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The article is in Time Magazine Online Edition and presents pro and con arguments by Radley Balko and Kelly Brownell & Marion Nestle
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The story about obesity is far more complicated than either article suggests. Scientific research ongoing since at least 2000 has drawn a direct link between toxins in foods and humans' waistlines, or obesity levels. One such study that caused much deeper studies to be begun is titled and shows "Phthalate Metabolites Are Associated with Increased Waist Circumference and Insulin Resistance in Adult U.S. Males." Science has changed the debate over health regulation and governmental health protection. It turns out, through the research discoveries, that obesity is the responsibility of more than the individual but not necessarily for the reasons Brownell and Nestle state.
In accord with Balko who is against the nanny government that people seem to want, the obesity problem is a reflection of the culture of satisfying impulses and relishing indolence. With freedom comes responsibility. If people are willing to relinquish even the responsibility for their own waistlines, America is in trouble!
Worse, socialized health care makes us troublingly tolerant of government trespasses on our personal freedom. If my neighbor's heart attack shows up on my tax bill, I'm more likely to support state regulation of what he eats—restrictions on what grocery stores can put on their shelves, for example, or what McDonald's can put between its sesame-seed buns.
Jerry Brown's idea of a fat tax is absurd! This all echoes of Aldous Huxley's greatest fear--that people would love their servitude. This love of servitude brings about the revolution for a Brave New World.
One of the reasons the discussion of food intake regulation comes up is the fact that the insurance giants like Blue Cross/Blue Shield do not want the weighty [pun is intended] bills of those individuals who must go to doctors and have medication and even operations because of conditions brought on by obesity.
As far as the actual writing, Balko's argument seems politically biased in a larger sense than merely addressing the question at hand. His logic, for me, is also slightly meandering. I feel like the second argument is cleaner and more concise. I'm not surprised to see the responses above, though... the United States has always been very focused on independence and individuality (great things of course, but not always the only answer). I think there's something very real about the "food environment" that is created by society at large. And, yes, I think the government should be responsible for monitoring this environment so that it doesn't become a greasy cesspool where caloric, fat-laden, nutrition-devoid merchants have monopolies.
Let's be clear: it's impossible for the government to control what we personally eat day by day. That's not what's being suggested. I don't think choice is even taken away from us at all in this scenario... I think the point is that the government would be making a conscious effort to resist the sanctification of the Big Mac as our national food! Let's face it--our health as a country is abysmal in comparison to others. Isn't our collective health as vital a natural resource as coal and lumber? Our individual choices do determine our path, but right now, the "easy road" is the unhealthy one. Time to repave, people! And just like the real roads, that's something we've got to work on and sponsor as a whole community.
I'm totally going with Balko, not necessarily for his take on nutrition, but for the fact that he acknowledges that the Government has no business choosing for us. They surely have a claim in approving what comes and goes out of the FDA, and other agencies, but in reality, have they ever really "gotten it right and straight". Never.
The only reason people are getting so fat these days is that they just do not move! How many athletes and sports people do you see out there having weight issues? Not that many. I have witnessed co-workers of mine joining Zumba and doing quite well. McDonald's is still down the street and so is my very favorite Gordon Biersch Brewery. So, if I choose to go there daily- first of all- I would get sick of the same stuff and, second of all, I would eventually want something else. So, I also joined Zoomba, Im trying the new salad selections at the Lobster and choose wine instead of beer. That cannot be so hard that the President gets to be involved. Come on! We can't be that....mentally challenged!
Government's role when it comes to consumer affairs, to me, should be focused on product safety. Now what constitutes food safety? Obviously no harmful chemicals, sanitary production methods, etc., but once you get into regulating exactly what we can consume in terms of fat or sugar content, it becomes a regulatory nightmare. At some point people need to become more responsible.
We are capable, as a world population, of making better choices, just not necessarily because the government tells us to. In the 1960's, fully 2/3 of Americans were addicted to smoking. Now, according to the CDC, that number is less than 20%. Did we become more responsible as a society since then? Or has the combination of massive education campaigns and tax disincentives changed behavior?
I would say that the rise in poverty over the last 30 years, along with the increasing need for both parents to work full time to make ends meet is more responsible for people eating where it is both convenient and cheap, at fast food restaurants which are often anything but healthy.
I partially agree with the views expressed in #2. I do believe that government should take more of a responsibility in ensuring that food products are properly marked to indicate the potential harm that they could do, but I do agree that they cannot tell us what we can and can't eat. There is always more that governments can do, however, and certainly more effective labelling and education should come into that. However, at the end of the day, I do think that we are not children, and that one of the marks of being an adult is taking responsibility for your own actions. This means that ultimately the responsibility does lie with us.
If I have to pick one or the other of these points of view, I would generally agree with Balko's overall argument. I would agree with him that we are responsible for our own weight and for what we eat. I am not at all sure that I agree with his argument about "socialized medicine," but I do not believe that the government should be preventing the food industry from producing what they want and marketing it in whatever ways they want.
I do not doubt that advertisements can influence people. However, advertisements do not force people to eat anything. People are the ones who ultimately choose what they are going to buy and what they are going to eat. We cannot have the government protect us from every company or industry that wants to sell us something (gambling, alcohol, food, high-performance sports cars) that may be good in moderation but can be dangerous if overused.
So, I do not agree completely with either argument, but I agree more with the idea that people are ultimately responsible for their own eating habits than with the idea that government should protect us from our own weaknesses.
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