Completely unconvinced that residents of Berkeley, California can make up their own minds about what snacks to buy at the grocery store, the City Council voted (unanimously!) this week to ban stores from putting candy, soft drinks, and chips in the check-out lines. These lines, which are usually stocked with so-called “impulse purchases,” in grocery stores across the country, will no longer tempt shoppers who frequent Berkeley’s Safeways and CVS stores.
“The checkout line at grocery stores has long been synonymous with kids begging mom and dad for a candy bar,” Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín said in a statement. “Impulse buying at checkout contributes to high levels of sugar consumption in American diets, and we have to provide healthy alternatives to enhance public health and get a hand on epidemic levels of diabetes.”
Really? We get that it’s not a great thing for people to be stocking their carts full of Snickers bars and Coke, but do we really need a law like this? Isn’t it enough to simply educate people on healthy food choices and then…you know, let them choose? What about grocery stores who depend on income from these impulse purchases? Shouldn’t they be allowed to conduct their businesses in the way that brings them the highest profit margins? Isn’t that what the free market is supposed to be about?
We’re not saying that businesses should just be allowed to do whatever they want, with no restrictions whatsoever, of course. But this? This is government overreach to the third degree. And since we’re sure these stores will be allowed to stock healthier food products into their check-out line, it actually smacks of the government picking winners and losers in a capitalist economy. Furthermore, since these rules only apply to the largest chain stores in Berkeley, they create an unfair marketplace.
But City Council member Kate Harrison argued (laboriously) that the rule is actually great for the economy.
“It’s not really a ban, it’s a nudge,” said Harrison. “What we have discovered is that this law enforces good behavioral economics and facilitates better choices. It’s good for business. In fact, we think they might even make money, particularly because it aligns with consumer desires.”
Here’s the thing: If there were studies showing that grocery stores could make more money by filling their check-out lines with keto snacks and apples, a law like this would be completely unnecessary. Don’t kid a kidder, Kate. This is nanny-statism run amok.