Imagine a Memorial Day weekend during which outdoor grills and pool noodles had been banned. (And, please don’t tell me it’s already happened somewhere, as I’d rather live in ignorant bliss for a few more days.) I imagine that’s kind of what Europe will be like without olive oil dipping bowls and a speed limit on the Autobahn. Isn’t this kind of like banning your cultural identity?
Italian restaurants without small-batch, golden-green bottles of aromatic olive oil? In Italy? We’ll have better olive oil in our Italian restaurants than Italy will!
At a time of declining public enthusiasm for the pan-European project, Brussels has set aside time from tackling a chronic economic crisis to confront the pressing issue of how olive oil is served in the Continent’s restaurants.
In a move that has been seized upon by so-called Euroskeptics as further proof of mindless interference by a faceless bureaucracy, the European Commission has announced a ban on offering olive oil in dipping bowls and refillable jugs.
From Jan. 1 next year, restaurants will only be allowed to provide the product in sealed, clearly labeled, and non-reusable containers.
The rationale is the same-old, same-old from the Nanny Staters. Labeled, factory-bottled olive oil will ensure olive oil’s provenance and hygiene! But it’s just cronyism masquerading as social do-gooderism. What it will really do is ensure no one makes olive oil but the big boys who already are. Barrier to entry, constructed. Take it away, Tim Carney:
Wherever you see strict new regulations, look for well-connected industry that hopes to profit off of them…
[T]he New York Times notes this:
The new rule also offers suppliers an opportunity to promote brand awareness….
Fifteen of the Union’s 27 governments supported the olive oil rule. They included the Continent’s main producers of the product — Italy, Greece, Spain and Portugal — which have been among the hardest hit by the crisis in the euro currency zone….
One criticism of European Union intervention in the olive oil business is that it favors big brand suppliers rather than small farmers, who continue to suffer low prices despite a fall in production in the past year.
An EU spokesman, quoted by Reuters, even defends the law on the grounds that hey, even the olive oil producers like it!
“The fact that the EU is the world’s major producer of olive oil – for up to 70 percent of the olive oil globally – perhaps this is even more than just a good consumer story for European citizens,” commission spokesman Oliver Drewes told reporters.
So, at least part of the point of the rules is to protect major industrial producers from the market — thus hurting consumer choice and smaller competitors.
And, Germany. Come on. There’s one thing they haven’t nannied away. Don’t let them do it! Even our high-speed-limit enclaves in Colorado, Nevada, and Montana envy your libertarian streak on this:
For many in this car-crazy nation, the freedom to hurtle down the famed autobahn at 120 mph or more is an inalienable right.
Germany, one of the world’s top car producers, is alone among industrial countries in allowing drivers to decide for themselves how fast to race along the highway. So a proposal this month to impose a speed limit of 75 mph has set off an election-year battle that has some people questioning a basic tenet of German identity.
Enjoy this nonsensical argument for a speed limit despite traffic fatalities having fallen for years. Remind you of a discussion we had recently in this country?
The traffic-cop-like suggestion from a top opposition leader challenged Germans to pick two popular obsessions — safety and sustainability — over another: a seemingly primal need to use their 500-horsepower engines to catapult themselves across their country’s gently rolling countryside.
On speed limits, “the rest of the world has been doing it for a long time,” Sigmar Gabriel, chairman of the Social Democratic Party, told the Rheinische Post, adding that Germans should drive slower for safety. Traffic deaths have been dropping for years in Germany, but Gabriel said they would drop faster if there were a speed limit.
Look, Germany. You’ve come a long way, baby. Let’s not mess it up now. I say you guys defy the EU—the price they pay for you bailing everyone out— and become the leading European purveyor of specialty olive oil, too. As of now, olive oil’s hope lies with the Dutch.