Populist Authoritarianism is Surprisingly Bland

Salt.  A few days ago, we learned that the Food and Drug Administration plans to force food manufacturers to reduce the amount of salt in processed foods consumed by Americans.  The change would happen gradually and, according to an April 20 piece in the Washington Post, would be rooted in a desire to “adjust the American palate to a less salty diet” through forced government intervention.

It’s yet another shining example of populist authoritarianism from this administration and the American federal government.  My goodness, it’s what they do best.

Not familiar with the concept of populist authoritarianism?  Here’s a step-by-step guide:

  • Step One: Create a new “crisis” or simply exaggerate an existing problem.
  • Step Two: Through a combination of the biased mainstream press, left-leaning teachers and administrators, and a good helping of revisionist history, explode the newly minted “crisis” into a full-blown panic.
  • Step Three: Reassure the worried public that, with an appropriate amount of social and societal change, the impending disaster made to seem so imminent from Step Two can be avoided.
  • Step Four: Because the “crisis” was fabricated anyway, explain to the public that social and societal change has not been enough, and the only way to avoid disaster is to relinquish freedom and permit excessive government intervention.

Sound familiar?  It should.  Like those Mad Lib things we used to fill out on long car trips before the days of iPhones, satellite radios and portable DVD players, take a moment and consider some of the issues of the day in the light of populist authoritarianism.

Consider the so-called danger of man-made global warming.  First, the purported “crisis” was created by the careful manipulation and concealment of data, underscored by a deep desire to find a more popular vehicle for the global redistribution of wealth.  Then, with the help of a compliant media, that so-called “crisis” was masterfully instilled in the conscience of millions and millions of Americans as the Gore’s honest truth despite climate models which fail to predict the known past and tawdry emails showing destroyed raw data and so much, much more.  Meanwhile, every other week, it seemed that another world leader or B-list celebrity was peppering the public with dire warnings of the oceans dying or deserts drying or polar bears drowning by a certain date now long past.  Finally, the government declared that voluntary conservation and other measures were not enough, and is looking to interject itself further into American lives and businesses through cap-and-trade legislation.

Or, consider this new financial reform.  First, an already documented financial downturn is augmented by a perfectly timed securities fraud lawsuit against Goldman Sachs.  Next, because the Democrats don’t want to bring up the immensely unpopular health care reform law and because it’s getting too late to run against George W. Bush, the mainstream media is setting up Wall Street to take the fall as the villain du jour for the 2010 midterm elections.  Then, because the $787 billion “stimulus” package wasn’t good enough, we finally have the government looking to expand the powers of the Executive Branch to include the ability to hijack businesses deemed a “systemic risk to our economy” and “too big to fail.”

It’s populist authoritarianism, and in no issue is it more apparent than with regard to health care reform.

First, pick your crisis.  Maybe it’ll be the uninsured, with the end result being an unconstitutional individual mandate.  Maybe it’ll be the lack of coverage of pre-existing conditions, with the end result being skyrocketing insurance premiums as a consequence of government interference preventing insurers from being able to assess risk and price accordingly.  Or maybe your crisis is obesity.  Yeah, obesity.

America is fat.  No doubt about it; I carry around a few extra pounds myself.  But follow the steps of populist authoritarianism, and you’ll see that the end result will be a government that has interjected itself into every aspect of your daily lives.

Take salt for example.  Citing diets high in sodium as the cause of obesity, heart disease, hypertension and more, the mainstream press will exaggerate the already exaggerated “crisis” of obesity to the point where, if we don’t do something about it, we’ll die early and our health care costs will increase exponentially.  Through mandatory health classes and shows like The Biggest Loser and forced changes in vending machines and taxes on soda and bans on trans fats and mandated labeling, the hope is that social and societal change will be enough to turn the tide.  But it isn’t.  And, because of that we see stories like the one in the Washington Post, about a Food and Drug Administration prepared to involve itself in the actual recipes and preparation of processed food.

