Free Markets, Free People


The call to control sugar sure sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

I’ve been writing about attempts like this for over 20 years.  Each time I do I remind people that much of the road to totalitarianism is paved with good intentions – well, at least sometimes.  This would be one of those times.

In this case I’m talking about a study claiming sugar is toxic and should be controlled by government.

I thought immediately of the climate debate (complete with modeling).  This is just a variation of the same sort of argument and solution.

More importantly, I thought of the saying above and reminded myself that since I began writing about these sorts of attempts 20 years ago a lot more paving stones have been laid in that road. 

Like ObamaCare. 

20 years ago an attempt such as this would have, for the most part, been laughed away.  Oh sure, some people have been pushing to have government control many things over the years.  But for the most part, the structure to justify and/or facilitate such grabs really wasn’t in place.  Much more of a totalitarian infrastructure now exists than did back then.

In the case of things like this, ObamaCare changed that game.  Because government has now passed a law which puts it in charge of controlling health care costs and requiring insurance of all Americans, it also is in the position to act to do what this law allows it to do legally – exert more control over our everyday lives.

What would have essentially been laughed away 20 years ago now has to be taken seriously.  We have to remind ourselves that the game has changed to the point that it isn’t at all inconceivable that something like controlling sugar and its intake through government aren’t at all as far-fetched as it once was.

To the details:

Lustig has written and talked extensively about the role he believes sugar has played in driving up rates of chronic illness such as heart disease and diabetes. Excessive sugar, he argues, alters people’s biochemistry, making them more vulnerable to metabolic conditions that lead to illness, while at the same time making people crave sweets even more.

It’s sugar, not obesity, that is the real health threat, Lustig and his co-authors – public health experts Laura Schmidt and Claire Brindis – say in their paper. They note that studies show 20 percent of obese people have normal metabolism and no ill health effects resulting from their weight, while 40 percent of normal-weight people have metabolic problems that can lead to diabetes and heart disease. They contend that sugar consumption is the cause.

In other words, not everyone gains a lot of weight from over-indulging in sugar, but a large proportion of the U.S. population is eating enough of it that it’s having devastating health effects, they say.

"The gestalt shift is maybe obesity is just a marker for the rise in chronic disease worldwide, and in fact metabolic syndrome, caused by excessive sugar consumption, is the real culprit," said Schmidt, a health policy professor who focuses on alcohol and addiction research.

Obesity is bad.  Sugar causes obesity.  Control sugar. (Global warming is bad.  CO2 causes global warming.  Control CO2)

Think through that formulation.  Does anyone actually believe that if we “control sugar like alcohol and tobacco” that we’ll suddenly solve the obesity problem?

Is it really obesity or is it more of a rich, indulgent and sedentary lifestyle where many eat well beyond the recommended daily calorie intake each and every day?

The solution?  Well, back again casting a glance at global warming, the same:

But while individuals certainly can make small changes to their diets to eat more nutritiously, that alone is not going to effect major public health improvements, Lustig and his co-authors said.

In their paper, they argue for taxes on heavily sweetened foods and beverages, restricting advertising to children and teenagers, and removing sugar-ladened products from schools, or even from being sold near schools. They suggest banning the sale of sugary beverages to children.

Since these “scientists” are sure you can’t manage your own health or that of your children and since they’re convinced that you have to be controlled, they’ll just use the tax system for what it should never be used for – to control behavior, force change, and penalize you if you don’t comply.  Sound familiar?

Who gets to decide what is “sugar-laden”?  Why?  Who the hell are they to make such a decision for you?

By the way, banning junk food at school simply has no effect on obesity per one study.

Now obviously this is in the beginning stages, the stage where this would have mostly been waved away 20 years ago.  But no more.  You have to take all of these attempts at removing choice, freedom and liberty seriously.   There are forever do-gooders out there who see no problem whatsoever in using the power of government to control your life for your own good (a variation of “for the children”) or at least their definition of “good”.

