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At some point we’re going to stop this delusion – why not now?

Summary:
As Charles Mackay famously pointed out we humans are prone to sweeps of delusions and madnesses among us, especially as a crowd. This is often taken merely as a warning about financial markets and investment schemes but that's to take too narrow a view. Society can be swept along on such currents in other directions too, the same human fallibility affects other fields.Such as this:Supermarkets, restaurants and takeaways will be asked to shrink thousands of products or find other ways to cut their calorie content as part of a Government crackdown on junk foods.Pizzas, ready meals, crisps and burgers are being targeted by health officials in a national plan to combat obesity.Manufacturers will be set sweeping targets in a bid to reduce the daily calorie intake of millions of consumers, and

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As Charles Mackay famously pointed out we humans are prone to sweeps of delusions and madnesses among us, especially as a crowd. This is often taken merely as a warning about financial markets and investment schemes but that's to take too narrow a view. Society can be swept along on such currents in other directions too, the same human fallibility affects other fields.

Such as this:

Supermarkets, restaurants and takeaways will be asked to shrink thousands of products or find other ways to cut their calorie content as part of a Government crackdown on junk foods.

Pizzas, ready meals, crisps and burgers are being targeted by health officials in a national plan to combat obesity.

Manufacturers will be set sweeping targets in a bid to reduce the daily calorie intake of millions of consumers, and tackle Britain’s growing weight problem.

The specific recommendations on calories have yet to be drawn up, but are likely to be modelled on existing targets agreed by manufacturers to cut sugar in cakes, biscuits and chocolate by 20 per cent by 2020.

Health officials said they will now work with the food industry to agree plans to tackle “excess calorie consumption” in a host of savoury foods - especially those regularly consumed by children.

What started out as a complaint about sugar in soft drinks morphed into sugar more generally and now they're coming after savouries.

As Chris Snowdon at the IEA has conclusively proved, as just the general records show, we do not eat more calories now than our forefathers, quite the contrary, we eat fewer. We expend fewer again, that's what is the cause of the weight gains.

At which point we've people trying to violate Hayek's maxim, by micromanaging the food supply. Yea even unto the size and composition of a slice of pizza. This never will work as there can never be enough information at that centre to enable the planning. This is before we even dream of that other thing about humans, that they will change their behaviour in the face of changed incentives. You know, have two instead of one of those smaller slices.

This is all another of Mackay's extraordinary delusions and like all madness of crowds it will come to an end. Why don't we start that end right now? Put Public Health England back in their box and stop this nonsense of trying to plan the food supply of a nation?

The Soviets never managed it however hard they tried for 70 years, it's not going to work now, is it? 

Tim Worstall

Tim Worstall is a British-born writer and Senior Fellow of the Adam Smith Institute. Worstall is a regular contributor to Forbes and the Register. He has also written for the Guardian, the New York Times, PandoDaily, the Daily Telegraph blogs, the Times, and The Wall Street Journal. In 2010 his blog was listed as one of the top 100 UK political blogs by Total Politics.

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