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Wednesday, March 01, 2006 


"Some people are worried about the difference between right and wrong. I'm worried about the difference between wrong and fun."

P.J. O'Rourke, Holidays in Hell
In honor of (or maybe in spite of) the first day of Lent, here is an article in Reason called "Curb Your Enthusiasms". Writer Radley Balko examines desires by both the right and the left to legislate vices. Righty Ben Shapiro and lefty Morgan Spurlock have a common enemy:Apparently, the duo of a scantily clad Paris Hilton and a 1,420-calorie double-patty burger, topped with four strips of bacon, three slices of cheese, mayonnaise, and a buttered roll constitute major threats to the republic. I'm more than a little skeptical.

Why the outrage? Let's look at Spurlock first.
For Spurlock, the problem with CKE isn't the sex it uses to sell its product (although he loathes advertising in general); it's the product itself. As we're all hunkering down to battle obesity, he asks, how could a corporation be so irresponsible as to offer something so indulgent in the first place?
I'm guessing that they're selling it because people want to buy it. That's just a guess though. My memories of Econ are hazy.
The Monster Thickburger, he notes, was introduced the same week the British Parliament proposed a ban on advertising junk food before 9 p.m. Asks Spurlock: "Can you see the difference in our priorities and ideals here?"
I do see a difference. I see the Brits allowing their government to restrict speech in an asinine, useless way. I don't need the government looking out for my dining habits. I'm a big boy.

What's got Shapiro in a huff?
Shapiro lambastes the Thickburger commercials as well, along with the entire intersection of sex and advertising, and concludes, "At a certain point, it's difficult to morally differentiate between paying for sex on the street and buying a pair of jeans."
Yeah right, the last time I bought a pair of jeans at Old Navy I got flashbacks to when I was in a brothel in Reno, Nevada. Other than the facts that they both involve the removal of pants and the exchange of money, the two aren't seriously comparable. It's probably the most slippery of all slippery slope arguments.

If Spurlock wants to live in a sprout-filled, tofu-based, Outpost land, he can do that. He can buy all of the organic food that he wants. If Shapiro wants to live in a sexless, ankle-length skirt, Ned Flanders world, he can do that. He can choose what TV channels to watch, what books to read, and what websites to visit. However, they don't stop there. Balko writes...
There's nothing inherently wrong with advocating personal restraint or self-denial, be it in food or in flesh. The problem with Shapiro and Spurlock is that neither stops at mere advocacy. Completing Cohen'’s pattern, both call for government intervention. Neither is satisfied simply to urge better choices. Both seem genuinely perturbed that “bad" choices are available in the first place, and they are ready to use laws to take them away.
Spurlock and Shapiro are free to persuade others to follow their lifestyles. They are not free to get the government to legislate those choices for the rest of us.
[Spurlock] then heaps praise on Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), a politician he says "gets it." "Getting it" apparently means sponsoring, as Harkin has, a panoply of legislation aimed at authorizing more government oversight of the food industry, including mandatory nutrition labeling on restaurant labels, Federal Trade Commission restrictions on all advertising to minors, and Medicare coverage for diet counseling.
Personally, I don't want Tom Harkin sticking his nose further into the food industry, increasing restrictions on advertising (First Amendment issues maybe?), or giving more power to the federal government.
Shapiro is blunter. He writes, "We must press government to use the force of the law against pornography, obscenity, and indecency across the board... from TV to radio to the Internet, from music to movies." He also endorses the drive to let the FCC censor cable and satellite television, including pay channels such as HBO and Showtime.
I'm no fan of the FCC. Censoring channels like HBO just infuriates me. Even if you buy into letting the FCC enforce standards on broadcast TV, why should they have anything to say about premium channels? They aren't invading your home. You choose to pay extra for those. If I want to fork over some extra money every month to see The Sopranos, that's my business.

Balko closes...
The debate over vice is often framed as a conflict between the rights of individuals and the collective good.
The real debate is usually between the right of individuals to live their lives as they please and the desires of others to control them.
Now if you'll excuse me, all this typing has made me hungry for a huge burger and a promiscuous heiress.

While Paris is attractive in a dumb blonde do me sort of way, I haven't wanted a burger that big in years. That being said, I agree. Enough with the B.S. legislation of our lives. Why have people become such wimps that they look to government to run their lives into the ground?

I want one of those burgers right now. I do find it hard to believe that Paris herself has ever eaten one though.

That photo is the closest she's gotten I'll bet. Not quite up to her standards.

I'm pretty sure that eating one of those would raise her BMI by 5 points.

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About me

  • I'm Steve
  • From Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States
  • "There is only one basic human right, the right to do as you damn well please. And with it comes the only basic human duty, the duty to take the consequences." P.J. O'Rourke
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