20 November 2010

Government in Our Kitchens

This recent article about Sarah Palin serving cookies to kids to protest government incursions into our food choices caught my eye. (Disclaimer: I am not a Sarah Palin fan, but this article is not much about her anyway.)

I agree with her sentiment, government should not be involved in our food choices. There are some unfortunate realities to deal with however.

  1. They are already in our food choices. The USDA has pushed US Agriculture on the American public for over 100 years. Remember that their mission has historically been to promote American agriculture. It was NOT to ensure the health of Americans by better food choices. There is damage to undo. Recently they added the following words to their strategic plan "... improving nutrition and health by providing food assistance and nutrition education and promotion..."
  2. Various food programs exist, e.g. school lunches, and follow the unfortunate guidelines laid out by the food pyramid.
  3. Government does have a clearly legitimate role in feeding our armed forces.
  4. The food industry, left to its own devices, has repeatedly shown preference to profits over food safety. This applies to other industries as well.

On the first two issues, it is no secret that I believe that the grain-based food pyramid has directly led to the epidemic of metabolic syndrome including increased diabetes and heart disease. The USDA has an institutional mandate to promote the agricultural industry in the US. They do not have a mandate to improve the health of US citizens.

I believe that the employees of the USDA are good people and that most have convinced themselves that they are also acting in the best interests of the health of the American people. It's the only way to deal with the cognitive dissonance created by the actual results of their recommendations. Face it. We eat more carbs, less fat, the mix of fats changed to more polyunsaturated and less saturated fats, we exercise more as a society. We followed their advice.

And we're dying.

The third issue is important in that, we need to feed our warriors. I wish we were feeding them well, I don't know the facts around the food in the armed forces. I'm not going to look into it now because it's not relevant to the point I am trying to make.

The fourth one is tricky. I am a libertarian at heart, but industries have shown repeatedly that left to their own devices, they poison the environment, do not look out for worker safety, and do not follow safe practices in their products. There are plenty of examples and counterexamples, but corners get cut in the pursuit of profits time and again. I think over the long term, companies that protect its workers and the environment will win. In the short term though, they seem to have no problem killing people.

I am not saying that government gets it all right. They assuredly do not. But contrary to the fantasies of Ayn Rand, government may be the only force large enough and with enough stroke to counter destructive industrial practices in the short term. It could be done better, e.g. I believe that the recent classification of carbon dioxide as a pollutant exceeds their authority and common sense. But overall, I am glad that OSHA and EPA exist. I believe that the net impact is positive.

Back To Sarah and the USDA

So Sarah brought cookies to the kids. This is just as wrong as the food pyramid. At least local governments are trying to undo some of the damage caused by the food pyramid by banning sweetened wheat. We can argue about whether they should have a role in it, but at least, finally, the message is good. Sweet wheat is bad for you. Maybe, just maybe, they can begin to undo some of the damage wrought by the USDA.

Note to Sarah: Next time you do this, please have a barbecue with bacon wrapped grass-fed filets, sweet potatoes (no marshmallows), and whole raw milk.

It will send the right message on both the government meddling and on healthy dietary choices. And by the way, it would probably be the best meal the kids have had in their lives.

And USDA, please fix the pyramid. It has been proven dangerous because people comply. Consider something like this food pyramid from Castle Grok.

Addendum: I stumbled across some information on miltary food (MREs), which is what the soldiers eat in the field.

They are 51% carbs, 13% protein, 36% fat, and 1200 Calories. The idea is that they eat 3 of these per day.

For more on Cognitive Dissonance check out:

For more on diet science and health check out:
Good Calories, Bad Calories


  1. Cognitive-dissonance? Really? Are you fucking serious?

    Libertarian. Feed our warriors.






    Principle of non-aggression?

    There's a lot I like about your post, but so much cognitive-dissonance.

    1. Hello Anon,

      I think you're saying that having warriors is inconsistent with the libertarian principle of non-aggression. Most libertarians consider self-defense legit, and not a violation of the principle.

      Now, has our government deployed our troops as self-defense? Not really.

      So I am against these adventures that Bush launched, but at the same time believe that we should be supporting the people that are in harm's way.

      Tony E4E

  2. Então Sarah trouxe bolachas para as crianças. Isso é tão errado quanto a pirâmide alimentar. Pelo menos, os governos locais estão tentando desfazer alguns dos danos causados ​​pela pirâmide alimentar, proibindo o trigo açucarado. Podemos discutir se eles devem ter um papel nele, Mas, pelo menos, finalmente, a mensagem é boa. O trigo doce é ruim para você. Talvez, talvez, eles possam começar a desfazer alguns dos danos causados ​​pelo USDA.

    Filmes Dublados Online

  3. Translation:

    So Sarah brought cookies to the kids. This is just as wrong as the food pyramid. At least, local governments are trying to undo some of the damage caused by the food pyramid by banning sugary wheat. We can discuss whether they should have a role in it, But at least, finally, the message is good. Sweet wheat is bad for you. Perhaps, perhaps, they can begin to undo some of the damage caused by the USDA.