Onward, anti-obesity soldiers

15 11 2011

Whether you agree with a particular cause or not, never stop fighting for individual rights – sooner or later, they’ll pass a law against something you enjoy.

I’m sure you’ve heard something to that effect before. Pro-liberty types can, at times, sound like broken records. Sometimes, we even champion causes that most would rather ignore: violent video games, stupid protests, pornography, smokers’ rights…the list goes on.

If our warnings seemed overheated, or our causes asinine, it was only out of concern for the future. We realized that eventually, the regulators would run out of “sensible” things to regulate and switch to all-out nannyism. Crushing cigarettes wouldn’t satiate their desire for control for long – it would only be a matter of time before they moved on…to food.

My belly, my choice

In case you’re one of the few remaining skeptics that believe the busybodies haven’t leveled their sights on our burgers, try to read this piece of Time Magazine commentary by apparent control freak Shannon Brownlee. Be careful, though: it might make your blood pressure rise faster than a high sodium diet.

Brownlee is proud of the relentless stigmatization of smoking and the shaming of smokers themselves. She is eager to turn the guns of public opinion towards individuals who choose to live a lifestyle that, while clearly unhealthy, harms no one but the overweight – all in the interest of reshaping society to fit her trim vision.

Of course, Brownlee and her ilk are eager to make obesity everyone’s problem. As with smoking, our twisted health care system has becomes their weapon of choice. From the article:

Maybe it’s time to be at least a little more willing to similarly demonize excess poundage. Our rapidly rising rate of obesity harms us financially, because we pay for health care collectively.

Before Ms. Brownlee begins lamenting the collectivization of health care costs, perhaps she should take a closer look at the tangled web of mandates, regulations, and government programs that have raised the cost of coverage while limiting insurers’ ability to set rates to reflect lifestyles.

More worrying is her word selection. Those willing to encourage the demonization of individuals for their lifestyle choices (unhealthy though they may be) are not public health advocates: they are crusaders. Crusaders do not care about individuals, they care about causes. If overweight individuals are made to feel ashamed to leave their houses, well…you can’t make a low-fat omelette without breaking a few cartons of Egg Beaters.

Obesity is a real problem, and solutions to the so-called epidemic will necessarily be complex. Yet neither regulations nor stigmatization will solve the problem – and they certainly won’t satisfy the nannies, who will find another activity or lifestyle to ban.




2 responses

22 11 2011

It’s not going to be an easy fix.. And until recently, I was of the opinion to let someone get fat and eat themselves into health oblivion (or at least into unattractiveness to the opposite sex oblivion). That changed with the recent news item that the gov’t, due to extreme lobbying, deemed pizza and french fries to be a vegetable, thus watering down attempts to provide healthier school lunches. Sure, you can say it’s nannyish to say what can be served but you can also say that kids are exactly who should be nannied – in this case to learning health food choices. But it’s still my money that’s paying for the school lunches – which will continue to be funded (so no use debating that part of it). And as long as it’s my money, I want to make sure it’s not spent on making kids fat.

The more troubling part of this – and Libertarians should be concerned, too – is the strength of the lobbies. There will always be government involvement in people’s lives – what scarier is that it’s not “Government” or “The People” making the decisions.

22 11 2011
Graham Kozak

The school lunches issue is a tough one, but I think it illustrates how special interests really can invade our lives in the most unpleasant ways. It’s certainly true that lobbyists exert too much control–but the libertarian solution would be to remove the government from the food production business. Why are we shocked that cheap, tasty, but unhealthy food floods cafeterias (and supermarkets) when we subsidize the production of, for example, corn-derived high fructose corn syrup to the tune of tens of billions of dollars per year?

Lobbyists are a symptom of businesses responding to government-created incentives. While they deserve no praise, we can at least be thankful that their industry (crass as it may be) is at least somewhat transparent. My fear is that simply “eliminating” lobbying, as opposed to treating its root cause, will shift influence-peddling even further below the surface.

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