Grand Plan Fast-Food Ban Gets Panned

      75 Comments on Grand Plan Fast-Food Ban Gets Panned

Waaaaay back in 2009, I wrote a post about the Los Angeles City Council’s ban on new fast-food restaurants on the city’s south side – a poor area with a high level of obesity. Here’s part of what I wrote:

The ban hasn’t done diddly, of course — and won’t — but it did serve one important purpose: it satisfied the congenital need of politicians to do something! whenever they see a problem.

Before getting into the economic and nutritional stupidity of this ban, I’m going to risk receiving some hate mail by actually acknowledging the elephant in the room: racism. South Los Angeles is populated almost exclusively by African-Americans and Hispanics. Telling them they can’t have any more fast-food restaurants in their neighborhoods is paternalistic and insulting. It’s rooted in the notion that they can’t make smart decisions for themselves, and therefore need a government nanny to hide the cookie jar.

When I wrote that post, I hadn’t yet read Thomas Sowell’s terrific book The Vision of the Anointed, so I didn’t describe the Grand Plan Fast-Food Ban as an example of The Anointed at work. But boy howdy, that’s exactly what it was. Here’s a quick recap of how Sowell describes The Anointed imposing their vision (which I recounted in more detail in my speech Diet, Health and the Wisdom of Crowds):

1. The Anointed identify a problem in society.

Yeah, okay, there’s a high rate of obesity on the south side of Los Angeles. It’s a problem.

2. The Anointed propose a Grand Plan to fix the problem.

Let’s ban new fast-food restaurants from opening on the south side! Very grand indeed.

3. Because they are so supremely confident in their ideas, The Anointed don’t bother with proof or evidence that the Grand Plan will actually work.

As I pointed out in the 2009 post, the Rand Corporation had already produced a study showing there were more fast-food restaurants per capita on the west side of Los Angeles – a mostly-white area where obesity isn’t a problem. So that would suggest proximity to fast-food restaurants wasn’t the cause of obesity. There were zero studies demonstrating that limiting fast-food restaurants would do diddly squat. But hey, we’re talking about The Anointed here. They don’t need proof or evidence. All they need are good intentions.

4. If possible, The Anointed will impose the Grand Plan on other people (for their own good, of course).

I’d say not allowing people to open new restaurants (which would fail if they didn’t have willing customers) pretty much qualifies as imposing a plan. That’s the thing about those Grand Plans: they almost involve confiscating and spending other people’s money or limiting other people’s freedoms – or both for a truly Grand Plan.

5. The Anointed assume anyone who opposes the Grand Plan is either evil or stupid.

In this case, I’d say the City Council idjits probably view the fast-food restaurants as evil and the people who eat there as stupid – which of course means they need The Anointed to (ahem) help them by limiting their choices.

6. If the Grand Plan fails, The Anointed will never, ever, ever admit the Grand Plan was wrong.

Fail? Now why in the heck would a Grand Plan based on zero evidence and a healthy dose of economic illiteracy fail? But I predicted in 2009 that it would:

Fast-food restaurants are convenient target, but shooting at the wrong target doesn’t get the job done. Banning McDonald’s and other fast-food joints from poor neighborhoods won’t make poor people any leaner. But it will create another tribute to the economic stupidity of legislators … namely, it will deprive a lot of unskilled but work-minded teenagers of their first job opportunities, with at least the possibility of moving into management someday.

It’s been seven years since that ban was imposed. That ought to be enough time for the positive effects of limiting other people’s freedom to manifest, eh? An article from the Los Angeles Times describes the results:

Seven years ago, Los Angeles made national headlines with a novel attempt to reduce obesity in South L.A. by banning new fast-food restaurants.

A “novel” attempt. If you saw my speech, you may recall that Sowell says The Anointed are attracted to ideas that are new, bold, or exquisitely expressed. New and bold are substitutes for supported by evidence they’ll actually work.

But a new study found the effort has not achieved its intended goal.

Well, I am shocked.

A Rand Corp. report released Thursday says that from 2007 to 2012, the percentage of people who were overweight or obese increased everywhere in L.A., but the increase was significantly greater in areas covered by the fast-food ordinance, including Baldwin Hills and Leimert Park.

The study also found fast-food consumption went up in South L.A. as well as across the county during that time.

