Lifestyle Economics

The Lancet’s diet prescription is authoritarian & undemocratic

IEA responds to the latest Lancet report

Responding to calls in The Lancet for a global treaty to mandate tobacco-style regulation of food and soft drinks, Christopher Snowdon, Head of Lifestyle Economics at the Institute of Economic Affairs said:

“This is the final vindication for those us who have warned about the slippery slope of regulation. Nanny state zealots are no longer hiding their intention to use the anti-tobacco blueprint to control other areas of our lives. They are openly contemptuous of freedom of choice and make no secret of their desire to bypass democracy and use unaccountable global institutions to further their agenda.

“If such authoritarian regulations come to pass, a thriving and competitive food market which responds to consumer demand will be replaced by a “state anchored approach” in which bureaucrats and activists decide what the public is allowed to eat. The idea of taxpayers being forced to contribute to a $1 billion slush fund for them to lobby for such a future is nauseating.”

Notes to editors:

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For related IEA reseach on paternalism, click here.

The Lancet report calls on philanthropists and governments to create a $1 billion fund to pay for the “social advocacy and social lobbying of civil society” which, they say, “would greatly increase the demand for policy action”. The authors also say that “UN agencies and regional bodies (eg, European Union and Pacific Forum) should use their constitutional provisions to develop legally binding agreements such as the Framework Convention on Food Systems”. Their proposed treaty would be created by the World Health Organisation.

The report claims that $5 trillion of fossil fuel subsidies should be redirected towards sustainable food and energy. This money does not exist and the idea that governments subsidise fossil fuels to this extent is preposterous (it equates to 6.5% of global GDP). The authors seem to have misinterpreted a study by Coady et al. ( which portrays negative externalities, such as air pollution, as “subsidies”. This is not the conventional definition of a subsidy and it certainly does not represent a cash sum that can be redirected. The Lancet has misunderstood the economics.

The mission of the Institute of Economic Affairs is to improve understanding of the fundamental institutions of a free society by analysing and expounding the role of markets in solving economic and social problems and seeks to provide analysis in order to improve the public understanding of economics.

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