Monday, December 31, 2018

Monday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your year-end reading.

- Kenan Malik comments on the many forms of classism. And Roderick Benns examines how Ontario's basic income recipients were able to make use of their increased income security - including by spending more time with friends, with family and volunteering in their communities.

- Susan writes about the distinction between an Alberta NDP government which treats people with dignity and respect, and Jason Kenney's UCP which goes out of its way to try to strip anything of the sort from minority group members.

- David Leonhardt discusses the fundamental importance of climate change compared to every other area of public policy debate.

- Finally, Sonia Sodha writes that rather than accepting the food industry's spin on health regulations as reflecting an excessive nanny state, we should be concerned about the unhealthy diet we're pushed to eat by corporate giants:
“What about our free will?” the anti-nanny-staters will cry at the idea of forcing manufacturers to act. But we don’t see people with placards in the street protesting against the thwarting of our right to eat a slice of bread with as much salt as a packet of crisps. The beauty of food reformulation is that because it happens gradually, our palates adjust and we simply don’t notice that certain foods are 30% less salty than a decade ago.

The free-will question needs turning on its head. The dirty secret at the heart of the food industry is that the deliciously unhealthy stuff – fat, sugar, salt – is also cheap. Cram foods full of them and it’s not only consumers who love them, but shareholders. And this, together with changing eating habits, including the popularity of ready meals and eating out, has driven up the unhealthiness of our food over time. As the food that lines supermarket shelves gets fattier, saltier and more sugary, our palates are reconditioned to crave more of it. There’s no free choice about the industry reshaping our tastes to benefit its profit margins without us even realising.

That’s why it’s not just the usual suspects who are arguing for a compulsory approach, but some industry voices as well, including the British Retail Consortium. They know that unless all food manufacturers are forced to play by the rules, progress will be limited as even responsible manufacturers are held back by first-mover disadvantage.

That won’t stop the libertarians crying foul. Perhaps what motivates some of them is a belief that this is all about individual willpower, a disdain for people just too greedy to leave some of their dinner on their plate. But it’s not Christmas levels of gluttony primarily driving our obesity crisis. An irresponsible food industry has got a lot of lives to answer for.

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