Thursday, August 28, 2008

Response to Obesity Post

This is in response to this post, just a few below this one.

Interesting idea, but your comments brought to mind many questions that you don't address. Where does my body end and the "National Interest" begin? You bring up an interesting point, but do you really think that a politician advocating healthy eating will do anything to stem obesity? And isn't it my right as a person to eat whatever I please? We aren't talking about food terrorism here, if I eat a pint of ice cream every night sitting on my couch, who is that hurting besides me? My size doesn't affect the national interest, does it? Don't I have the right to eat what I choose, even if it's unhealthy? Does the government have a right to step in?

It's not about food education. The government builds food pyramids, it gives awards for presidential fitness, it (as Dr Farley pointed out in his comment) created some national health initiatives to increase the fitness of our military, but obesity is still on the rise. Why? Because the kind of eating that creates morbid obesity doesn't have anything to do with logic. I'm sure that the majority of the obese people in this country know that they are unhealthy, know that they eat the wrong foods and know what they should be doing even though they don't. They know they should exercise more but "just don't feel like it" and no amount of education or advocation by the government or political candidates will make people get up off the couch.

Obesity isn't a result of ignorance. People aren't overweight because they don't realize that french fries and cheesecake are fattening. Believe me, they know. Just like smokers know that cigarettes are bad, alcoholics know that alcohol can ruin lives, and heroin addicts know that their drug of choice may kill them. These problems can't be solved by logic.

If the government does see obesity (and other addictions like smoking, alcohol and drugs) as true issues of national security, then the government must decide the amount of resources and type of resources to solve the problem. The government may need to create deterrents, or help to fund counseling for these addictions. The US does not currently have a national health system (though that may change depending on the outcome in November) but some European countries do. In the UK, a debate has begun over whether the National Health Service can deny medical treatment to people who live unhealthy lifestyles. This article mentions the idea of the government providing cash incentives to people to lose weight so as to not become too much of a burden on the state health service. Although the obesity rate in the UK isn't as high as the US, it is the highest in Europe. British taxpayers spend £7 billion a year due to obesity. Because this is a "self-inflicted" condition, does the NHS have the right to deny them care?

And at what point do we allow the national values to dictate how we citizens live our lives? Some may see obesity as a drain on resources, a health risk, or creating a "bad image" for the US abroad, but if I am happy being overweight do I have the responsibility to change my lifestyle so that my country can appear better to foreigners? Should the US create a nanny state that limits what type of foods I can ingest, or punishes me for eating too much?

As mentioned in class, national interests require trade-offs. Are Americans willing to give up the freedom to eat what they want?


Researcher said...

What's interesting to me is all the different ways in which researchers have found that the US government basically subsidizes or supports obesity. Between its transportation policies, corn subsidies, etc., the US government has been complicit in the "obesity epidemic." Therefore, if it is in the national interest to reverse this, undoing those incentives would be a good place to start.

OMARCOMIN! said...

Rhymenoceros said...

Reagan used to bring up the example of motorcycle helmet laws when talking about personal freedoms.

"Ain't no government gonna make me wear no stinkin' helmet"

Ok, but what about when you have a wreck and can't move and lack financial assets to pay for your care? The system then has to absorb all of those costs

"Ain't no government takin away my sausage patty with cheese and eggs sandwiched between two syruppy pancakes (aka McGriddle) "

These arguments could go on all day. We need healthy foods in schools and some standard of health education to make up for what children are lacking at home. If we don't, we might not have enough able bodies to fend off the Chinese or the martians or whoever.

Outside of the education, I have no desire to see further federal regulation on the food thing.

OMARCOMIN! said...

Nutrition info/labeling regulations seem reasonable.

Robert Farley said...

Mmmmm... McGriddle...