Nanny State Clamps Down on Salt

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New Yorkers loved the nanny-state aspirations of Michael Bloomberg so much, they went and elected a Democrat mayor who also believes the government should tell people what to eat. So they should surely be cheering the decision of an appeals court this week that says NYC can begin fining restaurants that don’t properly label salty foods.

Mayor Bill de Blasio praised the decision and the “common-sense regulation that will help New Yorkers make better decisions and lead healthier lives.”

The regulation, which compels restaurants to put a little salt shaker icon next to menu items that contain more than 2,300 mgs of sodium, was passed in December. It has been mired in the courts since then, however, as the National Restaurant Association fights the rule.

“Today’s decision will force the men and women that own New York City’s restaurants to start complying with this unlawful and unprecedented sodium mandate before the court has the chance to rule on the merits of our appeal,” said the group after the decision.

In light of the ruling, NYC officials can begin levying fines of up to $600 against restaurants found to be violating the regulation.

The salt warning is hardly as cumbersome as Bloomberg’s proposal to ban 2-liter sodas, but it’s all part of the same philosophy. Americans are too stupid to figure out the complexities of eating healthy, so the government must guide this poor, ignorant flock back to pristine pastures.

The thing is, anyone even slightly concerned about their diet is not going to be scarfing down meals with a day’s worth of salt in them to begin with. And anyone who doesn’t care won’t be made to care by a picture of a salt-shaker.

Even if the regulations would make a difference, it wouldn’t justify them.

Religious freedom laws compel the government to meet a high standard when curtailing a person’s rights. We should consider adopting that standard for every action of the government. If regulators want to step in, they should be forced to prove their case. As it stands, zealous regulators act on hunches, theories, and an overwhelming desire to fill the public coffers with private profit. And every time they act, our freedoms are diminished.

Does the government have an interest in protecting the public health? Of course. That’s what awareness programs are for. That’s what research is for.

But there’s a world of difference between telling your citizens what they should do and telling them what they must do. In a free country, we should save the latter for only the most serious of circumstances.

Pass the salt.