Virtue Signaling at the Neighborhood Diner

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.

Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.