It's tempting to regard Andy Burnham's suggestion that the government ban Frosties - and Sugar Puffs! - as yet another example of New Labour's statism. I fear this might be too glib. If Labour were consistently statist, it would occasionally blunder into an intelligent use of the state, such as in its role as employer of last resort. But it thinks - wrongly - that guaranteeing jobs is something that can be done by the private sector. This poses the question: why is Labour statist in some regards, but not in others?
The answer, I suspect, lies in the party's managerialist ideology. I mean this in two senses.
First, there's a lack of faith in the decision-making capacities of ordinary folk. Sugary cereals must be banned because people can't choose the best diet for themselves or their kids. The unemployed must be forced to take jobs because they cannot be trusted to make proper work choices. By contrast, the possibility that corporate managers will make incompetent decisions (for example in deciding not to invest or hire) doesn't get the attention it should.
Secondly, there's also an asymmetric attitude to perfectibility. In considering personal behaviour, Burnham fails to heed Smith's advice that there is a great deal of ruin in a nation, and seems to think that government action can make us all paragons. Such optimism, however, does not extent to the economy. Mass unemployment and inequality are "natural" and governments - whilst perhaps able to ameliorate these - cannot eliminate them. Whilst capitalism is taken for granted and is unchallengeable, obesity is not.
What we're seeing in Burnham's remarks, then, is ideology at work. And the thing is, I suspect he's not aware of this.