Now, the logical response would be to admit that the ban was a bad idea and stop curtailing other people’s freedoms to make their own decisions – such as the decision to open a restaurant. But we can’t expect logic from The Anointed. They never admit a Grand Plan was a bad idea. If anything, they insist that we need to do the same thing again – only bigger.

Which is why these quotes shouldn’t surprise any of us:

Councilman Bernard C. Parks, who co-wrote the zoning restriction with former Councilwoman Jan Perry, said he wasn’t surprised that the Rand report says it didn’t have any health effect. But he maintained that it was a vital first step in reducing the number of fast-food restaurants and breaking unhealthy eating habits in the region.

I see. It’s a total failure, but also a vital first step. Those next steps must be real doozies.

This is why it’s important to read books like The Vision of The Anointed. Sowell describes these people and how they think so perfectly, it’s like reading the script before you see a play. You know what’s going to happen next.

“We never believed it was going to be an overnight situation where all of a sudden the community was going to be healthy,” he said.

Riiiight.  Seven years — which I think we’d all agree is equivalent to “overnight” — wasn’t long enough. The fast-food ban will work … it will just take another 20 or 30 years to show real results.

I didn’t mention it in my speech, but Sowell explains in his book that The Anointed escape the blame for their failures because it often takes years for the failure to manifest. By contrast, if an engineer proposes a new, bold, exquisitely expressed plan to build a bridge and then the bridge falls down, he gets the blame – and nobody cares how exquisitely he defends his design. Bridge fell, your plan was bad, you’re fired. It’s the same with programming, by the way. My code either works or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t, the results are immediate and I take the blame.

Anyway …

Parks said the ordinance was meant to be part of a larger strategy that includes bringing grocery stores and farmers markets to replace fast-food restaurants, but that part has been more difficult to accomplish.

In other words, the plan didn’t go far enough.  I”m guessing if I got Mr. Parks on the phone, he’d inform me that the “larger strategy” has been undermined by people who are evil or stupid.

Like reading the script before you see a play …

Over the last several years, more research has focused on the social factors that affect health, such as where people live, how much money they make, and how close they are to places that serve healthy food. Studies evaluating the increase in obesity have found that the food that is available in a neighborhood can directly affect what people eat.

The Rand study, however, shows how hard it can be to translate that research into effective policy.


Valerie Ruelas, director of the Community Diabetes Initiatives at USC, said that what people eat is based on a complicated mix of behavior, preferences, education, location, access and other factors. She was not surprised that the L.A. policy had little effect on people’s eating habits and obesity rates, according to the Rand study.

“You’re not going to find the one pill that’s going to solve all the problems,” Ruelas said.

A pill? Of course not. A pill is a little itty-bitty thing. If you want to solve a problem in society, you need a Grand Plan. Just ask The Anointed.


75 thoughts on “Grand Plan Fast-Food Ban Gets Panned

  1. tw

    Based on some of those Jamie Oliver programs, one can only laugh at the irony of eliminating or restricting fast food when you look at what kids are fed in school.

    These school lunches (that are basically fast food) literally create the habits that they are hoping to change when the kids grow up. Hilarious.

  2. Armando


    From the looks of it, the Anointed ones do not bother doing any research of their own. For example comparing Denmark and Sweden, one imposed a fat tax and the other encouraged comsuption of a high fat diet. That is the one thing that angers me about politics, there is no accountability. They go around making plans to control people’s lives just like those countries they preach about that are a threat to our “freedoms.” Right or wrong, they still get paid and get away with it.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      That’s because unlike a business, they don’t have to succeed to get paid. They live off the earnings of people who do have to succeed to get paid.

      1. Wenchypoo

        Another part of the problem is they let the lobbyists do their thinking FOR them–and guess whose interests come first?

  3. KevinF

    That’s what the ‘hood needs, a farmer’s market! That’ll work out brilliantly! If THE PLAN didn’t work the obvious solution is MORE PLAN.

  4. michael ohro

    Hi Tom, an off topic question. What language you use and what sector of the programming industry you get jobs offers from.


    1. JillOz

      That was dumped on all of us when govts and councils signed the Lima Declaration, Rio, the Kyoto Protocol and UN Agenda 21.

      About forty years ago.

