What could go wrong?
Whatever the virtues of behavioral economics—I am persuaded that they are many—its application by government officials tends inexorably to involve efforts to force people to do what is good for them.
Or better, to do what the government thinks is good for them.
Those who defended Obamacare tended, with one voice, to say that once people learned what was in their new plans they would easily forget about the fact that they could no longer keep their old plans. In fact, they would be so grateful that they would forget the lies that President Obama told to sell his signature program.
Compared with Obamacare, Michelle Obama’s efforts to combat childhood obesity are barely worth noting. Unless of course they are causing your child to be malnourished. In that case you might notice the downside of having the government force America’s schoolchildren to eat what it thinks they ought to be eating.
Mrs. Obama believes, naturally, that once the children are force-fed fruits and vegetables they will learn to like them. And of course, she believes, because everyone believes it, that fruits and vegetables are far healthier than hamburgers and ham sandwiches and pizzas.
The Daily Mail reports:
In announcing the changes to school lunches in January of 2012, Michelle Obama said that, 'Schools are finding that when they actually offer these healthier options, kids aren’t just willing to try them, they actually like them. That's the thing, that's the surprising thing.
'I've been to so many schools across the country where parents see their kids eating fresh vegetables off the vine, kids they say would never try anything, but that's the beauty of children — they change,' the First Lady said.
To be fair, these changes were not imposed by administrative fiat. They are the product of duly-passed and duly-signed legislation.
The Hill explains:
The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, supported by President Obama, requires lunch programs that receive federal dollars to provide healthier meals. The new standards began to go into effect in 2012.
The same Congress that gave us Obamacare gave us the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. Guess what, kids, this act is causing children to go hungry… because they do not want to eat the fruits and veggies that Michelle Obama wants them to eat.
Following the law, the Agriculture Department set new standards for school lunches. As a consequence, schools are dropping out of the program.
According to The Daily Mail:
The Agriculture Department set new standards for what types of foods schools can serve students that have been phased in over the last three school years in response to Obama's push for healthier school lunches, and even more changes are coming in 2014.
Already, data from the department shows that a total of 1.1 million children abandoned the National School Lunch program between the 2011 and 2013 school years after Obama went to war over what's on their trays.
And among students whose meals are not subsidized by the government, the number is even higher - totaling 1.6 million.
But, children have decided that they do not have to eat what they do not want to eat. One of the net consequences of this effort to tell children what to eat is that massive amounts of food are thrown away every day in America’s schools.
You know the old saying: people around the world are starving while Americans are throwing away food.
More and more of America’s schoolchildren are refusing to allow Michelle Obama to force them to eat what they do not want to eat. True enough, some children are obese, but why do all children have to be deprived of meat and eggs and butter because some children are eating too many carbs.
It’s nice to believe that the problem is meat and salt, but recent studies of nutrition—dutifully reported on this blog—have shown that eating meat and fatty foods does not cause people to become obese.
Besides, all children are not equal or the same. Isn’t there a difference in the nutritional needs of boys and girls? And don’t children know, viscerally, intuitively, what they need to eat to be properly nourished.
Does the government know better than an individual child what that child needs to eat for lunch?
The experience of school districts that have decided to leave the program is illuminating. For example, the superintendent of the Waterford, Wis., school district explained that “students complained about taste, portions are not big enough for athletes and dollars get wasted on fruits and vegetables that students must take but often are thrown away.”
In Township High School District 214, a suburban Chicago district that includes Arlington Heights, Ill., “[a] district spokesperson said the new school lunch guidelines are too restrictive; for example, not allowing kids to buy hard-boiled eggs or certain yogurts. School officials also have noted the new guidelines consider hummus to be too high in fat, and pretzels to be too high in salt; non-fat milk containers larger than 12 ounces could not be sold either.”
Amazingly, this program is being run according to standards that the latest and best research has shown to be wrong.