Because we cannot do it ourselves, people will say, it should be up to the government to fix us for us.  Take a look at this astounding video from Wednesday night’s news broadcast at the local Philadelphia FOX affiliate:

Asked whether he supported the Food and Drug Administration’s proposed interjection into food makers and kitchens across America, the FOX station’s medical expert provided an answer which was populist authoritarianism in a nutshell.  The crisis? He says that salt “causes about $73 billion in health care costs from people having heart attacks and strokes.”  Has social and societal change worked? He says that Americans are so big that the FDA cannot even make it into our kitchens.  (Later, after the clip, he notes that low-salt foods and other measures have not been successful.)  The solution? “If we’re going to expect the federal government to pay for our people in the hospitals having heart attacks and strokes, how come we don’t want to have them try to regulate us and the amount of salt we take in?”

Ladies and gentlemen, is this not exactly what we’ve been warning about for more than a year now?  That health care reform is the ticket needed by the federal government to regulate each and every aspect of our lives?  I cannot count how many times here at America’s Right we argued that, because everything translates back to the cost of health care and because the federal government will ultimately be on the hook for that cost, having a health care system so intertwined with the federal government will mean that, in an effort to control costs, the government will regulate anything which even remotely relates to health care costs, and will ration care at any available opportunity.

And yet people embrace it.  This doctor from the University of Pennsylvania embraces it.  Many of the people watching in Philadelphia likely did not think twice and embraced it themselves.

That, my friends, is the struggle we face.  Between now and November, and certainly between now and November 2012, we absolutely must not allow ourselves to be caught up in the minutiae.  Traditional issue-specific arguments absolutely must take a back seat to the big picture.  Between now and the time polls open, we must do everything in our power to explain as best we can exactly what this administration and this Congress is doing.

We can use big words like “populist authoritarianism.”  I happen to like how it describes exactly what this administration is all about.  But we might be better served asking questions and helping people find answers.  Ask questions like the doctor asked — how come we don’t want to have the federal government regulate us?

This nation was built on freedom, and a system was put into place that would carefully protect the concept of ordered liberty.  The federal government has absolutely no business whatsoever trying to “adjust the American palate.”  Unfortunately, for too long, the palate which has been forcibly adjusted was the taste for freedom that so many Americans had.  Gradually, that freedom was whittled away, until the point where “how come we don’t want to have them try to regulate us?” is met with apathy instead of disgust.  I don’t know about you, but considering the ease with which the FDA feels comfortable expanding its authority, combined with the willingness of people to so complete acquiesce, I’ve been left with a bad taste in my mouth.



  1. nana says:

    Jeff, all this uproar about salt gives the ‘Salt Nazi, Michelle Obama’ something to do besides mill around in her garden. I wonder when they will go after ALCOHOL….never, I think, and it affects health care costs more than salt consumption I would imagine…but they know that they would never be able to regulate that aspect of society. It is amazing that this administration does not give the American people credit for making the right choices so they feel they have to control everything we do…they really insult our intelligence. How ironic that a woman should have the ‘choice’ to abort a child, but we should not have the choice to choose what foods we eat! The obesity rate is a concern but I think it has more to do with genes and the government can’t regulate that…at least not yet anyway.

  2. Chocolates next says:

    They just never learn with this prohibition gig, do they?
    Yet you can buy cigarettes (Obama) and all the alcohol you want (P. Kennedy).
    I swear, this country makes no sense anymore.

  3. Dudley Doright says:

    Can’t wait for a Canuck response on this article.

  4. Tory says:

    I truly believe that this administration’s serial reliance on perpetual dire, but manufactured, “crises” is not only a tool to force a painfully obvious agenda, but a calculated psychological effort to plunge the populace into a state of “battle fatigue” that becomes so overwhelming that we just give up and let them have their way.

