Starting this week, New York City will implement a new food-safety grading system. Like L.A.'s, which inspired it, the new system calls for letter grades to be given out to every restaurant, which will then have to hang them on a big sign in front. Those kitchens that harbor fruit flies -- or raw fish of less than frigid temperature -- will be shamed like Hester Prynne for all the world to see. (Although, unlike poor Hester, they will be given a chance to clean up their act before the ritual marking takes place.)
I found this development odd, given the tenor of our times. Right now Americans seem to be clamoring to dismantle the government, and in many states the most basic regulatory aparati have fallen into disuse. But New York and L.A. have become downright draconian in their urge to oversee the inner workings of small businesses like restaurants. Is this the rise of a counter-cultural oasis, nanny-state bastions in two of the country's most liberal cities? Or is it just that people are more worried about what goes in their bodies than they are about getting the government back to Gilded Age levels of intrusiveness?