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For Libertarianism To Work, People Have To Know All The Things All The Time

By Amanda Marcotte
Wednesday, November 13, 2013 11:24 EDT
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Rand Paul is very worried that donuts are about to disappear:

Q: Are “they” coming to take away your donuts?

Short answer: No. Rand Paul is a liar who routinely comes up with alarming, false stories about supposed incursions on liberty in order to obtain more funding and power.

Longer answer: Paul’s hilarious “joke” about how fat FDA officials are really shows what a sleazy liar he is. The implication is that the pending ban on trans fat is some kind of attack on the god-given right to be fat, and, bizarrely, that the biggest problem with this would be the supposed hypocrisy of fat people “banning” fat people. As arguments go, it makes no sense, but the audience is clearly loving it.

But while there are definitely some government policies, such as the soda ban in New York City, that are aimed directly at reducing obesity (but not, I repeat not, actually banning you from being fat, because that’s dumb), what makes this particular rant of his triply idiotic is the ban on trans fats isn’t about obesity.  Trans fats will simply be replaced with other fats that have the equivalent caloric level, thus the bottom line on your bottom will remain the same. The problem with trans fats is that they fuck you up on a molecular level:

Why are trans fats bad for your health?

It’s not just bad, it’s doubly bad. For one thing, it increases blood levels of the “bad” cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein. High levels of LDL increase one’s risk of coronary heart disease, including angina, heart attacks and other potentially fatal problems, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

To make matters worse, researchers also believe that trans fats reduce blood levels of high-density lipoprotein, the “good” cholesterol. HDL appears to reduce heart risks by funneling blood cholesterol to the liver, where it’s broken down and removed from the body. There’s also evidence that HDL slows the buildup of dangerous plaques in the arteries, the American Heart Assn. says.

CSPI, the nonprofit advocacy group that petitioned the FDA to require labeling of trans fats way back in 1994, has declared artificial trans fats “the most harmful fat of all” on a gram-per-gram basis.

Basically, the FDA will be requiring food manufacturers to provide, for the equivalent number of calories, less damage to your actual bloodstream. This has nothing to do with how much anyone weighs, as some fat people have pretty good cholesterol levels and some skinny people have terrible cholesterol levels. Nor is this about taking away donuts or any other high calorie treat.

Rand Paul wants his audience to believe that this shows the government thinks you’re too stupid to make your own decisions, and that shows how stupid he actually thinks his audience is. No one is doing this because they think you’re stupid. On the contrary! It’s because the FDA officials realize that knowing what trans fats are and what they do to your body is specialized knowledge, and not having that knowledge doesn’t say anything about your baseline intelligence. I imagine the FDA officials who are prescribing this don’t think that they’re being accused of being “stupid” if they don’t, say, know how to fix an internal combustion engine. The notion that you’re being accused of being “stupid” if you don’t know all things at all times is a childish way to think. Or, you might say, stupid.

I think I’m a fairly intelligent person who has performed well on standardized tests and whatnot. But when I walk into a coffee shop and purchase a baked good, I have zero ability to know how much damage it’s doing to me on a molecular level just by looking at it. I can’t tell if it’s made with butter, olive oil, or a trans fat. I do not have X-ray vision or psychic powers. I am not insulted if you point this out. On the contrary, I’m grateful to live in a world where basic survival doesn’t require me to know all the things all the time. But libertarian paradise is not only one where trans fats aren’t banned, but also one where the baker is allowed to withhold that information from me. Basically, to not be “stupid” by the libertarian estimation, you really do need to have psychic powers.

Indeed, the childish/stupid insistence that the only way you’re being respected is if we pretend you know all the things all the time is the governing philosophy of libertarianism. Which, ironically, is why I have no fucking respect for them at all. It’s idiotic to ignore the fact that we live in a complex world where the things that need to be known are so numerous that no one person can hold them in their heads at all time. We divide people up and give them ownership of certain forms of knowledge and allow each other to be the authorities for it. For example, I can rattle off all sorts of shit about reproductive health off the top of my head, but I couldn’t remember what it was exactly that made trans fat so bad. So I googled it. But even that is really too big an ask if someone is trying to do something as simple as make a $2 purchase of a donut at an airport kiosk. It really is okay not to know everything about every kind of bad thing you could eat. That’s why we, as the taxpayers, hire someone to do that job for us. And then a bunch of whining children who have bizarre ideas about respect complain about it. Jesus.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
 
 
 
 
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