    This “salt crisis” rather oddly comes at a time when recent research—a study at Yeshiva University comes to mind—suggests strongly that higher sodium consumption in generally healthy people is not a health risk; in fact, the people who consumed the lowest amounts of sodium had a significantly higher death rate from all causes. However, never prone to allow junk science to get in the way of a good crisis…we know too sadly the results of that.

    This is meant to give cover, I think, to not only the gratifyingly unpopular health care bill, but also to the “crisis” on Wall Street, the resolution of which will give 0 and his crew irrefutably authoritarian power.

    Its frustrating that concerned Americans have to actually resort to applying a sort of intellectual triage to all these contrived crises in order to decide which one is the most imminently dangerous.

  5. Boston Blackie says:

    Damn that W, look at all these calamities he has caused. We never had any before Bush was president, it MUST be all his fault. If salt is outlawed, only the outlaws will have salt.
    Will the Kennedys start bootlegging salt like Joe the old man, who made his initial millions from bootlegging liquor from Canada during prohibition.
    Funny how Obeyme outlawed all flavored butts except menthol since that is the type he smokes.
    Don’t forget to stock up on your incandescent light bulbs because in 2012 they are outlawed as well. When you drop and break a compact fluorescent light bulb, you are supposed to call haz-mat due to the mercury in them but hey, why worry about something like that on Earth Day.

  6. Scriv says:

    Salt and sugar are one thing, but the umbrella of “public health issues” is broad. They can put about anything under it and make it an issue. These smaller regulations could just be a warm-up for making the real “change(s)” they are seeking. This is a genie not easily put back in the bottle. At what point do we stop and look to see that there is no going back? We get a new list of regulations almost daily. One instance is the issue of firearm ownership becoming a topic under the public health agenda:



    I am not sure if the language that was cited in Jeff’s piece was removed from the final bill or not, but any perceived positive outcome of regulation raises the bar for what is acceptable to be regulated.

  7. Jeff Schreiber says:

    Tory — thank you for pointing out the Yeshiva study. I had meant to, but as you can tell by the overall quality of the piece, I was hitting a wall last night when I put it together.

    Over the next few months, as I can put less and less time into AR, I’m really going to need you guys to explore issues and make arguments and support those arguments with things like studies and polls and such. Come August, I should be in the clear, but until then it’s going to be a very different AR. Thank you again, Tory.


    PS — “Intellectual triage” is a perfect description.

  8. Ian R Thorpe says:

    Who cares?
    Big Brother, he cares.

    That’s the core philosophy of populist authoritarianism Jeff.

    If the government are giving you grief about salt intake I should write about my medical breakdown – being serious for once.

    But back to being satirical I could inform everyone how “mouse science” is leading the fight agaibst obesity.

  9. Gail B. says:

    I wish they would tax the dog mess out of alcohol. And, I wish they could make it illegal for tax dollars to buy liquor for governmental officials.

    As for salt, I don’t usually add any (unless it’s a tomato sandwich), but I’d like to know where in the Constitution government has the authority to regulate/legislate my diet or what I put on my own plate! Alcohol would do far more damage in my life.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Any doctors in the house? What would you suggest giving up first to a patient…. smoking, or their salt intake?

  11. Michelle Zhang says:

    What they really should go after is HFCS and sugar.

  12. Gail B. says:

    Michelle Zhang -

    What they really should go by is the limited government power provided them in the Constitution.

  13. Harry Kerry says:

    Surely that is next, Michelle.
    This will never end.
    Their goal must be for all of us to commit suicide
    That would so help the planet.

  14. William A. Rose says:

    Gail, the same place the powers-that be found the authorization for the Health Care overhaul.

    Great comments by everyone.

  15. Let us worship, the earth says:

    Don’t forget Sunday is Earth Day Sunday, so please consider staying home from church as I am. I can’t take a chance on hearing another sermon on dinosaur tears.

