Monday, December 08, 2008

The Case For Self-Restraint

Oh don't you just dread the phrase "We don't want to tell people how to live their lives, but ...". You know, as sure as bean sprouts are bean sprouts, that somebody is going to tell you how to live your life before the end of the sentence. Today, it is Waltham Forest Council, who have received massive public backing for their plan to stop the opening of fast food shops within 400 metres of educational establishments (See BBC Website : Ban on takeaways 'backed by 93%). Whilst one may welcome the Council's foray into the realms of direct democracy, one has to question the logic behind such a call. According to the Council Leader - the relatively chunky gent who came out with the "we don't want to tell people how to live their lives, but" statement - the reason for the ban is that "residents simply don't have enough choice because of the amount of fast food takeaways." This is an intriguing argument which suggests that the way to provide increased choice is not to provide more options, but to limit the available ones. The reason behind the ban is, of course, to encourage people to live more healthy lifestyles and, whilst one would not want to argue against people being healthy, the logic of the argument is once again, somewhat limited in its application. Excessive consumption of alcohol causes severe health risks, therefore should we ban the sale of alcohol within 400 metres of a domestic house. Winter skiing holidays involve considerable health risks therefore should we perhaps ban travel agents selling them. Of course there is a powerful argument for limiting the availability of some things within our society - weapons, dangerous drugs, off-road SUV's - but elsewhere what is required is a teeny bit of self-restraint. We need a population of citizens who are capable of occasionally walking past a kebab shop without feeling the need to fill their faces. And that will never be achieved by hiding the kebab shop around a corner.

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