Free Markets, Free People
I get so tired of these stories, but they have to be pointed out because they indicate a disturbing trend. In this case, it’s just another in a long line of examples of bureaucrats unilaterally deciding to remove choice for everyone based on their arbitrary assessment of what is “good for you”.
The example this time is about some of the Chicago Public Schools, and in particular the Little Village Academy on Chicago’s West Side, have decided not to allow packed lunches from home. This line in the story just drove me up the wall:
Principal Elsa Carmona said her intention is to protect students from their own unhealthful food choices.
It is like parents don’t even exist in her world. It is like they should have no say in what their children eat if it doesn’t jibe with Ms. Carmona’s idea of what that should be. Mona Charen calls it “coercive humanitarianism”. I think that’s way too kind. I call it bureaucratic authoritarianism and typical of petty bureaucrats who have the power to impose their will on others with little or no accountability requirements.
Perhaps the biggest point to made about this is parents are again marginalized with these sorts of decisions. They’re forced to do what the bureaucrat decides they should do. And it costs those parents who do take their child’s nutrition seriously and who do pack nutritious lunches the option (the freedom) to do so.
Of course, one supposes that part of the reason for imposing this unilateral ban on lunches from home is so the kids will “eat well”, yes?
At Little Village, most students must take the meals served in the cafeteria or go hungry or both. During a recent visit to the school, dozens of students took the lunch but threw most of it in the garbage uneaten. Though CPS has improved the nutritional quality of its meals this year, it also has seen a drop-off in meal participation among students, many of whom say the food tastes bad.
But as with most things, if you really drill down and “follow the money”, some of the bureaucratic insistence becomes a little clearer:
Any school that bans homemade lunches also puts more money in the pockets of the district’s food provider, Chartwells-Thompson. The federal government pays the district for each free or reduced-price lunch taken, and the caterer receives a set fee from the district per lunch.
And they really don’t care if the food goes in the child’s stomach or the trashcan.
Which brings us to this line in the story:
Such discussions over school lunches and healthy eating echo a larger national debate about the role government should play in individual food choices.
Frankly, I see no reason for debate – none of the government’s business. I don’t need a super-nanny deciding what I can or can’t eat and I darn sure don’t want the government deciding what my children or grandchildren eat.
But … and you knew there was one … when government “pays” for health care, government will feel entitled and empowered to decide such things for individuals because bad decisions may affect your health and that would cost the government more than if you were forced to eat like it decides you should.
Yes there are national implications to this sort of bureaucratic nonsense, and somewhere out there in the bureaucratic/political incubator is a man or woman who will self-justify attempting to impose such a fundamental infringement on your freedom to choose for your own good. And unfortunately many others will blithely go along.