Who’d have thought it?
In 2008, in order to deal with the problem of obesity, the Los Angeles city council banned the opening or expansion of “stand-alone fast-food restaurants” in low-income areas of the city, where about 700,000 people lived.
Now the results of that experiment in nanny-state tyranny are in. And according to a study by the RAND Corporation, financed by the National Institutes of Health, and published in the journal Social Science & Medicine, it has been… a total failure. Overweight and obesity rates actually increased in the area covered by the fast-food ban from 2007 to 2012 — and faster than the rest of the city or county.
Further, the consumption of fast food increased at the same rate as outside the area of the ban. And as an unintended consequence, desperately needed restaurant jobs in that area never came into being, thanks to the ban.
Libertarians aren’t surprised. We’ve watched, time after time, government attempts to control the peaceful lifestyle choices of adults crash, burn, and backfire.
- Remember in 2002, when all illegal drug use in America ended, thanks to the efforts of 32 Republican congressmen? Oh wait… that didn’t happen. But that’s what House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s “Speaker’s Task Force for a Drug-Free America” boldly promised on March 24, 1998: a “drug-free America by 2002.” Yes, they said that with a straight face. What did happen, of course, was a continuation and escalation of military-style Drug War tactics that have gutted civil liberties, encouraged drug abuse, led to the creation of ever-worse drugs, made vicious gangsters rich, spread AIDS and other diseases, and produced many other negative consequences. Rumor has it that illegal drugs can still be found in America as of 2015.
- The Bush administration’s 2001 No Child Left Behind (NCLB) program said that by 2014 every child in America was supposed to achieve grade level or higher in reading and math. Libertarian scholar Charles Murray memorably described the law: “The United States Congress, acting with large bipartisan majorities, at the urging of the President, enacted as the law of the land that all children are to be above average.” To make this happen, the federal government poured tens of billions of dollars into this (arguably unconstitutional) scheme. Of course, NCLB has been a failure, and government education remains a disaster.
- Alcohol Prohibition began on January 16, 1920. America’s most famous evangelist, Dr. Billy Sunday, boldly proclaimed: “The reign of tears is over. The slums will soon be only a memory. We will turn our prisons into factories and our jails into storehouses and corncribs. Men will walk upright now, women will smile and the children will laugh. Hell will be forever for rent.” Well, it didn’t quite work out that way.
We could go on and on. No one ever summed this up quite as succinctly as the great libertarian writer and Libertarian Party presidential candidate Harry Browne: “Libertarians understand a very simple fact of life: Government doesn’t work. It can’t deliver the mail on time, it doesn’t keep our cities safe, it doesn’t educate our children properly.”
Libertarians also know what does work: liberty. Let people be free to live in any peaceful way they choose, to exchange goods and services as they see fit, and the results will be extraordinary: a flourishing of peace, harmony, creativity, and abundance. Over and over again, history shows this. Indeed, it is the story of the progress of the human race.
That’s why I call libertarianism “the great Cause that makes all other great causes possible.” One day people will look back at the vast graveyard of failed government programs… and wonder how anyone could have ever believed that bullying and coercion could possibly work better than liberty.
Thank you for your devotion to our great Cause!