Laura Schmidt, one of the authors of the study which recommends controlling sugar uses those battles of 20 years ago, and the losses to good effect in her plea to us to voluntarily give up more choice and freedom:

We need to remember that many of our most basic public health protections once stood on the same battleground of American politics as sugar policy does today.

Simple things like requiring a seat belt and having an airbag in your car to save you in a crash were once huge political battles. Now, we take these things for granted as simple ways to protect the health and well-being of our communities.

Pretty straight forward plea, no?  And she has precedent with which to justify it.  While you may agree that seatbelts and airbags are good things, you may not agree that a government mandate for each is.

That’s where we are on this.  Her solutions seem benign and certainly a product of good intentions:

First, we think that the public needs to be better informed about the science of how sugar impacts our health.

Second, we need to take what we know about protecting societies from the health harms of alcohol and apply it to sugar.

What doesn’t work is all-out prohibition — that’s very old-school and often creates more problems than it solves.

What does work are gentle "supply side" controls, such as taxing products, setting age limits and promoting healthier versions of the product — like making it cheaper for a person to drink light beer rather than schnapps.

After the “light beer rather than schnapps” remark she says:

The reality is that unfettered corporate marketing actually limits our choices about the products we consume. If what’s mostly available is junk food and soda, then we actually have to go out of our way to find an apple or a drinking fountain. What we want is to actually increase people’s choices by making a wider range of healthy foods easier and cheaper to get.

Corporate marketing “limits our choices”?   Really?  I must have missed it then.  When I enter the local Kroger, the first section I walk into is produce – apples abound.  Its not hidden away somewhere with very few choices.  It’s a cornucopia of good stuff. 

In reality, there’s no limiting of choice by corporate marketing.  This is a false assertion.  But she knows the language of freedom and tries very hard to spin this attempt to limit yours.

And after that she gets to what she really wants.  “Gentle supply side controls?”

– Contact the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Congress to encourage them to take sugar off the Generally Regarded as Safe (GRAS) list. This is what allows food producers to add as much sugar as they want to the products we eat.

– Support our local, state and federal officials in placing a substantial tax on products that are loaded with sugar. Ask them to use the proceeds to support a wider range of food options in supermarkets and farmer’s markets.

– Help protect our kids by getting sports drinks and junk food out of our schools. Ask our school boards to replace those vending machines with good old-fashioned drinking fountains. Ask local officials to control the opening hours and marketing tactics of the junk food outlets surrounding our schools. That way, kids can walk to school without being barraged by advertising for sugary products that taste good but harm their health.

Again, follow the pattern set by the global warming crowd.  Get a normal respiratory gas which is naturally occurring declared a pollutant and then tax the crap out of it while mandating all sorts of controls on its emission.  Some pattern here.

Rick Moran wonders:

Why do liberals insist they are the only ones smart enough to not run out and buy everything being advertised on TV and the rest of us are just sheep being led to the slaughter by evil corporate marketers?

It is the premise under which much of this attempt to control founds itself.  There seems to be an innate belief that government must do much more than it does in order to protect the poor, dumb proles from themselves and their urges.

If you listen to the liberal side of the house, the Puritan ethic of self-discipline, delayed-gratification and hard work seem to have somehow died in the early 20th century to be replace by a self-indulgent, live-for-today bunch of slackers who need a controlling hand from above (it occurs to me that this study will probably be used to justify the sugar tariff).

Unfortunately there are always those ready to oblige. 

The real answer is the same as it has always been.  Again, Moran:

The answer is better parenting. Don’t indulge your children’s natural desire for everything to be sweet. The answer is balance – giving your kids healthy food while recognizing that kids adore sweets and, in moderation, are actually good for them. Keep an eye on processed foods and the sugar content. If you don’t know how to read a list of ingredients, learn.