  5. Tanny O'Haley

    You touched on this type of thought with a LDL nonsense of heart attack patients. After showing almost 75 percent of them had low to normal cholesterol, they decide we need to lower cholesterol even more. Gran plan didn’t work, make it even bigger.

    Same thing happens with lowering class sizes which show no academic difference between small class sizes and large class sizes. The solution, spend more money and make the class sizes even smaller.

    We haven’t won the war on poverty after spending trillions of dollars. Solution, spend even more.

    Not allowing fast food restaurants to stop obesity. Let’s get rid of them all. Hey, didn’t some guy make a movie about eating fast food and lost weight? I wonder who that could be?

  6. Bruce

    I worked for a large multinational food company. They would do similar things, but for the most part with their own money. Every other year the corporate “thinkers” would come up with a grand plan. Usually a way to change the “culture” and thinking outside the box type stuff at the plant level. We at the plant levels would say, “Yeah, we tried that 8 years ago and it didn’t work then because of X and Y and Z. If you change a few things and do A and B and C instead, it will cost a bit more, but the plan has a chance of working” They would look at you like you had a third eye and then claim you weren’t a team player.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      So I take it their definition of “team player” was “someone who always agrees with us.”

    2. Bret

      Bruce, that sounds like a good example of the Anointed in the corporate world.

      Thomas Sowell illustrated the concept more or less exclusively on government, but really the people who run big corporate bureaucracies experience the same isolation from dissent that government officials do and thus develop the same arrogance.

      Big government and big business are happily married to each other, so this similarity should come as no surprised.

      1. Tom Naughton Post author

        The big difference being that corporations can’t confiscate your money and spend it for you or pass a law to compel behavior.

        1. Bret

          They get pretty good at influencing laws the bigger they get. Government is always the primary problem, but the corporate behemoths spreading money around Washingon and state capitols don’t walk away blameless.

          1. Tom Naughton Post author

            Well, I look at it this way: nobody bribes anyone who doesn’t have the power to rig the game. The root of the problem is government power. In fact, when 535 people have assumed the power to spend 25% of all money spent and pass any regulation they choose, corporations would be foolish not to bribe them.

  7. Wenchypoo

    Don’t these people (the Anointed Ones) know that you can get burgers, pizza, tacos and burritos, or just about any manner of junk food without having to walk in to a FF joint? Look around: warehouse store cafeterias, convenience stores, health food stores, grocery stores, even retail stores with cafeterias such as Target all sell junk food that mimics fast food.

    But then again, we had Bush Sr. tell the world he didn’t know how much a gallon of milk cost. The insulation between them and society at large is thick and sound-proof–just the way they like it.

    1. Wenchypoo

      Oh–and let’s not forget restaurants like Denny’s, IHOP, and the like…you know…supposedly “slow food.” Even high-end restaurants have some sort of low-quality FF-ish offering for the kids.

      Years ago, we stopped in at a Denny’s, and my sister’s kid ordered a PB&J off the menu–we could’ve saved money and gone home for that!

      1. Tom Naughton Post author

        People also consume more calories per meal in sit-down restaurants than in fast-food restaurants.

    2. Tom Naughton Post author

      Yup, sugar addicts get their sugar from any available source. Take away the fast-food joints, they buy sugar at 7-11. Take away 7-11, they buy at it the grocery store. Blaming the local fast-food joint is like blaming the local tavern for alcoholism.

    3. Bret

      Wenchypoo, your argument reminds me of the argument against campaign finance laws, which Cato did a podcast on relatively recently. Bear with me here:

      Just as the anti-fat Anointed channelize on fast food (and miss the multitude of other sources of junk food), the campaign finance reform Anointed zoom in on money, as if money is the only form of influence that exists in the political sphere. The Cato podcast I referred to above mentioned that Oprah’s endorsement of Obama made an enormous impact on the American public, but none of the campaign Anointed seemed eager to quantify its value and count it toward Obama’s campaign contributions. Essentially, speech and influence are ubiquitous, take countless different forms, and cannot be measured, let alone controlled.

      I see the same hopeless fallacy in this half baked fast food ban.

  8. Tom Welsh

    “I see. It’s a total failure, but also a vital first step”.

