Being fat is not ok

Between underhanded corporate shenanigans and inept legislative tomfoolery, this country hasn’t seen a day in years that wasn’t brimming with reasons to fill up with furor. Realistically, whether it’s a conservative senator being caught in the restroom of hypocrisy or an antique politician explaining to his tech-savvy audience about everyone’s favorite “series of tubes,” there’s no better place to turn to for entertainment than our very own government.

But on the rare occasion when that gaggle of political clowns finally does something right, it’s critical that the voting public doesn’t see this serendipity as a laughing matter. Perhaps you haven’t heard, though, about how entirely right things can be done.

A Los Angeles city council planning committee recently demonstrated that even aside from laughs, legislators can provide their constituency with something they desperately need. On July 22, those at the meeting unanimously approved a moratorium on the establishment of new fast food outlets in a particularly impoverished section of the city. The proposed one-year ban, if passed by a full council, would be a temporary stopgap designed to help the city’s bloating obesity epidemic.

Opponents of the measure, of course, are quick to declare it an unnecessary, even tyrannical, restriction on personal liberty. This perspective seems to be based on the assumption that any government hand in how business is conducted necessarily means that the consumer is losing the ability to choose.

Luckily, there is sanity. Through antitrust and monopoly laws, there are decades of precedent for this decision. It has always been the responsibility of elected officials to intervene when a corporation’s best interest interfered with the best interest of the public. The fast food moratorium in L.A. is no different.

It’s common knowledge that fast food is not healthful food — SUPERSIZE ME, FAST FOOD NATION and their ilk have driven this understanding firmly into the public realm. Though as a nation we are largely satisfied with restrictions on other products that are immediately prone to inducing serious health risk — tobacco, alcohol and their less legal counterparts come to mind — for some reason we’ve failed largely to address the preponderance of health-harming food.

But if we choose to eat unhealthily, or so the argument goes, why should the government stop us? Of course, for many, it isn’t a matter of choice. Childhood obesity levels in L.A. County are positively astronomical, and it’s infeasible to blame a grade school student for his poor diet. Furthermore, in the area that would be affected by the proposed moratorium, there is already an abundance of fast food outlets, to say the least. If the issue is providing citizens with the right to choose, leaving room in poor neighborhoods for grocery and convenience stores to develop only seems sensible.

Ultimately, it seems too many people in this country equate government action with a direct threat to their freedom, and thus see the unhindered molestation of consumers by corporate monoliths as the truest form of personal liberty. Hopefully, though, we can begin to recognize when the men and women we elect are sticking up for us, as they’re doing in L.A., instead of all too easily giving in to pressure from lobbyists and the more easily brainwashed among us.

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