People taking responsibility for their own health and the health of their families is what is needed. Not some draconian regimen that puts sugar in the same class as whiskey.

Unlike 20 years ago, you’d better take this seriously.  Again, it’s a fairly simple formula – freedom equals choice.  Limiting choice means limiting your freedom. As odd as this may sound, it’s an important principle:  Freedom means the right to make stupid mistakes or do stupid things of which other may disapprove.  Freedom means the right to fail.  As long as your stupidity and failure don’t violate the rights of others, then it is really none of their business.

This and all other attempts like it are designed to make this the business of others.  And, as usual, their solution is to limit freedom.

Fight it with everything you have.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

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38 Responses to The call to control sugar sure sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

  • If high school football were invented today, any school board listening to the injury rate and equipment expense would laugh out loud. It’s days are numbered.

    And Coke? Sales will be regulated as cigarettes are today, and sales to minors won’t be legal. And someone somewhere will be charged with child abuse for giving a kid a Coke. Really.
    http://justoneminute.typepad.com/main/2012/02/regulating-sugar.html

    We’ll see. There is a strong resistance building to the nanny state. Command economies cannot last. Prohibition taught us that people will resist en mass when civil disobedience is all they have left.

    • @Ragspierre Ima open a soft drink distillery in mah garage AND grow sugar laden crops under a camouflage net out in the back yard. You want in on the Houston part of the syndicate?

      • too much trouble, you and I can just rent an 18 wheeler and go down into Mexico and pick them up. If we look like coyotes then the border agents will never stop us. If necessary we can get a few mexican families to ride with us as cover. @looker @Ragspierre

  • Basically then we must ban the following compounds to save humanity:

    Carbon oxides (global warmcooling clime disruptifitcation)
    Hydrocarbons (big oil booga booga global warmcooling etc etc)
    Carbohydrates (big sugar Coke devil water etc etc)

    The only solution I see is diverting the Earth into the sun so that most of it can be converted into nice stable iron and get rid of all that pesky carbon producing and consuming life.

  • This piece reminds me of one of the core contradictions of today’s leftists.

    People who are not competent to run their own lives are clearly not competent to select the people (via voting) that run everyone else’s life. So it’s either one or the other.

    Yet leftists embrace that contradiction, simultaneously playing busybody for every life in the society while considering voting so sacred they don’t even want to prevent non-citizens from doing it. (As best as I can tell, voting and sex are the only things that leftists don’t like restrictions upon.)

    This is one more piece of evidence for the primary moving principle of the left being about control and power. Good intentions are merely a facade for the real power mongers and a convenient duping mechanism for leftist and moderate foot soldiers who think they’re doing something thing helpful.

    • @Billy Hollis Contradictions ? We are told one day that Democrats are smarter than Republicans, then on the next that (Democrat) poor folks are too stupid to get a photo ID (that the need to get Drano).

    • @Billy Hollis “contradictions of today’s leftists”

      Isn’t that pretty much the definition of leftism?

    • @Billy Hollis But, dude, the science is SETTLED…

      Psychological Science January 5, 2012 – Bright Minds and Dark Attitudes
      Lower Cognitive Ability Predicts Greater Prejudice Through Right-Wing Ideology and Low Intergroup Contact
      Gordon Hodson and
      Michael A. Busseri

      Abstract
      Despite their important implications for interpersonal behaviors and relations, cognitive abilities have been largely ignored as explanations of prejudice. We proposed and tested mediation models in which lower cognitive ability predicts greater prejudice, an effect mediated through the endorsement of right-wing ideologies (social conservatism, right-wing authoritarianism) and low levels of contact with out-groups. In an analysis of two large-scale, nationally representative United Kingdom data sets (N = 15,874), we found that lower general intelligence (g) in childhood predicts greater racism in adulthood, and this effect was largely mediated via conservative ideology. A secondary analysis of a U.S. data set confirmed a predictive effect of poor abstract-reasoning skills on antihomosexual prejudice, a relation partially mediated by both authoritarianism and low levels of intergroup contact. All analyses controlled for education and socioeconomic status.
      ————————————————————–

      I know…hard to believe that the authors TOTALLY missed the irony in their own work.

