Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Editorials: Where I rant to the wall about politics. And sometimes the wall rants back.

Government food courts

Jerry Stratton, June 27, 2009

I twittered a while back that food stamps are a voucher program that work so well, we forget they’re even a voucher program. But imagine if we ran food stamps like we run schools or like the Democrats want to run health care.

First, there wouldn’t be any food stamps. Governments in every community would set up food courts to give away packaged foods. Anybody who wanted food could just go to the food court and get government food for free. Their taxes would be increased to pay for this free food, of course.

Proponents would argue that they aren’t taking away the option of buying private food, but in the face of competition for “free” food paid for by increased taxes, most grocery stores and private bakeries will go out of business. Because their incomes are reduced by increased taxes to pay for free food, most people won’t be able to justify paying for better food.

As private food sources go out of business, those that remain will have to increase their prices. Soon, most people will only be able to afford government food. Some people will home-grow their food, and they’ll be ridiculed for not taking part in the community. They might even be arrested for not taking care of themselves properly, where “properly” is circularly defined as eating government-approved food. Some religions will start their own food courts, because the government food courts encourage their kids to eat “non-kosher” food.

Only the wealthy will buy private food, because private food will be more expensive. There will be far fewer places to go for private food, because they have fewer customers. And because government food courts have practically unlimited budgets, most foodmakers that remain in business will concentrate on supplying the government food, not on selling to individuals.

Bakers and chefs will find it best to vie for employment in the new food courts. Cooking schools will organize themselves around government food courts. Most private food sources that remain will model themselves on the government food courts. It’s easier that way, because that's what everyone’s familiar with: customers, employees, and suppliers.

The entire market will cater, not to people eating food, but to government administrators running the food courts. And once the entire market is based on servicing government food courts, food court partisans will argue that “private food courts” are more inefficient than “government food courts”.

Whenever studies are released showing that food quality is down, food court administrators will lobby for more money to pay for new administrative programs. The government will be happy to provide it: it isn’t their money.

When people started complaining about their food choices and about the quality of their food, the government bakers and government chefs won’t care. Why should they? The government is their true customer. That’s who pays them.

If, despite all this, private food court customers still turn out healthier than government food court customers, we’ll just redefine “health” as elitist.

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