Stossel: Trans Fat Ban Is 'Nanny State' Intrusion

ByABC News
December 6, 2006, 4:29 PM

Dec. 6, 2006 — -- This week, New York became the first big city to ban trans fats.

Gee, I'm all for good health, but shouldn't it be a matter of individual choice?

The New York Times front-page story "New York Bans Most Trans Fats in Restaurants" has the sub-headline: "A Model for Other Cities."

"A model for what, exactly?" asks Don Boudreaux, an economist at George Mason University. "Petty tyranny? Or perhaps for similarly inspired bans on other voluntary activities with health risks? Clerking in convenience stores? Walking in the rain?"

The intrusions of the "Nanny State" are never-ending. This week, I plan to do a "Gimme Me A Break" for "20/20" on how Fairfax County, Va., banned churches from serving home-cooked meals to street people. The county eventually rescinded the ban after the bureaucrats got bad publicity -- but that's the exception.

The Fairfax example is just one more argument for limited government. With less government intervention, we don't have special exceptions just for people who get press coverage or who are politically connected.

The ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu said, "The more laws and order are made prominent, the more thieves and robbers there will be."

Today, we have everything but limited government. The Nanny State's excessive regulation is endless. And growing.

If you want to sell foie gras in a Chicago restaurant, you'll have to break the law. Not that this stops anyone. Restaurants all over Chicago sell the French delicacy, including restaurants that never sold it before. They openly thumb their noses at the new law.

In this case, Chicago is catering to the animal-rights lobby, which complains that geese and ducks are force-fed to make the fattened-liver paste. (The American Veterinary Medical Association investigated the process and abstained from condemning it.)

City officials say cracking down on foie gras pushers won't be a high priority. But the law is on the books, ready whenever authorities want to harass a troublesome restaurateur.

Political leaders say they work hard to advance the general welfare. What they really do is help vocal and well-organized special interests.