    • There is an infinite line up of jackasses wanting to take away your freedom and property, and they all have a good reason! @Billy Hollis

    • @Billy Hollis I not a big fan of assigning motivation to others. I can’t speak for others that are on the other side of the argument from you, but for me, I just want to hold people in some small way responsible for their decisions. I have no illusions that sin taxes would have the slightest impact on consumption, if it did it would be a pleasant side benefit. My goal would simply be that unhealthy things that are going to cost all of us have some of that financial burden attached to them.

  • Ironically, I foresee a day when conservatives will have to rely on the contorted logic of Roe v Wade to protect their “privacy” on health and personal matters.

    • @Neo_ Afraid not. Like a lot of Collectivist tools, that ratchet only clicks one way, as we’ve seen in ObamaCare.

      “Keep your laws off my body” was always a rather stupid slogan, but we’ve seen how it only applies to abortion on demand. Not salt. Not tobacco. Not nothin’.

      • @Ragspierre … but you have to frame it correctly …
        4. “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.”

    • @Neo_ That works for me, no federally funded food-like crap. But of course all we can do is make it legal, not much hope to make it safe and rare.

  • Just when you think they have convinced you that the science is settled, along comes a monkey wrench…
    In Australia, the UK and USA, per capita consumption of refined sucrose decreased by 23%, 10% and 20% respectively from 1980 to 2003. When all sources of nutritive sweeteners, including high fructose corn syrups, were considered, per capita consumption decreased in Australia (−16%) and the UK (−5%), but increased in the USA (+23%). In Australia, there was a reduction in sales of nutritively sweetened beverages by 64 million liters from 2002 to 2006 and a reduction in percentage of children consuming sugar-sweetened beverages between 1995 and 2007. The findings confirm an ―Australian Paradox‖—a substantial decline in refined sugars intake over the same timeframe that obesity has increased. The implication is that efforts to reduce sugar intake may reduce consumption but may not reduce the prevalence of obesity.

    • @Neo_ I think the reason is obvious… the fat people started eating the skinny people and wash them down with Diet Sprite. That or global warming, corporate America or something. Or maybe even if you eat less sugar and you still don’t move your chunky ass you will still likely pack on the pork.

    • @Neo_ Not if it is replaced with artificial sweeteners which studies have shown create hunger for the calories the body expected to get as a result of the sweet taste which is made up by overeating. I’ll have a diet Coke and a Triple with cheese and bacon!

  • Sure – natural sugar is horrendous for you – oranges, apples, pears, bananas, etc….all BAAAAAAAAD for you because they contains sugar and sugar is Baaaaad. Eggs are baaaad too, I remember they are(were) bad, bad.

    And in Europe it was recently discovered that water does not re-hydrate you (one might ponder, if water does not, what, exactly, DOES?)

    Anyway, you proles, shut up and eat your tasteless gruel, you can’t salt it, you can’t butter it, and now you can’t sugar it either.

    • @looker But the commisars and our political betters…..they’ll get prime rib and loaded baked potatos. Because of the burden of leadership you see.

    • Oh, did I mention, we’ll be having the Waygu at the wine and cheeser. But you proles aren’t invited, in fact, it would be nice if you could stay at least an aerial mile from our party location.

      And heh, you beat me shark….

    • Did I mention? We got a government grant to do a study on tasteless gruel….you DO see where this is headed, right?

