Sugar, government and democracy II: they really are mad, aren’t they

Things are apparently going so well in the West that our biggest problem is people having too much pudding.

That’s why British health minister Jeremy Hunt declared a “Government war on puddings”. Let your common sense appreciate this.

Marvel at the archetypically governmental combination of right problem and wrong “solution”.

Beyond being retarded (or rather retarding, since it treats adults as children) and paternalistic to no end, the proposed policy of “naming and shaming” restaurants that offer generous desserts reveals an amusing ignorance of human nature and commercial logic.

What Mr. Hunt calls “Naming and shaming” sounds like free advertising to me. Imagine the damage wrought by the statement: “This place has huge delicious desserts! NOBODY COME HERE, we repeat, NOBODY COME HERE!”

It’s like being “named and shamed” by a school principal: “Watch out girls, this guy kisses really well!”. What do you think would happen?

(Something that didn’t happen anywhere near enough during my own teens, that’s for sure.)

And it is indeed a school-principal’s, dreaded aunt’s and ill-tempered chaperone’s attitude to governance. Except citizens aren’t children, which our dessert-spoon despots seem to be missing.

I would have understood it coming from the Blairite Brave-new-worldists, whose whole model of governance was this sort of neo-feudalist social engineering. But a Tory minister?

Were I to speak from the Jungian “natural mind”: There’s a rather alarming prospect that the childless Mrs. May may try to displace her maternal urges upon an unsuspecting nation.

The disconcerting truth is that all parties and strains of politics are now brave-new-worldist and propel us to cotton-candy serfdom at varying rates and by slightly different routes, superficially tailored and flavored to the tastes of major demographics – but there’s no real choice of destination, barring swellings of popular outrage throwing crude but effective rocks on the rails.

And really, is this the kind of thing you want the government to focus on?

Never mind Chinese infiltration and their upcoming control of a nuclear power plant in Britain, not to mention their antics in the South China Sea and global campaign of industrial espionage and cyberterrorism, never mind a resurgent imperialist Russia carving chunks out of sovereign European countries, never mind central London basically being one big dysfunctional hive of Qatari organized criminals displacing all semblance of normal city life, never mind the (by no means unrelated) organized efforts to inject jihadism into schools*, never mind the massive legal and administrative headache of Brexit. Never mind the profound problems of the NHS within Mr. Hunt’s own ministry.

*Like the communists before them, the smarter terrorists realized far more damage can be done through a subversive long march through institutions than blowing things up – coincidentally, the mentality that led to the pudding war is precisely the result of the communists’ long march. This is seriously funny in an “I should move to Mars” kind of way.

Never mind all that. Britain’s, and its Health Minister’s most pressing problem is a fat kid who was failed by his parents and never taught to stop eating when full.

Tragic, I’m sure, but addressing it with society-wide coercive proscription is emphatically not the proper place of a democratic government.

Look, I can get behind official recommendations once we have a reasonably complete and objective science of nutrition. But we don’t, and even if we did, it would still not justify coercion.

Just remember how many times in your lifetime the official line on what to eat or not to eat have changed (usually based on agricultural shortages and surpluses, or shrewd lobbying). Imagine the mayhem if each such fad was actually legislated.

And the standards of harmfulness are becoming progressively looser and more arbitrary. The sugar campaign is based on the successful precedent of tobacco, and already we are down to something much less dangerous. It absolutely is a slippery slope. Politicians won’t stop just because they will have ran out of objectively harmful things. The chance to change the whole power dynamic of the social contract and infantilize citizens is too tempting to pass up.

This time it’s sugar, but there will be a next time, and a time after that, and then more.

Next time it might be the maximum alcohol content in drinks, how much fat your milk can have, how much time a day you’re allowed to spend on your phone, how much coffee one should drink (there are already attempts), what kind of book is permissible to read, what’s an appropriate level of income for any one person…

Think those are exaggerations? Ten years ago, the notion that the government will regulate dessert sizes would have sounded just as or more ridiculous than any of these examples.

We are now at a point where any sort of government intervention in private consumption is on a continuum we are already moving along, rather than a binary step-change that would trigger justified outrage.

Salami slicing, of course. Boiling frog gradualism.

Still have doubts? How are your lightbulbs, then? Enjoying the insomnia-inducing blue pallor of EU-normalized mercurial light? It’s to save the planet, of course.

Or the bio-diesel in your car, which has been proven time and again, including by the United Nations, to be worse for the environment than the normal sort, but better for the recipients of billions of euros in subsidies?

Should I go on, or is the point clear yet?

All of those things are legitimate targets for optimization, but by yourself, not any central government that thought Animal Farm and Brave New World were instruction manuals.

If Kant defined The Enlightenment as mankind’s ascent from a self-imposed infantility, nannying of this caliber is deepest collective regression.

I understand why somebody would want to do that (people regress all the time, because it’s the direction of entropy), and I understand why somebody would like others to do that to gain power over them, but bugger off you buggered buggers and leave us functioning adults alone.

The threat of “all for your own good” despotism looms over humanity like a pederastic Victorian schoolmaster.

The only development of the totalitarian instinct in the last hundred years has been the sublimation of “I want to control you” into “You need me to control you”.

As with many problems favored by the social engineers, dirigists and assorted socialists of the world, I agree with their choice of questions while disagreeing in the most profound possible terms on the answers. Their proposed “solutions” make things worse and oppress the human spirit.

Like a counterproductively “helpful” parent doing their kids’ homework or tying their shoes for them, it helps in the short term with the immediate problem at the price of making things much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, worse in the long run.

It causes more of the problems it nominally claims to solve, as more parents opt out of parenting, considering it now another outsourced service provided by the central government.

Yes, obesity is a problem. But government intervention is nowhere near the correct place to solve problems clearly rooted in individual software. The only correct solution is to patch people’s software.

Wisdomination.com, of course, is about exactly this.

The only correct answer is individual enlightenment and personal discipline.

Helicopter government is the opposite.

Well, if you want all of society to look like the worst traits of millenials x 1000, go right ahead and pass a law limiting the permitted square inchage of tiramisu.

Just give me enough advance notice so I can start a country for normal people somewhere else, like Mars.

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Elon Musk said a ticket to Mars would eventually cost in the vicinity of 200.000 dollars. If you like what you read, consider chipping in. If you don’t, sending me to Mars sounds like a good solution and chip in, anyway.

  • ppeeppeekk

    Hey Z! Good article, but no hand-drawn picture this time? Where is the dicipline?

    • Zbyněk Dráb

      26 dollars short of the monthly Patreon target for guaranteed hand-drawn picture ;)

      In the meantime, there is crude vector art. Do not cry, you have brought it upon yourselves.

      You know what, ok, I will draw something and pop it here :-)

      • ppeeppeekk

        :) chop chop, $17 to go…