Thanks to Michelle Obama and Jamie Oliver, everybody is talking about fat kids and what government can be doing differently. Fatty school lunches, the need for exercise programs, the possibility of a soda tax, and the creation of food awareness classes are all on the table The discussion has gone beyond fat kids to talking about fat adults.
The New York Times magazine issue this weekend was devoted to the topic of health. Marc Ambinder had a fabulous cover article in Atlantic Monthly about his battles with obesity and policy proposals for reducing the wiggle and jiggle in kid's bellies. Also, I've started running again. I ran my second 5K race this weekend. I've been spending more time cooking better meals. So, I'm completely inundated with information and experiences about public health. I'll come back to the details of the articles later. First, I just want to talk about the politics of public health policy.
Libertarians are generally suspicious of all public policy, because they reject the notion that government can make a positive impact on people's lives. The less government, the better. When government gets involved in people's lives, the outcome is usually expensive and results in unexpected outcomes. Welfare creates dependency, for example.
Libertarians especially hate governmental programs that push people to change their behavior regarding their health. For all but a radical fringe, they accept mandatory vaccinations for kids, but they aren't enthusiastic about other programs, which restrict a person's individual freedom to kill himself. I have a Big Mac, and I'm going to eat it. Efforts to reduce smoking and the availability to fast food is beyond the scope of government. They say that when government wades into these matters, it becomes a "nanny state" and adults should be able to make their own decisions about the Big Mac v. Tofu.
Liberals, on the other hand, say that obesity is expensive. Obesity-related diseases cost the public billions of dollars in healthcare costs. People don't really have the choice of a Big Mac v. Tofu, because tofu isn't available to most people and they don't know how to cook it. The Big Mac is cheaper than a good salad. The current system is rigged to make the Big Mac the most popular option and that isn't fair. Let's give people some real choices and, thus, increase their freedoms.
Liberals also say that children can't make the same choices as adults. They need guidance. If the parents and the community can't provide them with better options, then government must step in to help out. It's immoral to allow this generation of children to fill themselves up on Slurpies and candy bars. Government can do better.
Please admire this sandwich. It's KFC's new Double Down — two Original Recipe
fillets, Swiss and pepper jack cheese, Colonel sauce, and bacon.