Virtue Signaling at the Neighborhood Diner
The old adage goes that you should never talk about religion or politics at the dinner table.
Working in a political world, I try to heed that advice whenever I leave work. The last thing I want to face when going out for dinner with friends or family is politics. Alas, now it seems like politics and virtue-signaling are creeping their way into our favorite restaurant.
Every time my PRI colleagues and I go out to lunch in San Francisco, we always grumble about the “San Francisco mandates” surcharge that appears on our lunch tab. It’s a surcharge that restaurants levy on their restaurant bills to pay for city-mandated health care benefits. Typically, it’s around a 6 percent charge.
Get ready for another surcharge at restaurants across California – this time for “climate change”.
Aiming to “creating a renewable food system,” a group called the Perennial Farming Initiative last week announced an effort to have California restaurants add a 1 percent charge to our dining bills that will go into a “healthy soil carbon fund.” According to the initiative’s website, it will pay “farmers $10 per ton of carbon removed from the atmosphere to help them transition to renewable farming practices.”
Two San Francisco restaurant owners – Karen Leibowitz and Anthony Myint – are behind the initiative. They told the San Francisco Chronicle that they hope to get 200 restaurants statewide on board for the 1 percent extra charge by the end of the year, which Myint says would generate up to $10 million a year in funding for the initiative.
Last week, the California Department of Food and Agriculture and the state Air Resources Board announced that they’ve given the initiative a big thumbs up. Call me a conspiracy theorist, but I could see this becoming a mandated surcharge in the not-too-distant future.
If restaurant owners wish to invest in organic farming, more power to them. Just like any other American, they can make a free choice to spend their income as they wish.
But this surcharge for organic farming is quite different. What they are really doing is passing the buck to me as a customer to give money to a cause they support. Yes, the charge is voluntary. But I’m already anticipating the angry looks that will be given to me when I make a fuss and demand that the charge be removed from my bill.
For my two cents, Leibowitz and Myint and other restaurant owners who support their cause should write a big check to the organic farming movement if they think it’s so important. But spare us all the virtue signaling of making your customers fund your pet cause.
While I may or may not wish to donate to the cause of organic farming, that should be my free choice to make. Every year, I make donations to a host of worthy charitable causes. I don’t need a woke restaurant owner to make my philanthropic decisions for me the next time I want a ham sandwich.
Tim Anaya is communications director for the Pacific Research Institute.