This article is part of a series focusing on Lens of Liberty, a project of the Vernon K. Krieble Foundation.
Paraphrasing Thomas Jefferson, a wise saying goes: “If people let the government decide what foods they eat and what medicines they take, their bodies will soon be in as sorry a state as are the souls of those who live under tyranny.”
This quote could not be more pertinent as it is to the topic Helen Krieble talks about in her Liberty Minute titled “I’ll Have S’More”:
Many of us share fond memories of roasting marshmallows around the campfire and making s’mores with the kids. Apparently we’ve been doing it wrong all these years. The US Government has now published guidelines on the right way to roast marshmallows and make s’mores. It begins with using a stick at least thirty inches in length, but it ends with substituting fruit for the chocolate to cut down on sugar. Is there any aspect of life that we’re capable of living without the government telling us how?
This particular direction came from the US Forest Service. If they looked through the lens of liberty first, they might worry more about the hundred million acres of national forest that have burned in the last fifteen years than about whether we are burning our marshmallows.
Given the obesity epidemic plaguing many parts of the Western world, it is true that it would be wise for many people to cut back on their excessive indulgence in foods high in sugar. However, the government has no place telling citizens what to eat and what not to eat as they sit around the campfire on vacation. That decision should be left up to the good judgment of the individual and, in the case of children, to their parents.
Jefferson and the other Founding Fathers would be ashamed of the federal government they created if they came back to the United States today and saw it abusing its power to the extent of even telling people what to eat. The federal government should not be dictating citizens’ diets nor instructing them what to feed to their children.
Not only is the federal government extremely out of line by attempting to decide for citizens what they may and may not eat, but decades of government intrusion into the area of nutrition may have actually been counterproductive. This is obvious by recent discoveries in the field of nutrition which invalidate the government’s previous instructions.
For example, in 1992, when the federal government first promoted the idea of a food pyramid, it encouraged people to eat breads, cereals, rice, pasta, and other carbs in the highest serving amounts. Following the government’s advice, people began eating more carbs. “And that became problematic, because the vast majority of carbs in the U.S. are refined and bad for you,” Dr. Walter Willett, chair of the department of nutrition at Harvard’s School of Public Health, points out.
Another example of the government issuing misleading or downright erroneous nutritional advice came to light in early 2015. An op-ed in The New York Times pointed out the government’s embarrassing blunder:
For two generations, Americans ate fewer eggs and other animal products because policy makers told them that fat and cholesterol were bad for their health. Now both dogmas have been debunked in quick succession.
First, last fall, experts on the committee that develops the country’s dietary guidelines acknowledged that they had ditched the low-fat diet. On Thursday, that committee’s report was released, with an even bigger change: It lifted the longstanding caps on dietary cholesterol, saying there was “no appreciable relationship” between dietary cholesterol and blood cholesterol. Americans, it seems, had needlessly been avoiding egg yolks, liver and shellfish for decades.
Therefore, not only should the federal government not have the power to intrude into such choices as to what citizens put in their s’mores, but in general, it has proven itself incompetent at giving any nutritional advice at all. As Jefferson so wisely warned us, letting the government dictate our diets allows tyranny to govern every aspect of our lives.