      • @looker More like they’d make it gruel was our only choice and the pres close friend just happens to be an investor in the local gruel concern…

    • @looker That’s not fair or accurate. No one is suggesting that naturally occurring sugar in fruits and veggies is harmful, it is the processed created food-like products that are the problem. We are naturally inclined towards sweet foods because physiologically, our bodies believe they pack a high caloric punch, a valuable thing when calories are something you need to work hard for. By taking away the actual nutrition out of the foods and packing in the sugar and make them highly available, our normal physiological desire becomes unhealthy.

      • @CaptinSarcastic @looker

        The problem is that sucrose IS a naturally occurring sugar. It’s found in sugar beets and sugar cane. The process that extracts it doesn’t alter its chemical composition. In that regard, it is as natural as orange juice.

        There are lots of naturally occurring things that aren’t good for you. Tobacco comes to mind. And there are things that you should consume only in moderation. But it’s not up to Uncle Sam to determine whether someone is being immoderate.

        • @Steverino @looker I could say the same about the extraction of the latex sap of a poppy plant. Further, Uncle Sam is (or should be) us. Third, if something you do is going to cost me money, I think it is YOU that are violating my rights, and making you pay a small portion of the cost you will foist on me is a slight correction not a violation of your rights. I do get it that this transaction is preceded by something you almsot disagree with, shared communal health care costs, but again, that is the world we live in.

        • @CaptinSarcastic @looker

          I would have no trouble legalizing drugs, so that argument of yours doesn’t hold up here.

          My consumption of anything doesn’t directly cost you money, so your claim that I’m violating your rights is weak. We may or may not be in the same insurance pool, so you have no idea whether my actions affect you at all. As far as me paying for my actions, I am fine with that. I’m responsible for paying my own bills. Prove that I haven’t done so, and maybe you’ve got a leg to stand on.

          If you’re going to take the argument that anything people do increases your insurance premiums, then you are headed down the road of forcing everyone to eat the same thing, exercise daily, and in general never do anything remotely unhealthy or risky. Fine world that would be.

        • @Steverino @looker Unless your bad habits kill you before you turn 65, we will most certainly be in the same insurance pool, and I am paying into that pool every month. Unless you plan on opting out of Medicare, and refusing care if you cannot pay for it, in which case, go ahead, knock yourself out. As far as the slippery slope goes, I have never, and will never, make an argument that individuals should be forced to engage or banned from engaging in activity that does not harm another. I am merely stating the individuals should bear some of the costs of their actions. Now, as to legalizing drugs, I acknowledge your position, but it is irrelevant since as a nation a HUGE majority supports the continued heavy regulation and/or prohibition on poppy extracts. I personally support decriminalization, but I would not support the wholesale legalization of any and all substances. I would be more inclined to support a sliding scale of legalization based on the pharmacology. If the early efforts to end prohibitions were ssuccessful, I would support expansion until perhaps nothing were prohibited, but I think it would be a bit dramatic to end all prohibitions, and, as mentioned before, political impossible.

        • @CaptinSarcastic @looker

          Medicare? I got news for you: I pay into it, too, and probably have paid a great deal more than you imagine. But that’s a terrible argument to make: something I’m doing today may some time in the distant future mean that you have to pay a little more money. How much money? And when? You’ve got absolutely no leg to stand on now, as you’re showing no actual damage.

          There’s no reason why Uncle Sam should be regulating how much sugar anyone eats.

        • @Steverino @looker Wow, again, for the umpteenth time, I have ZERO interest is regulating how much sugar you eat. Please stop suggesting that I am arguing in favor of such regulation. As to how much and when, $147B is the cost of obesity in this country plus another $23B in Type 2 Diabetes as to when, NOW, every year, and growing to an estimated $400B by 2018 according to an Emory University study (and many others). It’s not alchemy, if you take in large amounts of sugar (or HFCS), you will, on average, cost me money. If you want to argue that I since I cannot specifically define the exact cost that you will impose on total health costs that that no action should be taken, I disagree. Actual damage is show in totality, and actual costs are shown in totality, and we pay healthcare costs in totality. If you were to pay a 7% tax on products where sugar is the priimary ingredient (or HCFS), the cost for a moderate consumption would be negligible, for example, if you drink one soda a day, it would cost you about .0175 per day or about $6 per year. Someone who drinks a 12 pack a day would pay $72 per year. You probably oppose taxes on liquor but the same logic applies, there is no certain cost per individual, but the more a person drinks, the greater the likelihood that they will impose costs on the rest of us, and the more they pay. I get your disagreement, and I don’t expect to change your mind, but based on the system we live within, I think my suggestions are sound and do not infringe on people’s liberties. Unless you think you can change the system, I really do not agree that you can overcome this argument.

