Trans Fats and Capitalistic Acts Between Consenting Adults
By: Barry Belmont

Hiding behind the ploy of safety, the allure of health, and the spectacle of benevolence, the state of California has banned the use of trans fats by restaurants. Like the smoking bans that have preceded this piece of legislature, it is the State telling the market what it should do because of interests beyond the market, namely the benefit of the people protected under the law. The main problem with this idea is that it considers people to be outside of the market. This is only true for people who are outside of the market. (If this seems like a minor point, bare with me)

If I wish to trade you my pen for your tie, we are part of a market. Not the capital M Market, but a market all the same. I trade you my pen because I value your tie as greater than my pen, and you value my pen as greater than your tie and are willing to part with it. Now say instead I pay you five dollars for your tie and you pay me three dollars for my pen…now they do not have the same value, but they have values that we both agree to and are willing to trade for. In this case, I trade you five pieces of paper for your tie and you give me three pieces of paper for my pen.

Now suppose somebody else does not wish for this transaction to occur. Do they have a right to prevent it? No. Even if this person uses the argument that I will regret my trade later, it will hurt me, I will be sad, it is not in my best interest, they have no right to actually prevent this trade. This person’s critiques may be valid: I may in fact regret it later (maybe your tie is lame and my pen is awesome). This, however, is no reason to prevent two consenting adults from voluntarily trading. Thus, the person unaffected by our market is the one who is not part of the trade. They can be said to be outside of the market.

Since a person unaffected by a voluntary trade has no right to prevent this voluntary trade, whence comes this power to prevent it?

As a concrete example, say you have never been to a bowling alley. You’ve never bowled, but hey, maybe you think you wouldn’t like it anyway and you decide never to go to one. Perfectly fine. It is your right to go to a bowling alley and conversely it is also your right not to go to a bowling alley. The problem arises when you say that other people are not allowed to go to bowling alleys. Even if bowling alleys are immoral, disgusting, wrong, and the people who go to them are awful scum of the earth (which I, personally, do not believe), you have no right to prevent people from going to bowling alleys, by means of force. If you want to make a website that tells of the evils of bowling alleys or talk to the owners about what you feel is wrong with this cesspool they’re running (and they are willing to listen), then that too is perfectly fine. So long as you do not agress against the rights of others, then you are free to do as you wish.

Or at least that’s the way it should be.

It should be that way because if bowling alleys were bad and people did not like them, people would not go to them, they would lose money, go out of business, and no longer be around to bug anyone (how many encyclopedia salesmen have you seen recently?). The market course corrects to punish those enterprises that consumers do not like and rewards those that consumers do like. You don’t need laws to tell people what to do: you need people and freedom.

If people do not like trans fats then it would be in the interest of restaurants to not serve trans fats. Given the same tasting food, for the same price, but one is more healthy, people would be more inclined to buy the healthy product. Hence, the companies that sell the healthy stuff will gain more market share, while those that sell crap (at the same price) are likely to go under. You do not need the State for this: you need people and a free market.

And this exactly what we have seen. Many restaurants were well on their way to phasing out trans fats. And that’s great, but…

It doesn’t matter if restaurants were getting rid of them by themselves…
It doesn’t matter if the state had nothing but the best of intentions…
It doesn’t matter if trans fats are dangerous…
It doesn’t matter even matter if the majority, say even a vast majority of citizens were in favor of this law…


It would be too easy to blame California’s government or its voting citizens or all of its citizens… Yes, they should be ashamed of themselves. But so should we. We as thinking, loving, caring people; as people capable of speaking out; we simply as people, should be ashamed of what has been carried out in our name, in our health, and in our face. Though there may be nothing we can do about this law now (indeed, there is nothing we can do), we must not give in to evil, but strive ever more boldly against it. A perfect society may never come about, will never come about, but as Sisyphus struggled more defiantly against the gods in pushing his boulder to the peak of the mountain, we too must–in the face of those who would break us through petty vanity or oblivious banality–try to push our boulder, our society to its height.

And it all begins with one little push.

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