Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Half Baked

Just as we were commenting on the Big Mother aspects of Obama Care-and its affinity with the Bloomberg get healthy or else initiatives-comes the following from the Associated Press: "More children would eat lunches and dinners at school under legislation passed Thursday by the House and sent to the president, part of first lady Michelle Obama’s campaign to end childhood hunger and fight childhood obesity. The $4.5 billion bill approved by the House 264-157 would also try to cut down on greasy foods and extra calories by giving the government power to decide what kinds of foods may be sold in vending machines and lunch lines. The bill could even limit frequent school bake sales and fundraisers that give kids extra chances to eat brownies and pizza."

This Bloomberg to Klein to Obama triple health play combination is better than the fabled Tinkers to Evers to Chance-and underscores just how slippery this health care slope really is. At the same time, it also highlights the illiberal nature of much of this progressive concern for health-something akin to forcing kids to eat their spinach; for their own good, of course.

Peter Berkowitz captures this democratic anomaly that is embedded in the progressives' scorn for majority preferences: "Not content to conclude that the mismatch between the public policies they deduce from theory and the people’s expressed political preferences reflects badly on the people, deliberative democrats go farther by decreeing majority preferences contrary to democracy, or at least the imperatives of democratic theory. It’s not merely that deliberative democrats believe that their theories give expression to something better and loftier than what the majority of the electorate chooses. It’s that the choices people would make — were it not for their poor education, combined with passions and prejudices corrupted by the imperfections of social life and the inequities of the market economy — are what deserve the designation democratic."

This, in our view, is very close to Rousseau's concept of the General Will-where forcing people to follow the correct path-as conceived by the Philosopher-is allowing them to be truly free (Rousseau here adopts the Platonic view of  Truth and the Philosopher King). This always ends badly, however, as the tendency for power to corrupt leads from idealism to slavery-and is why the German philosopher Roberto Michels wry remark, about his theory of the Iron Law of Oligarchy, that, "The socialists might conquer, but not socialism, which would perish in the moment of its adherents' triumph."

So the progressive elites know what is good for us-even if they have to coerce us to adhere to the True Path. In the modern context, then, it is health that is the Trojan Horse that the progressive rides past the defenses of a populace that is ill-prepared for the deception. But the progressives' halcyon days are numbered-as the last election cycle seems to have disabused wide swaths of Americans that Mother Knows Best is a dangerous delusion; one that masks the urge to power.

This is precisely why someone like Dr. Tom Farley can comfortably tell bald faced lies about supposed connections between soda consumption and obesity. There is, in the view of these Benefactors, a higher truth-but in bending the truth curve, they forget what Max Weber, in "Politics as a Vocation," told us about the danger of ends justifying means-and how, so often, the tawdry-inevitably coercive-means become the ends.

All of this rather grim reality, however, is subsumed under the guise of the promotion of healthy living. After all, who wants people to be unhealthy? In the process of trying to insure healthy outcomes, though, rather unhealthy means are needed to coerce different kinds of behaviors. And yes, it can all begin innocuously with a ban on school bake sales: "The new nutrition standards would be written by the Agriculture Department, which would decide which kinds of foods may be sold and what ingredients can be used on school lunch lines and in vending machines."

And so it begins-with the Washington bureaucracy usurping the role of the local school board: "Bake sales and other school sponsored fundraisers that sell unhealthy foods could be limited under the legislation, which only allows them if they are infrequent. The Agriculture Department would determine how often they could be held. Public health advocates pushed for the language, saying they are concerned about daily or weekly fundraisers that allow children to substitute junk food for a healthier meal."

Eventually, commissars from Center for Science in the Public Interest would be handed control over the eating habits of American children-phasing out both the parents and the local authorities. It is a situation where in loco parentis becomes simply loco. It is thus how Health emerges as a Trojan Horse for a soft dictatorship of elites.