Rebirth of Reason


Fat Foes
by Anton Kelly

The war against tobacco has almost been won and busybodies are turning their attention to the rising prevalence of obesity. Top United States lawyer John Banzhaf played a major part in that country's tobacco war and now he intends forcing regulation of the food industry by suing food manufacturers and fast food chains for causing people to become overweight. In New Zealand a new lobby group called Fight the Obesity Epidemic (FOE) has hit the headlines promising to "regulate everything possible" in an attempt to stop obesity in the current generation.

One annoying thing about these interfering do-gooders is that, like New Zealand's Green Party, they believe problems can only be solved through more government regulation. They want taxes on fatty foods and subsidies on health foods. They think everything should be either banned or compulsory.

Another really annoying thing about the busybodies is that they treat society as a kind of whining, sprawling super-organism which needs to be forcibly put on a diet and made to go for a run in the morning. They don't appreciate that society is actually composed of individuals. They have no understanding of the concept of individual freedom and the responsibility that goes with it. Not only have they given up fast foods themselves, they insist that everyone else give them up too. They want everyone to eat organically grown lettuce and drink low-fat calcium-enriched milk, just like them.

Most people are aware that fast foods are loaded with fat. As a fairly active person who generally tries to eat well, part of fast food's appeal for me is that it is so fantastically bad for me. There's nothing like gorging myself on a magnificently greasy burger, gobbling fries at the same time and swilling the whole lot down with refreshing tooth-rotting lemonade. It's great. It's part of the joy of living.

I liken the rising anti-obesity hysteria to the anti-immigration attitudes common here in New Zealand. Many people are opposed to immigration because they don't want to support immigrants through taxation-funded welfare. Similarly, part of the busybodies' concern about obesity arises because the cost of public health care will skyrocket as today's obese children become tomorrow's obese diabetic adults.

Just as anti-immigration attitudes would subside if taxation-funded welfare was abolished, concerns about obesity would subside if the public health system was privatised and people took out individual health cover with private insurance providers. It would then be up to the individual whether he became obese or not, as the level of health insurance premium paid by him would be affected by his dietary habits. Insurance providers would implement education initiatives as it would be in their best interests to have healthy clients.

There would then be nothing for the do-gooding busybodies to do. Until they found something else to try to get banned, that is. They need to get a life, and stop worrying about everyone else's.

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