Friday, June 15, 2012

Give Them Broccoli

Mattthew J. Broccoli/University of South Carolina
James B. Stewart’s Times cover story about the greatly anticipated Supreme Court decision on the constitutionality of Obama’s health care plan, “How Broccoli Landed on Supreme Court Menu” (NYT, 6/13/12) cites Wickard v. Filburn, the l942 decision “which has long been a thorn in the side of those who opposed the New Deal,” and which said that “congress had the power to prevent a farmer from growing wheat.” The question is the breadth of Federal power. Stewart also cites two lawyers David B. Rivkin and Lee A. Casey who had opposed the Clinton health care plan in a l993 Wall Street Journal article. “The health care law, the two lawyers maintained, did not ban an existing activity like growing wheat, but forced people who were doing nothing to act in a certain way.” It wasn’t a stretch to move from the idea of force to broccoli. Libertarians and conservatives can be strange bedfellows, but they came together on the broccoli issue—though why appeal to the vegetarian wing, when the dreaded word “liver” could be the WMD (though this brings up a more complex issue of the politics of dietary constituencies or the dietary habits of political factions which there isn’t space enough to pursue in this post)? Actually, according to Stewart, broccoli was the idea of a Reagan appointee, Federal Judge Roger Vinson, who Stewart quotes as saying “If they decided that everybody needs to eat broccoli because broccoli is healthy, they can mandate that everybody has to buy a certain quality of broccoli each week.” But The Huffington Post recently ran a piece with the following title, “Cancer-fighting Broccoli: New Study Sheds Light on What Makes the Veggie Super." The article talks about the relationship of broccoli to epigenetics or the way in which environment affects genes and in this case the way genes can be modified as a protection against cancer. It's just one of a plethora of articles about broccoli’s benefits. If it were found out that broccoli was the equivalent of a vaccine against cancer, would requiring families to, at the very least, feed it to their children, be Brave New World?

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