  • John Carpenter called it – an America of no smoking, no alcohol, no women – unless you’re married – no foul language, no red meat.

    No wonder Snake Plisskin opted to turn to world off….literally

    • @The Shark

      No sex, no drugs, no wine, no women
      No fun, no sin, no you, no wonder it’s dark
      Everyone around me is a total stranger
      Everyone avoids me like a psyched lone ranger
      Everyone…

  • I am sure that there are people that want to do all the fascist things suggested in the post, but I do wish the argument that people should pay for the bad choices they make was addressed. I know y’all oppose the communal sharing of healthcare costs, and I understand why and it is a sound argument. However, this is the world we live in, and it was this was long before Obamacare. Medicare is taxpayer funded healthcare going back 40 years, Reagan passed EMTALA which dictated that most providers cannot deny care regardless of a person’s intent or ability to pay. So when someone makes these bad choices, we all pay for it, some in the form taxes, some in the form of insurance premiums. All I suggest is that taxing the worst of these items is a way of having the individuals making the bad decisions have at least some financial contribution towards the costs those decisions will drop on people who make better choices. If you drink a Coke a week, the financial impact on your health, and on your cost for the Coke will be negligible, but if you drink a 12 pack a day, you ARE going to have some significant and unnecessary healthcare costs that the rest of us will likely subsidize. So I say what is wrong with having them out a little skin in the game. I absolutely oppose any proposals to actually ban any of these items. In a perfect world, we would all be responsible for 100% of our healthcare costs, period, but we don’t live in that world, and we are never going to, unless y’all find some new land you call sovereign and start the country of Libertopia.

    • @CaptinSarcastic But there’s no reason to accept it just because it is being done. That’s the point. Give up this hill and they’ll chase you down the valley and up the next and you’ll be worse off than you are now, and a hill closer to the edge of the sea.
      If all of us accept it because it’s what’s been foisted off on us and it’s ‘what is’ then we might as well accept everything they ever want to do in the future as well.

      But if we resist, maybe it’ll catch on. If we pretend there IS no alternative, there won’t be.

      • @looker I don’t think that is remotely realistic, but I acknowledge your stand. As i suggested to all in this forum in the great healthcare debate of 2007, reform was a foregone conclusion, be a part of it to make it better, standing in the way won’t stop it, it will just make it worse legislation. Politics is the art of the possible.

        • @CaptinSarcastic

          “standing in the way won’t stop it” – sure, and if you continue to step out of the way it will ALWAYS be true.
          “Politics is the art of the possible” is not the same as “Sit down and do as your told” and when you start acting like it is, you get what we have.

          Your foregone conclusion can be undone, the economic and social upheaval coming will kill it.

        • @looker That is not at all what i was saying. I never said step out of the way I was suggesting participation and input into creating the best reform possible instead of letting 60 Senators get their wish list. If 100 Senators wanted reform, then holdouts for special favors would be marginalized, since the GOP made 60 votes the requirement and zero GOP support a given, it insured less than the best legislation possible. As to coming economic and social upheaval, you may be right, but I think you will be wrong about what a large social uprising will be looking for. Remember, the majority of folks who showed up for Tea Party rallies were opposing cuts to Medicare (70%). There is not a clamor for less government, just less government for OTHER people.