Have your taco and eat it, too

By Matthew M. Robare


At the beginning of this month, Wall Street Journal senior economics writer for the editorial page Stephen Moore wrote an opinion piece called “We’ve become a nation of takers, not makers,” in which he argued that many of the problems the United States currently faces stem from how more people are employed by the government than the private sector.

“In government employment, tenure for teachers and near lifetime employment for other civil servants shields workers from this basic system of reward and punishment. It is a system that breeds mediocrity, which is what we’ve gotten,” he wrote.

Moore concluded that the only way to “win the future” is “to grow the economy that makes things, not the sector that takes things.”

Back in 2008, Bloomberg Businessweek contributing editor Bruce Nussbaum declared that “‘innovation’ is dead.”

Well, I have news for both Moore and Nussbaum: innovation is alive and well; the American spirit of self-reliance, hard work and entrepreneurship remains vibrant and vigorous in the hearts of all the people.

I say this based on the news from America Online that Taco Bell is testing a new taco shell made out of Doritos. It’s brilliant and may possibly wind up as the invention of the year.

Of course I’m sure some moral crusader, perhaps Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York, will try to ban Dorito taco shells because eating them will contribute to obesity, like when he banned trans fats and smoking indoors. While I admire his concern for the health of New Yorkers, he needs to realize that most people there get plenty of exercise by walking everywhere, running from muggers and losing their appetites from the pollution and smell of the garbage  fermenting on warm days.

But more than that, people who respond to the obesity problem by banning fatty foods or sending First Lady Michelle Obama out to talk to children about how important exercise is – something politicians have done since at least the 1960s, when President John F. Kennedy appeared in a “Superman” comic to promote his physical fitness policies – are being too negative.

As Moore argued, government “is an industry where we measure performance backwards.” He wrote that between 1970 and 2005 spending per student in public schools doubled when adjusted for inflation and “standardized achievement test scores were flat.”

If the obesity problem is left in the hands of the government, at best there will be no change in the scope of the problem over the next 30 years. However, it will be considered an inalienable human right to have a bureaucrat constantly harangue you and your family to ride bikes and eat celery.

Fortunately, I’ve come up with a private-sector solution that will not only make me a billionaire, but probably get me a Nobel Peace Prize one day, too. You see, my solution doesn’t just solve the obesity problem; it solves the water crisis and high oil prices as well.

Fat is mostly excess energy in lipid form and generally contains a lot of water inside it. Fat cells don’t like water and so water molecules get trapped in between the fat cells. Using liposuction, fat can be removed from the body of an obese person, the water separated and purified and the fat turned into fuel. Alternatively, obese citizens could be paid to ride stationary bikes connected to turbines to generate electricity, but I think that would work better if people did that as part of their rent. I wouldn’t mind that; I could read a book while I whittled down my electric bill. Moreover, the body heat generated from all that biking could be used to heat the building in the winter.

I’m sure some of you scoff with objections like, “That’s scientifically implausible. You could never collect enough human body fat to replace just one barrel of oil and it’s probably not recommended to have multiple liposuctions.”

Well, that may be so, but innovation always brings with it the possibility of great failure. We could all be using Friendster or MySpace now instead of Facebook, the iPad could have been the biggest bomb since the presidency of George W. Bush and “The Dark Knight” could have been the second-worst “Batman” movie of all time.

Innovators should find comfort in the words of former United States Vice President Dan Quayle: “If we don’t succeed, we run the risk of failure.”

Matthew M. Robare is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at [email protected]