obesity as a disease officially changes hedonism from an individual
imperfection into a societal burden.
Government, Slimming Choice
this year, the federal government discovered yet another crisis
of catastrophic proportions were too fat. Bowing to
incessant media coverage spurred on by those who continually insist
that the "sky is falling," the U.S. government officially
recognized that America is weighed-down in an "obesity crisis."
And, whats more, we cant save ourselves, at least not
without the help of those in Washington, or so they say.
through what seemed to be an innocuous observation, the federal
government promised an ominous intrusion into all our lives. By
recognizing obesity as a disease, the Feds took their first definitive
steps toward inserting bureaucrats into individual decisions about
what we eat and drink, assuring us that the federal government would
help us change our "waist-full" ways.
Medicare authorities announced in July that all language stating
that obesity is not a disease would be removed from the Medicare
coverage manual, thereby allowing Medicare payments for obesity
treatments. With this change, Medicare will soon underwrite diet
programs, behavioral counseling and stomach stapling.
all of the pseudo-scientific research that tries to absolve overweight
individuals from bearing any responsibility for their size, we should
be specific about what obesity really is. Obesity is the inevitable
consequence of eating too much and exercising too little. Although
saying so violates the sacred tenets of political correctness, obesity
is the result of two deadly sins: gluttony and sloth. Classifying
obesity as a disease flies in the face of this rather obvious, though
to the American Heritage Dictionary, a disease is "a pathological
condition of a part, organ, or system of an organism resulting from
various causes, such as infection, genetic defect, or environmental
stress, and characterized by an identifiable group of signs or symptoms."
Using such a definition to account for obesity implies that an individual
bears no responsibility for being overweight, as though obesity
just randomly happens.
whatever ludicrous excuses the crusading special interests and avaricious
trial lawyers may come up with to shift the blame elsewhere, obesity
is still a matter of self-control. No one is forced to eat more
calories than they burn, and overweight people can see dramatic
improvements in their health and appearance by changing their lifestyles.
the new talking points used in the obesity debate demonstrate just
how far we have wandered from medical and scientific reality. Obesity
is now dubbed an "epidemic," a contagion needful of containment.
But being overweight is not like contracting the flu or the bubonic
plague. It results from a lifetime of individual choices. And just
because a large number of people choose to over-indulge and under-exert
does not make those choices everyone elses fault.
our tax dollars to pay for weight loss sends the wrong message loud
and clear: "Obesity is not your fault. You cannot lose weight
on your own, so we will spend whatever it takes to help you."
If government picks up the tab for overeating, then for what will
individuals be held accountable? Personal responsibility will be
unnecessary, at the cost of individual freedom. After all, since
obesity has been officially dubbed as too big for individuals to
deal with on their own, Big Brother will undoubtedly come to our
aid, every single one of us, limiting all our choices.
is only a matter of time before the public health crusaders, trial
lawyers and state governments facing budget shortfalls unleash their
fury on "big food." And, if the assault on eating continues
to mimic the attacks on asbestos, silicone breast implants, tobacco,
then our right to eat and drink what we want will be eroded in a
drive to advance what others believe is for "the common good."
Quite simply, if government cannot convince Americans to eat healthy,
it can force us to do so through new taxes and lawsuits.
(if we arent already) we will hear that the fast food chains
addicted us to grease; that restaurants purposely marketed kids
meals to impressionable children; that cartoon characters made overeating
"cool"; and that nutritional information was purposely
withheld from the public. Trial lawyers are already arguing that
overweight people are helpless victims of everyones favorite
whipping boy, corporate America, while aggressively seeking jackpot
justice to stop the food industry from engaging in the unconscionable
practice of giving American consumers exactly what they want.
stated famously more than two centuries ago, free people have an
unalienable right to make their own choices. But they will not stay
free for long if they demand that others must bear the responsibility
for their own decisions. Classifying obesity as a disease officially
changes hedonism from an individual imperfection into a societal
burden. As a result, our limited government will soon be intruding
into yet another aspect of our private lives, and we will find ourselves
with fewer choices to make and fewer ways to make them.
Hawley is a Research Associate at the Center for Individual Freedom.
He is a senior at Central Washington University in Ellensburg, Washington.
September 15, 2004]
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