  16. William A. Rose says:

    Hehe. And I thought Crocodile Tears were noteworthy. Just imagine a Dinosaur Tear. They cry by the bucket-full?

  17. You hit the nail on the head: This health care reform (read: illegal invasion in the lives of US citizens) is only the beginning. They will use this piece of legislation to poke and pry into every aspect of our lives. What’s next? Potato Chips? Chocolate? Perhaps regulation on carbonated drinks….

  18. Anonymous says:

    So, THIS is Obama’s SALT treaty? I miss Reagan.

  19. meatbrain says:


    A few days ago, we learned that the Food and Drug Administration plans to force food manufacturers to reduce the amount of salt in processed foods consumed by Americans.


    FDA is “not currently working on regulations nor has it made a decision to regulate sodium content.” In an April 20 press release, the FDA stated: “A story in today’s Washington Post leaves a mistaken impression that the FDA has begun the process of regulating the amount of sodium in foods. The FDA is not currently working on regulations nor has it made a decision to regulate sodium content in foods at this time.” The release further stated that the agency plans to review a recent Institute of Medicine report on the dangers of excessive sodium intake in processed and prepared foods and plans “to work with other federal agencies, public health and consumer groups, and the food industry to support the reduction of sodium levels in the food supply.” [FDA, 4/20/10]

    Well done, Jeff. With almost every post, you provide further unmistakable proof that you are exactly what I have said you are.

  20. Jeff Schreiber says:


    Thank you for passing along the FDA release. I’m glad to hear that the federal government is, in the case of salt in our daily diets, refraining for now from interjecting itself into our lives in the same way Congress previously interjected itself in our lives by regulating the amount of sugar in ketchup, the amount of water our toilets can flush, and so on and so forth..

    If I’m wrong on this one, Meat, that’s fine. Seems that a whole lot of people on the right and left relied to their detriment on the Washington Post piece. Still, the overarching theme here is populist authoritarianism. There’s a pattern that this administration and this Congress is following, and it’s not just limited to salt.

    Thanks for checking in, and doing so with facts. I like that.


  21. TNelson says:


    When is it you will learn the difference between a ‘lie’ and an honest mistake or an opinion?

    Speaking of opinions, when will you actually post an opinion besides that of people being stupid, liars, numnutz, or fumblenuts… whatever? All you do on your blog is insult other people and bash them for their opinions. That’s what blogs essentially are; opinions of anybody who has one. Apparently the only opinion you can form is ‘people are fooking stupid because they don’t agree with my worldview!’ because that is all your blog is.

    You may have actual opinions, and some things you say may actually make people think about those topics in a different way. But they won’t if you keep up these childish ‘widdle’ tactics widdle meaty.

    You realise by the lack of any intelligent comments on your site that people only read it as a joke, do you not? No? Well, sorry to break that news to you. It’s o.k. though, I know you won’t believe me as your mind obviously works in its own circles. I’ll keep checking in on you: for a good laugh, and a reminder on how the Left likes to distort mundane ‘widdle’ things so very very much.

    I clearly see why you side to left, meatbrain. I’m sure you love our current Admin. So much in common.

  22. TNelson says:

    Oh, and for the record, I believe the feds SHOULD regulate the amount of sodium in the food products we buy. This one is easy people… If you want more salt in it, add it!

    If they were trying to regulate the amount of sugar or salt a person can buy or how much butter I personally put on my popcorn, then I’d have a problem… but as far as manufactured products go… regulate them. In this case, most people are oblivious to how much sodium they are eating, and if the feds can lower it (most people wouldn’t even notice BTW) I say go ahead.

    Try some crisps from the U.K. sometime: Regulated amounts of sodium, but flavors you can’t find here. Ironic too. America used to be Baseball, Hotdogs, Apple pie, and Chevrolet. The only place I’ve ever seen Hotdog flavored crisps (chips) is in Britain. And they were good too… regulated sodium and all.

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