Monday, October 10, 2011
Restaurant Menu Issues Demonstrate My Point
Last time I reinforced the need for critical thinking by pointing out the dubious value of self-reporting surveys. Whether they be about politics or personal habits, they tend to be an inaccurate reflection of actual choices and behavior. I wonder why news agencies spend so much time on them. Here is an article that reinforces that point and goes on to give good examples of conflicts within the other four dimensions as well. It’s about healthier menu choices in restaurants.
The report begins, “while 47 percent of Americans say they'd like restaurants to offer healthier items like salads and baked potatoes, only 23 percent tend to order those foods…” Since the information comes from different surveys, we must be careful, but the general behavior, if not the specific percentages, is confirmed by sales figures presented later in the report, so again there seems to be a large discrepancy between stated preference and actual behavior.
Further along they remind us that, “the government has stepped up its oversight — and influence — over the industry that it blames for America's expanding waistline.” This blatant admission that the government does not blame people for eating the wrong foods but blames the industry leads the government to seek solutions by regulating restaurants instead of expecting personal responsibility to change behavior. When they find out this requirement of listing calories and offering more healthy choices is not working, what is their next option? How do they escalate when they don’t trust us to do the right thing? Next logical steps, as I stated in earlier articles, would be increased threats to our freedom, perhaps minor in this case, but where would it end? As this controlling philosophy remains predominant in the minds of our government, they will feel justified in regulating away all of our choices.
Later the report cites the efforts of a couple of restaurants to conform to the regulations. Omitted is the reminder that in one way or another we are paying for the additional food preparation, research and reprinting of menus; but as we are strong in economic understanding, we are aware of this. Like any other attempt to solve a behavior problem by attacking symptoms with regulations, it inevitably leads to higher costs for the public – not unlike the additional fees that came on the heels of consumer credit card protection – but it does not solve the problem. Most Americans and the government have yet to learn the main lesson of economic understanding - added costs are passed on to the consumer.
Finally, why don’t people choose the healthy menu items? Examples in the report show as reasons: peer pressure and that “[h]ealthier foods also are usually among the most expensive menu items, which can be tough for recession-weary customers…” Both relate to perspective, overly caring what other people think and not looking at the long-term effects of today’s decisions.
All this effort and regulation tries to solve a problem (unhealthy eating) brought on by behavior (a failure in discipline). This single article, read from a behavioral standpoint, reinforces my point that weaknesses in the five key dimensions are the root cause of most of our contemporary crises and therein lie the solutions, not in any outside programs or government interventions no matter how well-intentioned.