At the end of November, I wrote When stupidity crosses the line to cruelty. That piece is reprinted below for your convenience, but the logline is this: The left’s paternalism and we-know-better-than-you activism costs lives. The example cited was Mayor Bloomberg’s decision to police food donations to homeless shelters and prevent donations containing too much fat. The result, of course, was to prevent perfectly good food from reaching hungry people. As is always the case, nanny-staters like Bloomberg know best. People may starve, but at least their corpses’ triglycerides will be nice and low.
These fights occur in all sorts of areas. The classic example: Environmentalists attempting to force third-world people to remain in a virtual state of nature because the environmentalists sat down over lattes in an air-conditioned Starbucks and decided that it would be better for the Earth that way.
“What’s that you say, Mr. Third-worlder—your infant mortality rate is through the roof and your life expectancy is 45? Too bad—we environmentalists believe that you climbing out of that situation constitutes a threat to Mother Earth.”
Examples abound of these sorts of paternalist, elitist misanthropy.
Finally, after 12 years of delay caused by opponents of genetically modified (GM) foods, so-called “golden rice” with vitamin A will be grown in the Philippines. Over those 12 years, about eight million children worldwide died from vitamin A deficiency. Are anti-GM advocates not partly responsible?
Golden rice is the most prominent example in the global controversy over GM foods, which pits a technology with some risks but incredible potential against the resistance of feel-good campaigning. Three billion people depend on rice as their staple food, with 10% at risk for vitamin A deficiency, which, according to the World Health Organization, causes 250,000-500,000 children to go blind each year. Of these, half die within a year. A study from the British medical journal The Lancet estimates that, in total, vitamin A deficiency kills 668,000 children under the age of five each year.
Just like with the anthropogenic global warming racket, opponents of golden rice continually cite bad (or outright fraudulent) “science” to back up their position. And when science fails, they resort to poorly concealed racism:
Similarly, it is argued that golden rice will not be adopted, because most Asians eschew brown rice. But brown rice is substantially different in taste and spoils easily in hot climates. Moreover, many Asian dishes are already colored yellow with saffron, annatto, achiote, and turmeric. The people, not Greenpeace, should decide whether they will adopt vitamin A-rich rice for themselves and their children.
In case you missed that, allow me to elucidate the underlying sentiment:
Asians are too stupid and wedded to cultural traditions to know what is best for them. They cannot tell the difference between the brown rice they normally don’t eat and the gold-ish colored rice that is going to save their children from blindness and death.
No matter where you go or what the issue, these elitists are the experts. They know better than you.
We are also treated to another typical leftist failure of logic and policy in the golden rice debate:
Greenpeace and many others claim that GM foods merely enable big companies like Monsanto to wield near-monopoly power. But that puts the cart before the horse: The predominance of big companies partly reflects anti-GM activism, which has made the approval process so long and costly that only rich companies catering to first-world farmers can afford to see it through.
They hate capitalism and free markets so much that they use government to regulate them. In the process, they create bigger companies, more corruption, and a kind of perverse crony capitalism that they will later protest by building tent cities in front of office buildings, taking drugs, and defecating on police cars. And, of course, they will still blame it all on capitalism and freedom, insisting we need less of both.
And all so they can save children from being saved from blindness and death by golden rice.
When I was a younger man, I lived in Hollywood and worked in the entertainment industry. Nothing too exciting, mind you—I was down near the lowest rungs of the film and television caste system, but I did end up with a steady gig on a couple of shows, leading to membership in the Screen Actors Guild and regular (albeit low-paying) work.
The show I worked on for more than three seasons would often have guest directors come in for an episode. One of them wanted to say thanks to the cast and crew and so, generously, had a huge amount of tempura and sushi from a nice Japanese restaurant delivered to the set. After everyone was finished gorging themselves, there was still a huge amount left over. Styrofoam containers packed full of tempura and sushi were everywhere, their contents untouched. I asked the head of Craft Services what was going to happen to it all, and she told me that it was going to be thrown out.
Not on my watch.
