Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Let Them Eat Sprouts

L.A.'s ban on new fast food restaurants in heavily black and Latino parts of the city, if it isn't a new form of racial discrimination worthy of legal retaliation, certainly looks patronizing, insulting and elitist. And it's a municipal fad some other cities are almost sure to follow, given how bad ideas sweep across the country's urban landscape like viruses. Trying to get the people in south L.A. to eat better by limiting their access to restaurant chains that city officials, through these actions, essentially brand public health threats, takes nanny state thinking into dangerous new territory. And this comes down in the same week that California became the first state to ban trans fat in restaurant food, ensuring that the Golden State remains a national leader in opening new regulatory frontiers.

This wouldn't matter much, really, if all the craziness was confined to California. But many other states continue to look to California as a trendsetter in governing as well as fashion fads -- which is mystifying, since the state is a basket case. And California is leveraging its huge market clout as a high-population state to force it's choices on non-Californians.

Since it's impractical and costly for national food chains, like national automobile manufacturers, to customize a subset of their products to meet California's unique demands, whether on trans fats or fuel economy standards, many national companies may be forced to overhaul their entire product line in response to the diktats of just one heavily-populated state. As a result, California's automobile fuel economy standards, and the additional costs associated with meeting them, could become North Carolina's fuel economy standards, whether North Carolinians want this or not. It's a classic case of the tail wagging the dog.

And that's why the rest of Americans can't afford to just sit back, shake their heads, and laugh at the latest antics of those crazy Californians.

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