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Reason Foundation

Out of Control Policy Blog

Santa Clara County, CA Bans Happy Meal Toys

Adam Summers
April 29, 2010, 11:29pm

The nanny state strikes again, as Santa Clara County, CA has moved to ban restaurants from offering toys with meals deemed to be too unhealthy. Yes, there are serious problems that children must tackle as they grow up, dangers such as poor schools, bullies, talking to strangers, peer pressure to use drugs and alcohol — and Happy Meal toys.

Not to fear, the Santa Clara County government is coming to the rescue. "This ordinance prevents restaurants from preying on children's love of toys to peddle high-calorie, high-fat, high-sodium kids meals," said Ken Yeager, the county supervisor who pushed the ban. "This ordinance breaks the link between unhealthy food and prizes."

Lest you trouble yourself with daring to think that you might be able to determine whether your child should be able to get a toy with his meal, or how healthy that meal should be, don't worry, the government will do the thinking for you. Meals must meet a set of government-approved nutrition standards before restaurants will be allowed to offer toys with them. Heaven forbid parents and private business owners be allowed to think and make decisions for themselves. As McDonald's representative Harlan Levy noted before the board of supervisors, "[the ordinance] substitutes the county's judgment for the judgment of parents."

But that is okay, according to Supervisor Yeager, because this is an addiction problem: "It is unfair to parents and children to use toys to get them hooked on eating high-calorie, high-fat foods early in life." How long until the county sets up a 12-step government program for kids hooked on fast food and toys? I can see it now: "My name is Billy. I'm 10 years old, and I'm addicted to burgers, fries, and those irresistible Avatar action figures."

So nanny government Santa Clara County must step in to protect children from their own parents. Or is it the other way around? According to Supervisor Liz Kniss, who voted for the ban, "It is easy to say that we as parents should make the decision but kids can be so persuasive." The county can't seem to decide if it is protecting the kids from the parents or the parents from the kids. No matter, the government will protect everyone from everyone else and make all the decisions. Don't worry, just trust us.

Childhood obesity may be a growing problem, so to speak, but that does not mean that there must be a government solution, that the government knows better how to run your life than you do (or that it would have a right to even if it did). It seems there is no decision one can make anymore that cannot be dictated by government at some level — "for the children," you see (for "the children" are oftentimes the favorite political pawns of those who seek to expand government power at the expense of individual liberty). Soon we will not even be able to wipe our noses without asking the government for permission (with government-approved tissues from government-licensed tissue dealers, of course). The Founding Fathers must be turning in their graves.


Adam Summers is Senior Policy Analyst


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