(Feb. 11) There was a time when government and lobbyists were trying to protect consumers from themselves.

Now somebody is stepping up to protect consumers from their would-be protectors.

And it’s about time.

Common sense and diets don’t have to be nonsequiturs; it just seems that that is too often the case. Were it not the case, McDonald’s and Burger King wouldn’t be the ubiquitous behemoths that they are.

But there are certain things that are and should always be the business of the consumer. There shouldn’t be a law against stupidity.

By the same token, anybody who dines at a fast-food establishment on a regular basis shouldn’t feel outraged when he gazes into his bathroom mirror one day and suddenly discovers that he now dwarfs his father’s Buick.

And he shouldn’t feel that he could dash in a frenzied panic to the nearest phone and order his lawyer to sue said fast-food chain for untold millions of dollars.

That’s the atmosphere that has enveloped our society. Litigation appears to have become the newest pillar supporting U.S. governmental policy.

It’s changing — by the pounding of a judge’s gavel — the way Americans live, whether they want to continue to smoke and pay $5 a pack to cover the costs of tobacco suits or pay $5 for a Big Mac to cover the “fat taxes” that may yet be attached to such products.

The produce industry has a lot to gain from some of the rumblings now coming out of Washington, D.C., which, not coincidentally, has becoming the rumbling capital of the world.

But Washington’s latent compulsion for taking on the role of parents forcing their children to eat their brussels sprouts is more than a little disconcerting. At the very least, it portends a dark future for individual liberty.

There are some people still in Washington, however, who refuse to let go of all common sense. One is Ric Keller, a Republican congressman from Florida.

Keller sponsored something called the Personal Responsibility in Food Consumption Act — H.R. 339, officially. The bill recently won approval of the House Judiciary Committee and is on its way to a vote in the full House.

Keller’s bill would prevent the food industry from being unfairly targeted with frivolous lawsuits because of obesity among some Americans. In other words, the bill, which is now scheduled for a vote by the full House, reaffirms every American’s right to exercise stupidity in his or her culinary lifestyle.

The Washington-based National Restaurant Association cheered the bill’s having cleared its first major hurdle.

“We are grateful for Rep. Keller’s leadership in pushing forward this important legislation that focuses on personal responsibility and the voluntary food choices all Americans make, rather than on costly litigation,” said Steve Anderson, the association’s president and chief executive officer. “We believe Congress and the appropriate regulatory agencies should determine policy in these matters, not judges and juries.”

A similar bill, which Kentucky Republican Mitch McConnell introduced, is making its way through the Senate.

“Rep. Keller’s bill would help prevent misguided lawsuits against the food industry, including our nation’s 878,000 restaurants,” Anderson said. “Obesity is very complex, and in addition to personal responsibility, moderation and physical activity, there are numerous factors that contribute to healthier living.”

Anderson pointed out that a disproportionate number of lawsuits are filed against restaurants, which account for only 24% of the meals served in the U.S. He said that “solely targeting the restaurant industry is overly simplistic.”

Anderson pointed out that a recent Gallup poll showed that 89% of Americans believe that the food industry shouldn’t be blamed for issues related to obesity.

He’s right.

For anyone out there who hasn’t heard: Healthy eating — including lots of fruits and vegetables — leads to good health and lower health costs. Junk food leads to serious health issues, of which obesity is only one.

Remember: You heard it here last.