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Let Them Eat (Nearly Expired) Cake!

Image via Unsplash. Image via Unsplash.

Though in terms of my mindset, my Weltanschauung, I see myself as a staunch conservative, sometimes I find myself questioning or breaking with the “movement.” A recent example involves an article by my colleague, Tyler Miller. Mr. Miller takes issue with a French law requiring food approaching its “best by” date to be donated or otherwise ethically disposed of. Supposedly, a conservative should oppose the law because it limits freedom. You can't force morality, or, as “the idea that you can force people to behave in a moral manner is one of the more fanciful illusions which the Left has been promising for some time now, and this is representative of the lengths to which they will go in order to achieve their world Utopia.”

It is true that morality can't be forced, but it is also true that slavery to passion (and unethical disposal of food, a sin in a vague sense) makes you even less free than does slavery to virtue. I can’t say I’m “in favor” of the law; I’d probably say my feelings are quite apathetic. It seems a decent local practice, but I think it would be a shame to export globally, if only because I don’t trust the idea of “global law” because that would necessarily be an impingement upon liberty. I’m less concerned with such restrictions if they are local.

The fact is, law is almost always ethically-oriented. I don't mean forcing Catholics to pay for condoms or banning kosher butchering; I mean that shops shouldn’t be poisoning food with bleach to prevent homeless people from dumpster diving for public health reasons. Donating the food seems to be an unequivocal good, something that stands up to the ethical standards set by any faith community with which I am familiar. So no, such laws should not be opposed flatly. They should be evaluated on a law-by-law basis pragmatically, with prudence.

Prudence must guide the conservative, not an ideological commitment to “choice.” I’m sure such laws have the potential to be something negative, but politics is practical, and the practical application of this law seems rather prudent and even conservative. It seems agreeable from almost any perspective.

Prudence and ethical commitments must come before ideology. That is conservative.


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