In America, man functions as an independent entity, free to live his own life apart from the church, politicians or so-called "public good." And for many years, the country honored and preserved those principles. Yet, slowly, we've been steered away from the rugged individualism towards a collectivist free-for-all in which individual rights are routinely compromised, challenged, or tossed out the window altogether.
The most recent example is the law New York's Board of Health proposed — forcing restaurants in the city to remove trans fats from their menus. Innumerable foods, ranging from doughnuts to margarine, funnel cake to french fries, would be affected. The reasoning for the proposal, according to the department's Web site, is “to protect the health of New Yorkers and save lives.”
If public health is their goal, the city might as well propose a bill implementing government-mandated calisthenics and spin classes. Moreover, even if trans fats were eliminated, the proposal would prove laughably ineffective. While the law would curtail onion rings, for example, it would remain perfectly legal to gorge oneself on Häagen-Dazs or Hershey Bars both unhealthy foods that contain no trans fat.
There's also no consideration given to the economic impact such an arbitrary edict. In order to comply with the law, restaurants and food manufacturers are forced to spend significant sums reprinting menus, altering recipes and reformulating budgets. Are replacement products more expensive or harder to stock? Those are important issues to the businessman, but completely irrelevant to the bureaucrat. The net effect is higher prices and reduced options. Big props to your pals at City Hall.
Of course, the real issue here isn't about health at all, but about the right of an American citizen in a free country to choose to eat whatever foods he wishes. The role of government, local or otherwise, isn't to restrict our freedoms but protect them. New Yorkers have every right to eat whatever fattening, caloric or artery-clogging meals they please. The busybodies at the Board of Health are welcome to spend their lunch break at the salad bar, but they have no right to restrict the foods law-abiding citizens choose to put into their own bodies.
Frighteningly, this isn't a trend confined to New York City. My hometown of Chicago, once a bastion of economic and political freedom, has been turned into a certified nanny state. It recently became the first major city in the country to ban foie gras, the fatty liver of geese considered worldwide to be a gourmet delicacy. Like the proposed trans fat or smoking bans already passed around the country, the foie gras ordinance is another example of how the majority is able to trample on the rights of the minority…all in the name of the “public good.” Individual rights no longer seem to matter at all.
Indeed, this country has now become a land where everything — right down to the foods you put in your body, can be regulated by political mob. Forget "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” In New York, and increasingly in the nation as a whole — providing one can get enough votes — anything goes. One need not be a Constitutional scholar to understand how this disgusting trend will significantly affect our economy, our liberty and the very essence of the American way of life.
Jonathan Hoenig is managing member at Capitalistpig Hedge Fund LLC and is a markets columnist for Smartmoney.com. He appears regularly on FNC's business program "Cashin' In." At the time of writing, Hoenig's fund held no positions in any of the securities mentioned.