The federal government CARES about you!

It wants to make sure you don’t get fat.

In fact, it plans to force you into thinness by denying you trans fats.

What’s that you say? You aren’t fat? You want to eat some tasty food containing trans fats every once in a while?

Ummm…no serf! You probably can’t control yourself and you will end up fat! Your nanny Uncle Sam will look out for you. He will make sure that government bureaucrats remove that temptation from the shelves!

Your uncle knows best!

Last week, the FDA announced a plan to require food makers to phase out trans fats. According to an AP report, the agency did not set a specific timeline, but will collect comments before determining just how long food producers will have to get the nasty fat out.

“We want to do it in a way that doesn’t unduly disrupt markets,” FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods Michael Taylor said.

Nice! The feds want to disrupt your life and limit your choices in the least disruptive way possible. How delightfully benevolent.

This whole affair brings to mind a famous observation by C.S. Lewis.

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.

Not only does this ban represent an absurd control-freak mentality growing daily in government circles, it also also grossly violates the Constitution. The federal government has no authority to ban trans fats.




Now, your busybody federal bureaucrat will undoubtedly smugly point his stubby finger at the commerce clause. But he has no clue what “commerce” means. Under the founding era understanding of the term, commerce simply meant trade, not every imaginable economic activity under the sun. The federal government has the authority to regulate interstate trade. A strict reading of the power does allow the federal government to ban shipping foods containing trans fats over state lines. (Although this would constitute a stretch of the intent.) But it certainly does not imply the authority to ban the manufacture of certain foods – not for any reason – justifiable or not.

The founders never contemplated the federal government exercising the power to regulate manufacturing or agriculture. James Madison outlined the extent of commerce power and the purpose of its delegation to the federal government. It was essentially meant to keep trade between states open, not give some bureaucrat the power to decide what you should and should not eat.

I always foresaw difficulties might be started in relation to the interstate commerce power. Being in the same terms with the power over foreign commerce, the same extent, if taken literally, would belong to it. Yet it is very certain it grew out of the abuse of the power of the importing states in taxing the non-importing, and was intended as a negative and preventative provision against injustice amongst the states themselves, rather than as a power to be used for the positive purposes of the General Government, in which alone, however, the remedial power could be lodged. And it will be safer to leave the power with this key to it, than to extend it all the qualities and incidental means belonging to the power over foreign commerce.

But the Constitution doesn’t matter to federal warriors. The politicians and bureaucrats will trample right over the Constitution in order to exercise the power to wage their wars. The “war on fat” rests on the same constitutional authority as the other federal wars, like the war on drugs.


One hope remains: maybe Americans care about delicious donuts enough to actually raise a fuss on this one.

Mike Maharrey

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