Monday, September 13, 2004


"I wish I weighed a little bit less. Or a lot less. And I often fear, to paraphrase Kingsley Amis, that I'm heading in the wrong direction, that inside of me is an even fatter me waiting to get out. I'm not alone. A recent study found that 80% of the American people are overweight. Many of us seem to have trouble saying no to that second piece of pie, the super-sizing of fries and the longing to lay on the couch burning up as few calories as possible....

But like everything else these days, the personal is political. Some people say my weight problem is your problem and vice versa. Obesity is related to higher risks of heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes and lots of other unpleasant outcomes. According to the Surgeon General of the United States, obesity costs the United States $117 billion a year. It's reaching "epidemic proportions." He estimates that as many as 300,000 people may die prematurely due to obesity, approaching the death toll from tobacco.

There are two magic words in the Surgeon General's language-epidemic and tobacco. Using the word epidemic conveys the impression that obesity is a disease and therefore an appropriate concern of the nation's premier public health official. It suggests that personal choice and responsibility are irrelevant. And by invoking tobacco, he sets the stage for regulation and other intervention to help us get thinner.....

But if obesity causes health problems, doesn't that justify government's involvement? After all, if we taxpayers have to foot the bill for some of those higher health care costs, don't we have the right to intervene in each others lives?

I think that logic is grotesque. But it's more than grotesque. It's dangerous. AIDS is a very costly disease, and some of those costs are born by taxpayers. AIDS is associated with certain sexual practices. Does that justify government regulation in the bedroom? I don't think so. But my eating habits or yours don't justify the government's involvement in the kitchen, either."

More here

No comments: