Wednesday, August 6, 2008
Over at the Becker-Posner Blog, Gary Becker (Chicago) and Judge Richard Posner debate the wisdom of government regulation of fast food, such as New York City's requirement that calories be posted on menus (prior posts here and here).
Professor Becker argues against these regulations:
Requiring restaurants to post calorie content of foods will have a negligible effect on demand for these foods because, as I argue above, consumers are buying these foods not mainly because they are ignorant of the effects on weight, but because of cheapness, convenience, and taste.... Given all the ineptitude in government regulation, as reflected for example in the regulation of Freddie Mac and Freddie Mae, and in other housing problems, I believe it is better to tolerate some mistakes by consumers in their choice of foods. Such additional regulation of fast foods will make people worse off in the long run as well as in the short run.
Judge Posner, on the other hand, defends such regulations:
The argument for the New York City ordinance thus comes down to the argument for social experimentation generally: that it will yield valuable information about the effects of public interventions designed to alter life styles. I therefore favor the ordinance, though without great optimism that it will contribute significantly to a reduction in obesity.