In a bid to curb obesity in Britain, a local council in Oldham is about to introduce a ‘fat tax’ against takeaway restaurants and fast food outlets. The idea is to be pioneered in Oldham, and will target fish and chip shops, kebab shops, fried chicken outlets and fast food chains such as McDonald’s.
Big chains like McDonald’s will of course be able to afford the one-off £1,000 tax, however many smaller chains already competing against much bigger chains, fighting the recession and generally cheaper food prices in supermarkets will be hamstrung. Healthy restaurants and takeaways such as smoothie bars however, shall be exempt if they can prove their menu is healthy. The government has no right or jurisdiction to interfere in such a manner.
This would be bad enough if it was merely another example of government encroaching into the free market, but it is also an affront to individual freedom. Nobody should be able to dictate what another person should or should not eat. They may advise, but they may not legislate. In principle, the agenda to promote healthy eating through culture and raising awareness is fine. There is an argument to be made for calorific and dietary information to be available to individuals before they buy the product, like on many packaged food labels or chocolate bars. However, this is a step too far, and government should not be able to meddle in the diets of its citizen in such an intrusive manner.
Oldham Councillors say this will reduce costs to the NHS, and that people should be directed away from harmful life choices. If this becomes a precedent then how and where will it mutate? Will rugby eventually be deemed to too pricey for the NHS as waiting rooms across the land are filled with injury laden schoolboys on a Wednesday afternoon? As outdoor adventurers, skateboarders and even skiers in Scotland ‘know the risks’ they face before partaking in their activities, they should therefore not expect NHS help when they need it. This is what this precedent is seeking to do. The state should not be allowed to interfere in people’s food choices like this in order to save costs to the NHS in the long run.
Many, especially those on the left, do not mind and in fact encourage state intervention in order to make our lives better. They see themselves as society’s saviours and believe it is their moral duty to tell us mere uneducated peasants how to run our lives so that we can be happier. They do this with the best intentions at heart. However, they overlook and ignore the ridiculous idea that people do not need their help and do not want their help. How dare they tell us what we should or should not ingest? It is a bold and worrying attempt to micromanage our personal food choices and perhaps worst of all it is patronising to the point of offence.
Guest post by Danny McMahon, an intern for the Freedom Association.