    Just the other day I was reading yet another article about the Vietnam War, which of course was UTTERLY VITAL to stop the whole of South-East Asia, followed by the rest of the world, GOING COMMUNIST. This US functionary was asked why, if that were true, the total defeat of the USA and its abrupt departure from the region was accompanied by NOT ONE other nation “going communist”. Well, he said, the Vietnam War gave us valuable time in which to build up defences elsewhere by strengthening economies, transplanting Western values, etc.

    In other words, the Vietnam War only looked like a total abject failure. In fact, through the eyes of The Anointed, it was a grand strategic success.

    Stories like that really make you want to shoot yourself. Well, shoot someone.

    1. Tom Welsh

      Seriously, I am coming to think that one of the root causes of all this nonsense is a pervasive lack of intellectual integrity. All right, honesty. Our culture – and, as a Britisher, I’m afraid I mean the American culture that is sweeping the world – values success, as measured primarily in cash and celebrity, above all else. And quick success on the vast scale that is demanded cannot normally be gained by steady honest work. It requires a clever idea, a marketing strategy, and probably selling mugs something they don’t need and can’t afford but somehow really really want. Like an iPhone. So the cultural role model we get is someone rich and famous, totally unscrupulous, a fast talker – basically, a con man.

      Meanwhile, schools and especially universities should be teaching intellectual values such as honesty. If we fool others – even fool ourselves – everything will turn to sand. There is such a thing as objective truth, and it does matter. Especially in science! Yet on every hand we are being told – or, more insidiously – shown – how honesty is one of the first things we must get rid of if we want to be on the fast track to success.

      1. Tom Naughton Post author

        I agree that universities especially should be teaching intellectual values such as honesty — and logic and reason. Unfortunately, our university system is overrun by lefties. The intellectual forefathers of modern leftism specifically rejected logic as a tool of truth and were very much in favor of the intellectual class telling others how to live. The university system here is now like an incubator for future members of The Anointed. It’s gotten to the point where American college students have to graduate and then go to work for a few years before the leftie-professor indoctrination is washed away by facts and real-world experience.

        1. JillOz

          Don’t worry, Tom, the Brits got overrun and conned by the Lefties too. UK is in a horrible state, and much of it is thanks to Lefty takeovers and Rightist apathy.

          1. Jo

            Huh? The current government is right wing, so I don’t where you get the idea that it’s moved left. Since Tony Blair, even the left wing parties are more right wing. Country is still a mess though.

      2. Bryan Harris

        “For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.”

        So hey do you want to go with me down to the Apple Store to buy a watch? I am going to use it to tell me where the bicycles are in the Target without having to look up at the signs hanging from the ceiling. Ya know, for when I go to the Target looking to buy a bicycle. 🙂

        But giggle as I might, I will guess that their watch will sell because many people will want one. You know, supply and demand.

    2. Tom Naughton Post author

      That’s another tactic employed by The Anointed as Sowell describes them: if a Grand Plan appears to have produced lousy outcomes, they’ll explain how without the Grand Plan, things would have been EVEN WORSE.

    3. JillOz

      Other countries may not have gone Communist, but when America left Vietnam millions of people were slaughtered by the Communists.

      The Anointed is not a one side only. The Anointed is an authoritarian phenomenon happens everywhere.

  9. Desmond

    The ban accomplished one thing… Increased greenhouse gas emissions while the locals drove to the other side of town (or better yet, outside the city limits to someone else’s sales tax base) to buy their Whoppers and Big Macs.

      1. John C

        Isn’t that almost always the case with government passing new laws, taxes, and other forms of restrictions? Didn’t High Fructose corn syrup come after years of tariffs on the import of sugar as a way to lower cost

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      If their rise to fame had been planned by The Anointed, we’d be asking, “Beatles? Who?”

  10. jackisback

    I live and work in Los Angeles. Last time I checked (super)markets have not been banned yet. When folks who work minimum wage jobs (some of which were now banned, as you mentioned) go to a market, you don’t make a bee-line for the veggies, grass-fed beef and salmon, because you can’t afford it! You go for the stuff you can afford: Tortillas, highly processed chicken and pork products that are way too high in Omega-6 fatty acids, etc. And guess what? Soda -possibly the mostly toxic “food” you can put in your body-” is WAY cheaper at a market than at a McDonalds. So the whole notion of “fast food” is really kind of a romantic notion by elites to vilify chain restaurants. There is really no significant difference between food sold at any fast-food restaurant and 90 percent of the food products you find at any market. Finally, I don’t care what race you are, sometimes you just want to eat whatever the *$#& you want, so if you have to stand in line a little longer at the one fast-food restaurant that was already there, because they couldn’t open another location to satisfy the customer demand, oh well. I actually consider myself a liberal, but I am completely in agreement with your political views on this issue. (If someone else already made similar points, I apologize, I have not read all the other comments yet)

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Amen, brother. The stuff I see people buy at the grocery store is no better and often worse than fast food.

