School Lunches and Government Coercion

Most people will say that they do not believe the government has any right to coerce citizens to do whatever the government wants. Most people will say that, but only conservatives truly believe it. Liberals, while putting on an air of disgust for fascism, seek to use the government to get people to behave in ways inoffensive to liberal sensibilities.

Today’s example comes courtesy of the public-school system of Fairfax County, VA, which happens to be the next county over from where I live. There’s the following from the school system’s website:

“Elementary school students who purchase lunch may select three, four, or all five of the stars and will be required to select a serving of fruit or vegetables as part of their lunch.”

What irks me is not that the school is choosing which foods are healthy enough to serve, but the additional nugget that if a student buys at minimum a three-star meal, his lunch is discounted. If he buys a two- or one-star meal, he has to pay a higher price per item. The discount is an incentive for the student, absent a responsible parent or guardian to make the choice for him, to eat healthier. You have the choice to disobey the government, but there is a punishment for doing so.

There has been created by the government such a stigma against overweight people and such a high regard for the physically fit that this school deems it good and proper to “correct” people’s behavior by rewarding them for making the government-approved choice and withholding the reward if they make a different choice.

It reminds me of a debate that has been waged for a while now regarding food stamps. Should the use of food stamps only be permitted for healthier items? Or let’s say, should sodas and other sugary drinks, sugary foods, be prohibited from purchase with food stamps? The argument in favor of such prohibition is that food stamps are taxpayer dollars and should be used only as a safety net, not as a means to stock a block party.

The argument against such prohibition is. . . .  Well, I haven’t heard one yet, but I have one: If a food-stamp card has, for instance, $350 on it per month and someone wants to use that card to buy $300 worth of lobster and crab legs and another $50 worth of wine, let him. He’ll have a happy few days at taxpayers’ expense, and then for the remainder 25 days of the month he’ll have to take a lesson from a homeless man on dumpster-diving. I say let it be his choice how to spend that $350 allotted to him. He’ll suffer the consequences of his own choice, not of the government’s.

I just don’t like it when government acts as a puppet master of sorts, pulling this string here to make us do this, pulling that string there to make us do that. That is not the purpose of government. This school-lunch program in Fairfax County is a relatively minor offense, but it further opens the door for the government to use coercive powers to get compliance from its citizenry.