise choices and taking steps to ensure our mental health as well. The paleo lifestyle, in particular, has found an interesting popularity in the libertarian community.
But, along with these choices we also still believe in the mantra, “Just because I know what is right for me doesn’t mean I know what is right for you”. Thus we are against overreaching regulations of lifestyle and choice such as the recently negated “Large Soda Ban” instituted by Mayor Bloomberg in New York City. Governments at every level have been advocating for and against food and behavior choices for decades, but it seems to have come to a fever pitch lately.
In response, the oh-so-liberty-friendly state of Mississippi, the most obese state in the nation, passed an “Anti-Bloomberg Bill”, which will ban Mississippi counties and towns from enacting laws that would cap portion sizes or require the posting of calorie counts. Great! I’m all for preventing the government at any level from requiring anyone to do anything besides not harm me or my property.
There are a few problems, though; this bill came about after heavy lobbying from groups including the restaurant association, the small business and beverage group, and the chicken farmers’ lobby. Also, the proponent of the bill in the Mississippi state House, Representative Gregory Holloway, a Democrat, said, “We don’t want local municipalities experimenting with labeling of foods and any organic agenda. We want that authority to rest with the legislature.”
Why are these bills even necessary? Well, they probably aren’t. Interested parties lobbied for a bill in Mississippi that would protect them from incurring the wrath of a populace educated about the nutrition of their product. That proponents of the bill want the authority of food labelling to rest with the legislature suggests that those interested parties desire a more centralized origin for regulations—so that they only have to fight on one front as opposed to several different ones.
So, while a law that keeps municipalities from enacting ridiculous Bloomberg-like bans might sound like a good idea, what we really have here are corporations doing what they can to centralize power into a body that they can more easily influence.
Doesn’t sound terribly liberty-friendly to me.
This is just one messy aspect of rent seeking. Rent seeking organizations exploit the political process for their own gain, then, when the political process might weaken their position, these organizations exploit the political process to strengthen their political, social, and economic position again.
Wash. Rinse. Repeat. Mississippi voters—and people in all states that might be considering these kinds of bans—should be incredibly wary. Dispersing governmental power is not the end-all-be-all of freedom, but it’s a great way to keep corporate interests from dominating policy for a large number of people.