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Our View: A little help from the state that’s not needed

Managing Editor

Tune into late-night television, surf the Internet or leaf through some of the magazines your spouse reads and you’re likely to encounter all manner of advice about dieting and nutrition, not all in agreement with one another.
Some of it is good advice. Much of it isn’t.
You can also find a number of licensed doctors and certified dieticians out there preaching their personal views on the subject. One doctor proclaims the evils of even diet soda and recommends Echinacea to fend off illness. The next doctor says the first one is a quack, and insists that the better choice is a high-protein and low-carbohydrate diet. And yet another disagrees, insisting that low-fat and low-sodium with moderate calorie intake is healthiest.
They are all free to say what they want and make money doing it. Consumers are equally free (at least for a few more months) to give their business to any health experts they choose, and can further decide whether to take the advice with a grain of salt, or reject the advice (and possibly the salt as well). This isn’t just true of nutrition advice — its’ the way a free society functions when people share their opinions about everything from the best way to get the crooks out of Washington to whether there’s a special place in Hell for lawyers. The rights to believe (or disbelieve) what you want, say what you want, print what you want and gather with whomever you want are all protected in the First Amendment of our Constitution.
Some state agencies apparently see that type of thinking as outdated and are convinced that in North Carolina their protection against wanton free speech is necessary. Case in point, the North Carolina Board of Diatetics/Nutrition has brought down the full might of the state on Steven Cooksey of Stanley, who dared to charge a fee for access to his online advice on nutrition for diabetics. Perhaps more importantly, Cooksey has dared to do engage in free enterprise without having state licensure (though he openly tells folks that he’s not an expert before they ante up), and had the audacity to dispute the advice being given at a state-sanctioned nutrition event.
The Nutritional Thought Police of Raleigh undoubtedly consider Cooksey public enemy No. 1, especially since he’s suing these bureaucrats for violating his constitutional rights.
All of this brings us to ask an important question — not about free-speech rights, which should be clear, nor about the absurity of this agency harassing Cooksey over his slightly unusual recommendations while ignoring the many truly wacky nutritional plans on the market.
The important question is why we have agencies like the Board of Diatetics/Nutrition at all. According to its website, this agency’s mission is to “protect the health, safety, and welfare of the citizens of North Carolina from harmful nutrition practice by providing for the licensure and regulation of persons engaged in the practice of dietetics/nutrition and by establishing educational standards for those persons.” So this is a licensing agency that charges those with the proper educational credentials $90 or more for the state’s blessing, although consumers would be just as “protected” if the experts were simply required to post those academic credentials.
Despite their emphasis on educational standards, these bureaucrats have not (and cannot) prevent the marketing of a wide range of nutrition advice by those outside the state, nor has “licensing” ensured any uniform dietary message from those who have received this state sanction. This agency is unnecessary.
In the interest of protecting the Constitution, the rights of people like Cooksey, the rights of everyone else to buy or not buy the advice he or anyone else selling and the taxpayers from an agency that is unnecessary, let’s scrap the North Carolina Board of Diatetics/Nutrition. And then let’s look for more agencies like it that can be eliminated, at the local, state and federal levels.

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