Gastronomical Prohibitionists: A ban on foie gras sparks a backlash against big government in California.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells his listeners that a man with a beam in his eye ought not to criticize another with a mere speck in his. The message: sort out your own crippling shortcomings before presuming to meddle in someone else’s. It’s good advice for an individual; it would be even better advice for the state of California. Good counsel, however, has a way of falling on deaf ears in the Golden State. While lawmakers have found themselves incapable of dealing with crippling budget deficits, a public-pension liability that hovers around a half-trillion dollars, and a business environment consistently ranked as the nation’s worst, they’ve decided that the state’s most pressing problem is its people—specifically, their culinary eccentricities.
On July 1, the state with the nation’s largest economy ushered in a new era of prohibition, banning the sale of foie gras, a French delicacy made out of the intentionally fattened liver of a duck or goose. As anyone who has ever patronized a Sacramento tavern while the legislature is in session knows, this is perhaps the first time in recorded history that state lawmakers regarded hepatic dysfunction as cause for alarm.
The ban was a long time coming. Like many of California’s logic-starved but passion-distended nanny state impulses, it traces its origins to the era of Arnold Schwarzenegger, who signed the bill into law in 2004. As written, the law’s apologists point out, the statute isn’t quite an outright prohibition; it simply makes illegal within state borders the sale or production of foie gras produced by force-feeding the birds—the only method that has ever brought widespread success. The nearly eight-year window between passage and implementation was intended to allow time to develop alternative methods of production. Outlawing proven business models while waiting for a superior alternative to emerge from whole cloth is what passes for cultivating entrepreneurialism in California.