Ezra and Ygz are right, of course, that a “nanny state” isn’t all that offensive when the people being nannied are kids. There’s such a thing as overprotecting even children, but obviously when kids are in public schools, “the government” at some level is going to decide what food options are available to those kids, and I can’t see any good reason why they shouldn’t decide to make them healthy options. No beef there.
But I also think they’re misunderstanding Dan Mitchell’s objection—which, in fairness, may be because the reference to the “nanny state” in the headline is a bit of a red herring. I think the point is that the content of school lunch menus, while both important and fit for government determination, is not really a federal issue. The momentous question of whether the cafeteria at PS 23 serves Coke or Twinkies can probably be left to the bright lights of the state legislatures—maybe even the local school board.
But hey, since this apparently is a federal question, we may as well elevate the rhetoric to match. Scale disagreements of this kind (at least, assuming Matt or Ezra really do want to insist that the decision take place at the federal level) say something about how seriously you take value pluralism. If you think it’s obvious that there’s an Objectively Correct Answer to any question, and that we know it—should little Bobby be allowed candy, or kept to a strict wheat germ regimen?—then allowing local variation just means giving the rubes a chance to fuck it up. If you think there are genuinely different and valid value weightings yielding different tradeoffs, or opportunities to learn from variety and experimentation, you’re more sanguine about decentralization.
Of course, sometimes the values are large enough and the lessons of experience clear enough that I, too, opt against letting the rubes fuck it up: free expression, equality under the law, due process. But I’m thinking school lunches aren’t quite up there.
Update: So, Matt is convinced nobody actually cares about higher-order or procedural principles like federalism independent of a desire to enforce a particular outcome. (Several of my leftish friends seem to harbor this view; make of that what you will.) So, for what it’s worth, I really don’t have anything against mandating healthier food in school. If I were on a school board or state legislature, I would vote for this bill. I’m genuinely just OK with the possibility that the people two towns over would, for whatever reason, make a different decision.