The general purpose of this site is to counter the silly hysteria perpetuated by Morgan Spurlock.
Join us as we deconstruct Spurlock's book (called Don't Eat This Book), line by factually-challenged line.
The site is mantained by me, Radley Balko, a writer, editor, and policy wonk living in the Washington, D.C. area. Read my Cato Institute bio here.
I also maintain The Agitator weblog.
As for my political philosophy, I'm a libertarian. I believe people ought to be free to make their own decisions about what they eat, what they drink, what they smoke, what they snort, whom they have sex with, how they have that sex, whether that sex is free or paid for, if they want to gamble, what they buy, what risks they take, what pleasures they indulge, and what medicine is best for them.
In short, I believe we ought to be free to live our lives as we please, so long as we don't harm anyone else.
A few inevitable FAQ's I'll try to answer right off the bat...
You work for the Cato Institute, and write for Fox News and Tech Central Station. McDonalds advertises on the latter. Why should we believe anything you say?
All of these things are true. They're also ad hominem attacks that duck actual debate. Mr. Spurlock turns to ad hominem attack in his book when he finds himself cornered on the facts. His book attacks his critics for being "corporate-sponsored," but he rarely actually addresses what his critics have to say.
Look, facts are facts. However they get published, who publishes them, or who pays the person laying them out shouldn't be relevant.
For the record, Tech Central pays me per article. I've never written anything for the TCS site related to Spurlock. Fox pays me per column. Neither is terribly lucrative.
Did McDonalds pay you to run this site, directly or otherwise?
Aren't you just a corporate shill?
I'm a shill for the free market, not for corporations. When a corporation cheats consumers or competitors to get ahead, that corporation ought to be punished. McDonalds and the food industry Spurlock criticizes aren't perfect. And I plan to point out when Spurlock is right. It's just that he isn't right all that often. And far too many people have taken him at his word.
Your full-time employer is the Cato Institute. How much money does Cato get from the food industry?
First, this site is not officially offiliated with Cato. While there are certainly similarities between the issues I cover for Cato and the issues I'll cover on this site, this site is done on my own time.
Second, this is another ad hominem attack. Who cares? Why not take an argument at face value? If the argument is weak, it will crumble on its own.
Nevertheless, in the interest of disclosure, as of 2004, six percent -- or $843,000 -- of Cato's $14.9 million budget came from corporations. Most of the rest (74%) comes from individual contributions. I don't have a breakdown of how much of the six percent specifically came from the food industry, but food-related corporate donors last year included Altria and Wal-Mart. My guess is that the food industry makes up a very small part of Cato's overall budget.
Cato also routinely takes positions directly at odds with the interests of its corporate donors. We opposed both wars in Iraq despite funding from the oil industry, for example. Cato scholars opposed the tobacco settlement and the FDA regulation of tobacco despite that Altria supported it. And we regularly rail against corporate welfare, the sops to the energy industry in congressional energy bills, and government pork that benefits business interests.
You write for Fox News. Doesn't that make you a conservative hack?
"Hack" is debatable. "Conservative" isn't. I've written Fox columns critical of the Bush administration, the drug war, the war in Iraq, the GOP Congress, and in opposition to conservatives on lots of social issues.
I'm not a conservative, I'm libertarian who studies civil liberties issues for a living. If you had to put a left-right label on me, it'd be more left than right.
I'll post more questions and answers as I get them.