Food Police Try Step Three: The Legal Rainmaker

Legislation today, litigation tomorrow,” we wrote all the way back in 2003. We (unfortunately) were right.

Although everyone seems to know at least one starving law student, we would still advise against forwarding them a job offer from Yale’s Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity. (If they follow Rudd’s policy proposals, they might still be hungry.)

Kelly Brownell’s “Twinkie tax”-happy outfit is staking out the last refuge for its cause. We got word from New Haven that Rudd is looking to find ways state attorneys general can attack modern food.

Yale’s Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity is offering paid research positions for law students during the fall and spring semesters. The project will involve researching and analyzing the authority of state attorneys general to pursue specific actions to address negative aspects of the modern food environment. Students involved in the fall may have the option of staying on into the spring to help prepare for and attend a meeting hosting the relevant state attorneys general and/or their assistant attorneys general.

The courts are next step for Brownell and friends. This is the progression of the activist playbook.

First, rile up the public with scare tactics and go to the politicians and try to get legislation on the books. That doesn’t work if you have little public support.

When legislators aren’t “smart enough” to see things their way, the food police go to the unelected regulators. These are “the experts,” with little accountability, who know what’s best for the rest of us—since we can’t possibly decide for ourselves. Those regulators may come through with outrageous government intervention for the sake of their “patients.”

But when they can’t win with regulators or in the court of public opinion, food police look for a way to move the battle into a real courtroom. With even less accountability, lawyers, judges, and various other extrajudicial bodies can determine a wide range of penalties to order to discourage one set of behaviors and encourage another. And although it might be an exercise in questionable value creation it can sometimes work.

The Rudd Center says, “Brown bag lunches welcome,” but we would suggest you proceed with caution, lest you bring something that you might enjoy eating. It wouldn’t surprise us if it were the first litmus test for getting the job.

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