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Food Fascism or Food Freedom?

January 26, 2009

Anthony Bourdain recently commented on Alice Waters proposal that President Obama set up a “Kitchen Cabinet” to better instruct Americans on how to eat properly. As usual his comments were spot on. And snarky!

I’ll tell you. Alice Waters annoys the living shit out of me. We’re all in the middle of a recession, like we’re all going to start buying expensive organic food and running to the green market. There’s something very Khmer Rouge about Alice Waters that has become unrealistic. I mean I’m not crazy about our obsession with corn or ethanol and all that, but I’m a little uncomfortable with legislating good eating habits. I’m suspicious of orthodoxy, the kind of orthodoxy when it comes to what you put in your mouth. I’m a little reluctant to admit that maybe Americans are too stupid to figure out that the food we’re eating is killing us. But I don’t know if it’s time to send out special squads to close all the McDonald’s. My libertarian side is at odds with my revulsion at what we as a country have done to ourselves physically with what we’ve chosen to eat and our fast food culture. I’m really divided on that issue

He did issue a somewhat apology, but it’s too late, we know what he really thinks.

I have my own questions for a woman like Alice Waters. As an Oklahoman, am I limited to wheat bread and buffalo? Will a gallon of orange juice invalidate me in your eyes? “Organic, locavore, sustainable,” these are all nice goals to strive for, but has anyone really fleshed out where it would lead us if they were anything more than trendy food fads for the well to do? I’ve been to Whole Foods, and spent twice the amount for half the food compared to a Wal Mart. Gardens in the White House lawn? What’s next, a glorious agricultural revolution authored by Chairman Maobama?

I understand the sentiment behind those that say we eat poorly. We eat too much processed crap, everyone know this by now. What gets me about a lot of foodie types is that they see more intervention as the solution. Government policy and it’s unintended consequences are what got us here. Too much fast food and urban sprawl? These businesses have only responded to the cheap and easy transportation provided by state funded roads and freeways. When a 20 oz Mountain Dew is cheaper than a 16 oz carton of milk, that is a direct result of grain subsidies and state managed dairy cartels, not evil corporations or free markets. When it’s far easier for me to ship a steer down the road (to a feedlot) rather than try to sell the meat myself, that is a consequence of burdensome regulations that say a steak must be wrapped with plastic in a $100,000 facility.

Yet for the most part the same people who want more food regulations would make the argument that a product like marijuana should be legal. They’d rightly point out that the state shouldn’t tell them what they can inhale. Shouldn’t what we ingest be viewed in the same light? Watch as the new food/farm policy takes shape. We’ll see normally civil libertarian types lobby for more centralization, more regulation, more inspection, subsidization, etc. How can subsidized corn be bad, yet subsidized fruits and vegetables are seen as necessary? Meanwhile it’s not raw milk or farmer’s market tomatoes making people ill, it’s food that has been run through the centralized food bureaucracy, state inspected and government approved. You want to see local food options rise up where they never were before? Loosen regulations, give farmers and consumers the choice to opt out of an increasingly monolithic food system.

One Comment
  1. I agree with a lot of this, except the part about “food that has been run through the centralized food bureaucracy” making everybody sick. My family and I eat this food and we’re not sick from it. In my experience, eople hyper about organic get sick just as much as everyone else, if not more. And when they do have a slight cold they think the world is coming to a freaking end.

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