Once Again, Elites Think They Know Best
Watch out, Mr. and Mrs. America: Spanish celebrity chef José Andrés and the New York Times are worried about what you have been eating, and they intend to make you change your evil ways. Luckily for you, however, Andrés is yet one more ignorant European, utterly clueless about American politics and values, so his efforts will prove futile and helpless.
According to the NYT, Andrés "wonders why the most powerful country in the world won't spend money to help the poor eat better." And he's made common cause with Michelle Obama to force Americans to start doing just that. If you hear the same patronizing tone in Andrés' words that is used by other Europeans, like Bono, when they want to lead Americans down some garden path or other, you're not alone.
You remember Ms. Obama, of course. She's the nice lady I wrote about a couple of years ago on these pages, when she was lecturing you about eating too much mac & cheese at the same time as she was publishing recipes for super-high-fat versions of the dish in national newspapers. Meanwhile, her best beloved was helping Domino's Pizza to lacquer on even more mozzerella on its already-bloated pies.
It's really quite breathtaking how little, despite their self-proclaimed erudition, most Europeans know about American politics and society -- and I'm not even talking about Andrés' obvious obliviousness of Ms. Obama's bona fides.
I'm talking about the basic facts of American history. If you know the first thing about the U.S. Constitution, for example, then you know that you can't work on changing American eating habits by talking to the president's wife. The Constitution doesn't give the federal government, much less the president, much less his wife, the power to decide what Americans can eat. If you want to address a topic like that in a meaningful way, you need to be talking to governors and state legislatures.
But doing that, of course, means a lot of hard work. It's so much more glamorous and easy to have tea with the First Lady and then get a presidential edict telling Americans to stop eating cheeseburgers (you know, like the kind President Obama took Dmitri Medvedev out for when he was in town a few years ago) and start helping their fellow citizens eat for free. That is, to be sure, the way they would do it in Spain.
One imagines that Chef Andrés is just as confused about how the mass-murderer Francisco Franco was able to seize and wield unchecked dictatorial power in Spain for four horrifying decades as he is about American dietary spending programs. Equally mysterious to him is undoubtedly the dire present condition of the Spanish economy (for which reason he has taken up residence in the USA).
But for an American, there's no confusion at all on that topic. Spain experienced genocidal totalitarian dictatorship (like its brother nations Germany, Italy, Russia, and so on) because Spain did not have a system of checks and balances to stop the rise of such power. When Americans like Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson sought to impose that kind of dictatorship, their efforts were blunted and ultimately stymied by the American political system known as federalism.
That same system demands capitalism rather than socialism, which is why America has become the most powerful nation on earth while Spain has continued to wallow in the world's economic backwaters, repeatedly teetering on the brink of bankruptcy.
Chef Andrés doesn't understand this, because he's spent too much time with his nose buried in cookbooks (and maybe the pages of the New York Times) and not nearly enough reading American history.
In fact, Chef Andrés appears to be profoundly confused about a great many things. He tells the NYT: "Books, for me, this is a way of learning." He announces this revelation as if he had just split the atom, or maybe as if he thinks Americans don't really know what books are. Then he begins quoting Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin and asserting (you think I'm kidding, but I'm not) that the Frenchman gone nearly two centuries has written cookbooks that reveal the meaning of life.
One has to wonder, actually, whether Chef Andrés and the New York Times even have American success as their paramount concern. In fact, I couldn't help but hear the same echo in the Times piece about Andrés that I heard in left-wing wacko Mark Bittman's tirade against McDonald's for the Gray Lady, which I wrote about last year. I had no doubt then, and have none now, that if Mickey D's had heeded Bittman's business advice then, they'd be bankrupt now.
There's no doubt that many Americans would benefit from a healthier diet, and the national economy would benefit from the lower health care expenditures that would follow. But it's time for self-proclaimed smart guys like Chef Andrés to pause, at least for a second, and to ask whether federal laws mandating a certain kind of eating are really good for Americans. Such a precedent would undermine American freedom and innovation, and make us more like a Europe that we now see collapsing into rubble.
That is, unless Chef Andrés has already considered that and actually just wants America to stop being so darned different and so darned successful. If that's the case, it's time for him to go back where he came from. Assuming it's still there, of course.