When I was in college, I often wolfed down a Whopper between classes or gnawed on some Kentucky Fried Chicken while studying. Sure, it wasn't the healthiest stuff to eat. But I didn't have the time to get enough sleep, let alone prepare nice meals for myself. I didn't have the money to eat at finer restaurants. For me, it was Taco Bell or starve. Besides, I was too skinny anyway.
Now? I rarely touch fast food. All that cholesterol. Besides, I need to lose weight.
The point is I figured out for myself the best era in my life to eat fast food and the best era to avoid it. I didn't need the government or anybody else to figure it out for me.
That's why it's troubling that Councilwoman Jan Perry has decided to inject government into the decision-making progress. As reported in last week's Business Journal, she wants to ban future development of fast-food restaurants in a 32-square-mile area of southern Los Angeles. If approved, it would be the nation's biggest fast-food ban.
Her rationale is that too many fast-food restaurants exist there already, and the level of childhood obesity in her district is high.
Uh-oh. You know what that means. That means the ban is well intentioned. As we've seen, many times and in many ways, good intentions are at the root of our most disastrous public policies.
As for the rationale, we don't know that childhood obesity there or anywhere else is the direct result of eating too often at fast-food restaurants. It could well be the result of bad habits at home or genetics. It is unfair to discriminate against a class of businesses based on an assumption.
And I simply don't understand the "too many restaurants" argument. If there are too many fast-food restaurants, some will close. But since many apparently are managing to stay in business in South Los Angeles, that means customers are patronizing them. That makes it impossible that there are too many.
What's more, any ban on future development of fast-food eateries most likely will do the opposite. It eventually may result in too few restaurants to serve the demand. As with any shortage, that could well drive up prices at existing restaurants. It may push up the franchise value of the existing fast-food restaurants. Indeed, one of the biggest effects of any ban would be to enrich the owners of current fast-food restaurants in the affected area.
This is just one lonely plea. But I'd rather not have local government and its good intentions mucking up the marketplace, creating rules and bureaucracies along the way. I'd rather see local government do what government should do. Like focusing intently on the chronic traffic snarl and on the crime problem.
And leave it up to us to figure out if we want to eat a Whopper.
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Speaking of an overreaching local government, I was taken aback by City Councilwoman Janice Hahn's statement last week after the LAX Hilton Hotel sued to try and stop the city from forcing the hotel to pay the higher, so-called living wage.
She said, "I am extremely disappointed that Hilton Hotel's owners are continuing to spend money to avoid doing the right thing, which is to pay their employees a decent living wage."
That's a legitimate opinion. Here's another: I am disappointed that the city is continuing to spend taxpayers' money to do the wrong thing, which is to tell businesses what to pay their employees.
Charles Crumpley is editor of the Business Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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