ART01: Junk Food Advertising and Kids

by Stewart Glass 5 May 2006
The best society understands the different roles of morality and legality. I define morality as that which is right, and legality as that which is enshrined as law. Both serve their purposes, and we should understand each.

All legalities should be moral, but not all morals should be legal. Let me give an example - we should be considerate of our neighbours, but there should not be a law that says we have to take them chicken soup when they are sick.

Legality's main goal should be to protect us from others. Morality teaches us how we should act to others.

When we start trying to make everything that is moral into that which is legal, we start trying to force people to be good.

There is a current debate about the advertising of junk food to kids. The moral law says we should eat healthful foods and exercise, with junk food an occasional occurrence. But should we legislate to make people eat healthily?

Kids are minors and are only developing decision making, so I will look to the parents. Do the parents of kids have their hands tied? Moral decisions like these should be left to people, in this case the parents on behalf of the kids. Will we legislate to control advertising of unhealthful foods to adults too?

What is the best way to a solution?
Sometimes we want to take shortcuts in life and we take knee jerk reactions.
Parents have a selection of non-legislative actions they can take to this moral issue.

Firstly, the TV could be limited. Parents can teach their kids by example and discussions about healthful foods, exercise, proper sleep etc.

The boycott is a powerful tool. Write to the worst offending shows or networks. Tell them that you and other boycott members will not be watching their shows, until they alter or remove that form of advertising to kids. Write to the junk food provider. Tell them you and the attached list of people will never visit until they stop advertising to kids.

What are the consequences of the wrong way?
When we take the shortcut, there are often invisible side effects.
Consider these:
1. Added bureaucracy in defining what is healthful or not
2. Court cases in defending the right to show an advert in a show
3. Junk food manufacturers taking alternate forms of promotion anyway
4. Taxpayers paying for added bureaucracy
5. Additional costs to manufacturers being passed onto the consumers
6. The rate of obese kids remaining the same

When we legislate things that should remain individual moral decisions, it comes from our desire to control others, even if it is well intentioned. And it doesn't work.

The separation of church and state comes from the idea of separation of the moral and the legal.

Lets leave people the right to choose poorly.