Berkeley banning junk food in checkout aisles is nonsense paternalism

1 minute read


As a long-time California resident, I am very well aware of all those government red tapes. But the recent move of the city of Berkeley to ban placing junk food and beverages at checkout ailes is completely nonsense.

There are two reasons. First, this type of regulation unnecessarily constrains business owners and indirectly increases the cost to customers.

Second, and more importantly, we have the right to do whatever we want as long as we don’t interfere with other people’s freedom. Although I almost never eat junk food and I don’t think it is wise to consume a lot of junk food, I don’t care if others eat junk food because they have every right to do so, and their consumption of junk food causes me no harm at all. If somebody becomes obese or gets diabetes by eating junk food, that’s their problem, not mine. This is a good example to think about negative externality. Junk food and tabacco may be (and I believe are) bad for health. However, a crucial difference between junk food and tabacco is that while smoking causes harm to others through passive smoking, I can think of no reason why junk food would cause harm to others. Thus, while I would understand regulating the use or taxing the sale of tabacco products, I see no justification for regulating junk food.

Some people are paternalistic and believe what is bad to them is also bad to others, and thus should be regulated. They should wake up. Because we all have different preferences and beliefs, something bad for you need not be bad for others. No regulation is needed unless there is externality.