As I was planning to spend the day in New York today, I was pleased to read that "the New York City Board of Health plans to prohibit the city's 20,000 restaurants from serving food that contains more than a minute amount of artificial trans fats." Outstanding, New York City must have solved all of its big problems, since it has now decided to focus on this one.
What can I say? I'm an economist, and I'm here to help. Imposing a quantity restriction on trans fats does not accommodate different costs of trans fat abatement across cuisines. Taking the trans fats out of french fries may disproportionately reduce their taste or increase their costs. Instead, why not grant all restaurants an allotment of permits to cook with trans fats and allow them to buy and sell extra permits as the menu demands? As with other pollutants, tradeable permits allow the trans fat reductions to occur where the relative costs of doing so are lowest.
Economics in action -- working alongside the nanny state to keep you healthy.