Britain's Food Police Teach Us a Lesson

It is well know that connoisseurs of human folly will find much to please their palate in modern Britain, and the Lunsford primary school in Larkfield, Kent just served up a surpassingly delectable trifle of idiocy. Ten-year-old Ryan Stupples was banned from the dining hall because his lunchbox was found, on inspection, to contain not one snack but two: cake and mini-cheese biscuits.

Such violation of governmental guidelines for healthy student snacking could not be overlooked. Quoth the headmaster, Malcolm Goddard, “We take healthy eating very seriously and everyone is aware of our new policies.” The proper response is, in the best Queen’s English, “Bugger off, you bloody git.”  

One wishes that this incident could be written off as anomalous. But it isn’t. This year, Ofcom, which regulates broadcast and telecommunications in the United Kingdom, has been debating restrictions on junk-food advertisements. At the less stringent end, it proposes to ban celebrities and television characters from promoting junk food in ads aimed at young children; more radically, Ofcom reports that a quarter of parents flat-out want all junk food ads banned.

In our own country, the city of New York is considering a ban on the use of transfats in restaurant recipes. From French fries to pie crusts, cooking is going to be overhauled. If liberals can’t win the war on drugs, they’ll settle for fighting the nefarious pushers of margarine and Crisco.

The liberal nanny state is remarkable in its propensity for making the reductio ad absurdum arguments of its opponents come true. Forget the soup Nazi; the “Seinfeld” characters should have been afraid of the French fry KGB.

We conservatives love to complain about the petty totalitarianism of liberalism, but that’s not quite fair. Some areas of life are to be progressively deregulated, even if the restrictions are merely social and not governmental. Liberals delight in rules regarding food and tobacco, but abhor the thought of taboos, let alone laws, governing sexual conduct.

Consider the proposals of Tony Blair last month, addressing teen pregnancy in Britain, “We will begin an expanded media campaign and offer better access to contraceptives, where appropriate.” The Guardian reported on the details of the plan: “The government will encourage boys to use condoms by making them more freely available through schools. … It is understood the government would tell school nurses and visiting GPs to help pupils get pregnancy tests, the morning after pill and terminations without their parents’ knowledge.”

The left has persuaded itself that licentiousness is natural and health—all the negative results, such as abortion, STDs, and increasingly transient relationships, are merely incidental nuisances that shall be overcome by better condoms, chemicals, and social services.

However, the left doesn’t approach fatty foods with the same cavalier attitude. An addendum to the old definition of a liberal is needed; formerly, a liberal was someone who thought it perfectly acceptable for an 18-year-old to have sex on stage provided she was paid minimum wage for it. But liberals today aren’t so libertine—they’re going to make sure she doesn’t smoke a cigarette or go to McDonalds afterward.

This contradiction in the liberal’s push for public health fascinates, because it allows us to see where their priorities lie, and thus to elucidate their thought. Why, when they’re so determined to get the government out of the bedroom, do they want it in the kitchen? It might be thought that they simply practice a cautious hedonism, but that doesn’t describe most liberals, as they’ve too much social conscience (otherwise known as busybody bossiness) for that.

Rather, it is that the liberal mind is thoroughly modern and secular, and therefore, its premises are suited to punish a child for having extra cake, while encouraging him to experiment sexually (so long as he uses a condom, of course). Modern man places no hope in heaven, and lacks even a sense of the continuity of generations. His existence is lacking in transcendent order (such as the Platonic philosopher or the Christian) and even in cosmological order (such as the ancient Egyptian or Babylonian); it is radically immanent. The only order and meaning for him is that which he creates. One just wishes liberals could imagine something less adolescent than a society of physically fit sex fiends.

Thus, longevity and health have a hold on men’s minds like never before, even while the inevitability of death is suppressed. Of course, the general decay of moral sentiments brought by liberalism’s degradation of religion and tradition is hardly conducive to self-control. And the preferred solution to the problems this causes is compulsion via government. The liberal project attempts to force people into a better society, whether they like it or not; it’s an attempt to create temporal order in a civilization where other forms have been lost.

The great exception to this regimentation is sexuality, because, as Malcolm Muggeridge observed, “Sex is the only mysticism materialism offers, and so to sex the pursuers of happiness address themselves with an avidity and dedication seldom, if ever, surpassed. … All possible impediments swept away; no moral taboos, no legal ones either.”  

Thus, in the liberal mind, there the politics of sexual liberation don’t conflict with those of mealtime regimentation. Personal liberty generally submits to “the greater good,” which is defined by liberals, of course.  But sex is too close to the liberal identity to be subordinated, and so even the hint of moral disapprobation, let along government regulation, is bitterly denounced.

Meanwhile, the conservative view is that children shouldn’t be engaging in the act that produces children. Rather, let them eat cake.