    2. Jo

      You make some good points about market food. I looked up the ingredients in a Big Mac and was really surprised at how low in total fat and saturated fat. It’s virtually a health food!

      1. JillOz

        Even better if you throw away the bread and sauce and double the lettuce, onions and pickle! 🙂 Good standby snack/lunch.

        1. HxH

          I just strait up order my breakfast low carb every morning “I’ll have a sausage patty, round egg and a slice of cheese”! The food is not as good of quality as I could get at a Whole Foods but it’s darn hard making breakfast AND lunch every day for work! Fortunately they have a McD’s in my office building so I go at whatever time I get hungry (if I get hungry:-)

      2. jackisback

        I always think McD’s hamburgers resemble cardboard. It has this nasty gray color. Last time I went to McD’s in The Netherlands (where they obviously have different beef suppliers) I was shocked to find glistening brown meat. It was actually good! Don’t fear fat, Jo! The idea that saturated fat is bad for you has been completely and utterly debunked. I can’t wait till lunch so I can have a big steak and baked potato with tons of butter. 🙂

      3. Jo

        Ha, ha. I didn’t explain myself very well. I don’t fear fat at all. Love my fried breakfast. I meant, to those who believe in low fat diets (not me) that it is virtually a health food.

  11. Joe

    I’m still waiting for the reaction about these new mandated calorie labels on all products. Of course, there won’t be any admission that they didn’t work, just that the rules weren’t strong enough. Next, they will probably require larger calorie labels. Next, we might start to see strong “sin” taxes placed on fast food. Afterwards, they may require pictures of clogged arteries or morbidly obese people on food packaging. Ah, freedom.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      That is, in fact, what they’re proposing. Bigger labels and on the FRONT of the box … because apparently people just aren’t noticing the labels on the back.

      1. j

        I know it’s wrong..but I like the convenience of having the nutrition labels..
        And if youre looking to get more bang for your buck calorie-wise, youll know which items to choose from.

        ..clearly the labels dont work as intended..

        1. Tom Naughton Post author

          I read the labels and find them useful. But no, they’re clearly not serving the purpose for which they were mandated.

          1. Mark.

            Great for telling high-oleic and mid-oleic sunflower oil from the regular stuff… when they give a figure for monounsaturated fatty acids. Which they sometimes do. Actually, those labels have put me off most processed food entirely, between the carbs and polyunsaturated fats…

  12. tony

    In my opinion the main objective of this grand plan is to deny neighborhood residents job opportunities so they’ll be more dependent on government which is the anointed ones’ main objective.

  13. Nads

    Well people always say “The Government should do something!”. Ha!

    I have worked for a government health organisation on and off since 1986 and it’s like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. They just want to look like they are making change and therefore improvement. Those of us who have been there a long time can see through it.

  14. Linda

    I read every single nutrition label on anything I buy! I find these very useful in keeping to my mantra: never eat anything that won’t spoil, except honey! And I rarely eat honey because of the sugar. But…what I notice in the grocery store is that the people who read labels are generally fairly trim and look a wee bit more prosperous. The greatest majority just tossing items in their grocery carts are overweight and never once look at a nutrition label at all. They already know which junk food they’re going to buy! And…they don’t really care what the nutritional contents are.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Bingo. The labels aren’t influencing the people they were supposed to influence.

      Of course, much of what we buy has no nutrition label because it doesn’t come in a can, bag or box.

  15. Ivan P

    Hi Tom,

    Off the subject I just recently had blood work done for a naturopathic physician and found out that I have high levels of candida I wont see the doctor for another 10 days or so.
    I know you posted about gut health. What books and other information could I look up to help combat this and I will get more info from the doc later on.
    Anything that you can do to help me be pointed in the right direction will be greatly appreciated.
    Yes I do Paleo


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