- - Thursday, February 14, 2013

If there is one indisputable rule of dating, it must be this: Don’t discuss politics and religion on the first date. We all know why. These topics arouse visceral passions. Just meeting somebody produces enough anxiety. We don’t want to offend or argue outside the context of a trusted relationship, so it’s best to save those discussions for later. What’s more, with politics in Washington lurching from one crisis to another, any political arguments can get angry in a hurry.

In one sense, even sitting down to dinner and making decisions from the menu is a “political” decision. What we pick depends on and is informed by our worldviews and cultural milieus. When we decide on steak versus shrimp, everything from our upbringing to our religious views swirls in the background.

While these beliefs are often strongly held, they typically come without the partisan vitriol that characterizes national political debates. For most people, “soup or salad” is a judgment of taste every person makes for himself, not grounds for a government mandate.

For others, though, what you eat is their business: They look down their noses at what we put on our plate and criticize our food for not being “local,” “organic” or “humane” enough. If they were the chefs, a three-course meal might go like this: Uber-pricey appetizers because of so-called “fat taxes,” dressings-down for ordering steak or even chicken and a skull-and-crossbones on your “toxic” dessert.

Pretty soon, romantic dinners will be as popular as Congress and used-car salesmen.

The pre-dinner fondue comes under attack from activists who characterize foods as “good” or “bad” and want to tax the latter. Cheese and butter had too much saturated fat for the European food police, who, until recently, taxed both in Denmark. Lower-than-expected tax receipts, public outcry and poor public health results — perhaps caused by the 48 percent of Danes who responded by doing their shopping outside the country — convinced the Danish government to scrap the scheme.

For the main course: Animal-liberation activists serve repulsive name-calling as a side with steak (or chicken, cheese or fish). This is best exemplified by the Humane Society of the United States’ food-policy director, who previously led People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’ campaign comparing farming with the Holocaust. (The Humane Society isn’t your local pet shelter, despite its confusing name — it’s a vegan advocacy group like PETA that harasses farmers and tries to drive up the price of dinner.)

If star-crossed lovers dare to order dessert, activists say chocolates will send them the way of Romeo and Juliet. San Francisco endocrinologist Robert Lustig billed fructose, a component of table sugar, as poison and demanded it be regulated like booze.

That view is scientifically lacking. Carbohydrate expert Luc Tappy of the University of Lausanne found the characterization wrong, noting that “public health policies to eliminate or limit fructose in the diet should be considered premature.”

All this overheated rhetoric will cause dinner dates to descend into the same division and despair we find in Washington. That isn’t an appetizing or romantic future.

J. Justin Wilson is the senior research analyst at the Center for Consumer Freedom.

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