In a review of Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, David Frum gets a little crunchy and wonders why conservatives haven’t embraced health-increasing foods like those at Whole Foods. After all, he notes, conservatives have a long history of caring about public fitness and strength. Furthermore, if conservatives will defend luxury cars and $20 cigars, why not $4 half-gallons of organic milk from Whole Foods? In conclusion, the right needs to embrace policies that promote better public health and fight obesity. He lists a few regulations and taxes that might serve this purpose.
It’s interesting that he uses the example of Whole Foods. Although Whole Foods is the very symbol of white, urban, elitist progressivism, its management has strong pro-free market sympathies. John Mackey, its CEO, is a professed libertarian. For a time Whole Foods was a model corporate citizen, hiring no lobbyists. But after an FTC antitrust lawsuit in 2007, the company realized that simply in order to compete, they were going to have to lobby the federal government. As the Examiner‘s Tim Carney documented, they are now allied with other big businesses in trying to bend the government’s interference to their own advantage.
So Frum’s argument is that rich people can afford to buy healthy food like $4 bottles of Whole Foods milk, and they owe it to the poor to help them be just as healthy in their diet, using the government to coerce them. Meanwhile, Whole Foods, like other big companies, is conspiring how to use the government to prevent competition and thus is making everyone else, including the poor, poorer.
It seems like Frum has it backward: wouldn’t it be better to make the poor people richer so they too would want and could afford the $4 organic milk? And wouldn’t one way to make people richer be to attack the government handouts and regulations favorable to big businesses like Whole Foods?