Lesson of Government Oversight: Transfats

April 24, 2007 at 11:15 am | Posted in Anarchism, Nutrition & Health | 4 Comments

I’m a health nut. I at least avoid unhealthy foods unless they are free. I’m also a thrift nut, something has to be bad for me to pass it up for free. I haven’t had a soft drink in 19 years, even when people offer me one for free, but I’ll take the occasional cake and cookies at work. If they were provided regularly I’d have to cut back on this exception.

I try to avoid transfats completely. I think that corrupt big businesses and their cronies in government health and education positions have falsely made saturated fats look bad to intentionally promote high profit low quality unnatural mass market trans fats as a replacement good. For overwhelming historical and scientific evidence look up articles by the Weston Price Foundation.

When people promote government restrictions on transfat, I’m sympathetic to the support for good health, but as a libertarian opposed to the methods. Given that the government in the past couple years has geared up “regulation” of transfat, we have a test case to see whether libertarian principle provides real world lessons.

Notice most nutrition labels in the US. They are nationally regulated by the FDA. The content, the qualifications, even the order of what is listed is all standardized. Transfat profiteers had supposedly opposed the inclusion of trans fat as a separate category. Supposedly, this would identify products with an unhealthy low quality ingredient. Supposedly, consumer advocates wanted this and big business did not. Supposedly, consumer advocates won and is why we see the transfat category on nutrition labels.

Is that end of story? Not even half. Various junk food makers are allowed to list their transfat content as “zero” when they have less than half a gram per serving. This falsely makes the product appear healthier than it is. One gram of transfat per day is enough to cause measurable negative health effects. By altering the serving size and the transfat content to just under 0.5 grams per arbitrary serving size, a person may be fooled into thinking they are safe eating the product. People could eat only products with FDA defined “zero transfat” and actually be consuming 10-20 grams per day of transfats.

The lesson is this: Taking a pragmatic approach to libertarianism (the foundation of interpersonal morality) for some issues where we know there is an exploitation of ignorance or weakness of the will is counterproductive, unprincipled, and effectively unpragmatic in long term results as well.

 Don’t make deals with the devil.  The transfat makers are the ones who profitted from trans fat labelling regulations.  There are probably thousands of examples like this, and there are ones that we’ve been led to believe are opposite.  We’ve been fooled to think that WW2 jumpstarted the economy, that Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase was a good pragmatic decision, etc.  Some of these have been debunked by various libertarians in libertarian circles, but the lesson always needs to be expanded as long as there are people as clueless as the public school textbooks.

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