This article in the NYT argues American diets must be changed because they are "meat guzzlers". "A sea change in the consumption of a resource that Americans take for granted may be in store — something cheap, plentiful, widely enjoyed and a part of daily life. And it isn’t oil. It’s meat." Eating meat is bad for the environment, causes global warming, is obscene in the face of widespread world hunger and makes food expensive for the rest of the world.
And therefore the price of meat must be changed to reflect its "true cost". "Perhaps the best hope for change lies in consumers’ becoming aware of the true costs of industrial meat production. 'When you look at environmental problems in the U.S.,' says Professor Eshel, 'nearly all of them have their source in food production and in particular meat production. And factory farming is ‘optimal’ only as long as degrading waterways is free. If dumping this stuff becomes costly — even if it simply carries a non-zero price tag — the entire structure of food production will change dramatically.'"
And of course the persons who are going to adjust the market price with regulatory measures -- who will calculate this "true cost" -- are bureaucrats. Regulation is already part of the problem. The NYT article argues for eliminating food subsidies that "account for 31 percent of global farm income" just before it advocates the new regulations. The proposed regulatory fix will fix the fix -- like an operating system service pack -- and eventually 'change the entire structure of food production dramatically'. But the desire for dramatic change can create unexpected consequences. The fascination with ethanol -- renewable energy -- has pushed up food prices. For all its faults markets often allocate resources much more efficiently than bureaucrats. To the extent that current dietary trends reflect consumer and producer preferences they contain a logic which ought to be respected.
The alacrity with which people are ready to declare behavior "appropriate" or "inappropriate" is surprising. Just today, the Berkeley City Council "voted 8-1 Tuesday night to tell the Marines that its Shattuck Avenue recruiting station 'is not welcome in the city, and if recruiters choose to stay, they do so as uninvited and unwelcome intruders.'". The Contra Costa Times went on to report:
In addition, the council voted to explore enforcing its law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation against the Marines, and officially encouraged the women's peace group Code Pink to impede the work of the Marines in the city by protesting in front of the station.
It's clear why some communities want the world to be "just so" -- nuclear free, purged of any disconcerting sights like Marines or meat -- and decorated instead by the more agreeable images of tofu and Code Pink protesters. That's the way they want reality to look. But wishing doesn't make it so and it's a legitimate question to ask how long Berkeley, California or Brattleboro, Vermont would last in the world as it is, as opposed to how they imagine it to be.