I was living on an amount per year that was really small, and not just by Los Angeles standards. The prospect of perfectly good food going to waste is offensive at any time, but the prospect of it going to waste when it could, instead, be crammed into every available space in my small station wagon, driven to my tiny apartment, and then crammed into every available space in my small fridge was even more offensive. I asked if I could take it and the head of Craft (who also didn’t like the idea of wasting food) agreed. So I pulled up my car, loaded it all in, and brought it home.
Of course, while I find tempura delicious, I find sushi to be unpalatable. But I had a plan. I arrived home and filled every plastic container I could find with the tempura, and then I stuffed it into every bit of space in my freezer and refrigerator. I put more tempura into plastic bags and put those in the spaces between containers. It was enough food to eat for quite some time. I then ran back to my car, which was still filled with styrofoam boxes of sushi, and struck out to complete the second half of my plan.
In many parts of Los Angeles, you can hardly swing a cat without hitting a homeless person. I even knew a couple of those who lived near my apartment by name. (I made it a point to ask their names when walking by, since I figured very few people—other than cops or charity workers—ever ask homeless people their names.) Back in those days, I didn’t have much to give when I encountered homeless people, but this carload of sushi gave me the opportunity to provide a lot of people with a meal. It was a cool night, so the sushi was fine and perfectly edible. So I drove around for a couple of hours, finding homeless people and offering them containers of sushi. A few balked for a second or two—either at the idea of raw fish or the idea of being offered raw fish by a random dude in a Subaru—but not one refused. I saw more than one tear into the sushi within moments of taking the box, which told me that they were truly hungry.
When I got back to my neighborhood, it was after 11:00, but I was still wide awake, so I treated myself to a 99¢ pupusa from the pupuseria on my corner before retiring for the evening. It seemed like a good night to me.
I assume that sushi is probably really good for you. Probably better than the tempura, which is, after all, breaded and deep-fried. So what if I had reversed these—kept the sushi and given away the tempura? Would the less-than-wonderfully-healthful nature of the tempura turn my act of giving hungry people a meal into a bad thing?
The Bloomberg administration is now taking the term “food police” to new depths, blocking food donations to all government-run facilities that serve the city’s homeless.
In conjunction with a mayoral task force and the Health Department, the Department of Homeless Services recently started enforcing new nutritional rules for food served at city shelters. Since DHS can’t assess the nutritional content of donated food, shelters have to turn away good Samaritans.
For over a decade, Glenn Richter and his wife, Lenore, have led a team of food-delivery volunteers from Ohab Zedek, the Upper West Side Orthodox congregation. [ . . . ]
Says Rabbi Allen Schwartz of Ohav Zedek, “Jews have been eating chulent and kugel for a long time, and somehow we’ve managed to live long and healthy lives. All we want to do is to continue sharing these bounties with our neighbors.” (Read the rest.)
No such luck, Rabbi. You see, know-it-all busy-body “experts,” who were elected to public office but have appointed themselves lords and master over every aspect of human life, know better than you do. Your gift of charity may feed hungry people, but hey, it isn’t heathy food, so . . .
You know what . . . I can’t go on with commentary. The reason why this is beyond stupid, why it crosses the line to cruel (if not actually evil), should be self-evident. No one should care what Bloomberg’s intentions are here. Intentions don’t matter, only results, and the result here is more hungry people and greater burdens placed on public services (and the hard-working, overburdened people who support those services).
Instead, I will just leave you with the video below, in which similar attitudes are on display. (WARNING: THIS IS A PENN AND TELLER PROGRAM, SO IT HAS A LOT OF BAD LANGUAGE. DEFINITELY NSFW. DO NOT PLAY NEAR CHILDREN)
If you do not watch the whole thing, then at least watch the segment that begins at 20:11. Watch the hateful, arrogant paternalism on display: Sure, we could feed billions, but what kind of people would they be?
Uh, how about living people? Not-starving people?
This is the ultimate evolution of the paternalism and drive for control evident across the spectrum of the left. Free food, given by private individuals who care? No. They’d rather that you starve and leave behind a corpse that has politically correct levels of sodium.