Let legislators stick to complex issues; diners can handle easy ones themselves

Let legislators stick to complex issues; diners can handle easy ones themselves

I’ve got a bone to pick with some local lawmakers, especially with one in particular. After years of advocating hands-off deregulation on a number of fronts, politicians have been making a case for more government control of the free market—and I don’t mean on Wall Street. No, what I’m talking about is happening on Main Street in a recent flurry of proposed mandates that range from the relevant to the plain ridiculous. Banning trans fat from menu items and a call for more nutrition disclosure fall into the former category, while the following example is one for the latter:

Legislators in Nassau County, on Long Island, a few weeks ago announced a proposed law requiring restaurateurs to list the prices of their daily specials on their menus. This new law originates from the long-simmering annoyance of one Harvey Levinson, chairman of Nassau County’s Board of Assessors, who has gone on record as saying that the absence of specials pricing is his pet peeve in life. In fact, Levinson has been quoted as saying that “a patron’s heartburn should be limited to the food they eat, not the price they pay.” Further, he adds that he thinks the mandate should be expanded statewide so that all restaurantgoers will be able to make better choices when ordering what they want to eat.

When asked about this latest proposal, Chuck Hunt, spokesman for the New York State Restaurant Association [3], opined that while he thought giving prices is good business, “it’s beyond the purview of a legislative body to get that far into managing restaurants.”

Hunt was much more measured in his response than I am willing to be. Perhaps that is because my patience is wearing thin with all of this posturing and silliness.

I’m sorry Mr. Levinson, but with all due respect, you, as former tennis great John McEnroe used to say, cannot be serious! Is it really possible that with everything going on in this country right now the American public needs its politicians to waste more time and taxpayer money to write and debate yet another meaningless law that would only further burden an already struggling industry by making them have to worry about one more rule born of a vanity affair?

I dine out a lot these days in part because it’s a requisite for the job I have. But I also dine out because I enjoy it. When I frequent restaurants, it’s not uncommon for me to choose from the specials being offered. If I want to know how much an item is, I speak right up and ask my server how much it costs. Gauche? Maybe. Effective? Without a doubt. I usually end up making an informed decision, and I’m sure other diners have found asking to be equally effective.

For my tax dollars, I’d prefer for lawmakers to focus on the bigger, more complicated issues affecting our world, not the ones I can take care of myself.