Like half of America, I’ve fallen for Megan McArdle‘s economic blogging. Here she is carefully working her way through the question of nationalized health care:
The other major reason that I am against national health care is the increasing license it gives elites to wrap their claws around every aspect of everyone’s life. Look at the uptick in stories on obesity in the context of health care reform. Fat people are a problem! They’re killing themselves, and our budget! We must stop them! And what if people won’t do it voluntarily? Because let’s face it, so far, they won’t. Making information, or fresh vegetables, available, hasn’t worked–every intervention you can imagine on the voluntary front, and several involuntary ones, has already been tried either in supermarkets or public schools. Americans are getting fat because they’re eating fattening foods, and not exercising. How far are we willing to go beyond calorie labelling on menus to get people to slim down?
These aren’t just a way to save on health care; they’re a way to extend and expand the cultural hegemony of wealthy white elites. No, seriously. Living a fit, active life is correlated with being healthier. But then, as an economist recently pointed out to me, so is being religious, being married, and living in a small town; how come we don’t have any programs to promote these “healthy lifestyles”?
When you listen to obesity experts, or health wonks, talk, their assertions boil down to the idea that overweight people are either too stupid to understand why they get fat, or have not yet been made sufficiently aware of society’s disgust for their condition. Yet this does not describe any of the overweight people I have ever known, including the construction workers and office clerks at Ground Zero. All were very well aware that the burgers and fries they ate made them fat, and hitting the salad bar instead would probably help them lose weight. They either didn’t care, or felt powerless to control their hunger.
They were also very well aware that society thought they were disgusting, and many of them had internalized this message to the point of open despair. What does another public campaign about overeating have to offer them, other than oozing condescension?