Smoking, Diabetes, Obesity, Video Games, Bacon, TV: All Are Healthier than Fascism

Wednesday, March 22, 2006
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The State is never done with prying into our personal lives and dictating the who, what, where, when, and why of our individual existence. On the LewRockwell.com blog, Norm Singleton comments on the Ronald Bailey article at Reason. Essentially, the story is that the New York City health departement is monitoring the blood sugar tests of the diabetic citizenry, and thus for the first time is government going to ferret out those that have a chronic disease.

The New York City Department of Health will analyze the data to identify those patients who are not adequately controlling their diabetes. They will then receive letters or phone calls urging them to be more vigilant about their medications, have more frequent checkups, or change their diet.

…So what could be wrong with merely monitoring and reminding people to take better care of themselves? New York City Health Commissioner Thomas Friedan has made it clear that it won’t necessarily end there. If nagging is not sufficient to reduce the health consequences of the disease, other steps will be taken. Friedan argues that “modifications of the physical environment to promote physical activity, or of the food environment to address obesity, are essential for chronic disease prevention and control.” Friedan envisions regulations for chronic disease control including “local requirements on food pricing, advertising, content, and labeling; regulations to facilitate physical activity, including point-of-service reminders at elevators and safe, accessible stairwells; tobacco and alcohol taxation and advertising and sales restrictions; and regulations to ensure a minimal level of clinical preventive services.”

At its most draconian, one can imagine that local public health officials might impose a severe tax or even outlaw foods that they believe contribute to the diabetes “epidemic.” No more Twinkies or French fries. Buildings would have to be redesigned not only to accommodate the physically handicapped but also in ways that somehow encourage the physically able take the stairs. And do regulations “ensuring clinical preventive services” mean mandatory health checkups? Wouldn’t it be more efficient just to tax people for every extra bit of avoirdupois they carry over a body mass index of 25?

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Plenty is wrong with this scenario, as Bailey points out. In fact, another Reason piece by Jacob Sullum has video games as the next target for the Lifestyle Nazis. Here’s what Hillary & Co. are up to:

This month a Senate committee approved a bill sponsored by the junior senator from New York that authorizes government-funded research on “the effects of viewing and using electronic media, including television, computers, video games, and the Internet, on children’s cognitive, social, physical, and psychological development.” Fittingly, since Clinton likens these diversions to a plague, the research would be overseen by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

…Before a single CDC grantee has begun research to confirm there’s a problem, Clinton already has proposed a solution: the Family Entertainment Protection Act (FEPA), which would make it a federal crime to sell anyone under the age of 17 video games with “mature” or “adults only” ratings. FEPA also would instruct the Federal Trade Commission to evaluate the industry’s rating system, conduct secret annual audits of retailers, investigate “hidden” game content, and collect consumer complaints about ratings and content descriptions.

Although FEPA’s provisions may sound mild, it’s a big step toward government regulation of video game content, which would raise serious constitutional issues. Clinton’s legislation could sabotage a private rating system that, while imperfect, provides parents with the information they need to monitor the video games their children play.

Going back to the Higgsian thesis of Leviathan and its crises, note that government halfwits deeply desire to gain power: in this case it’s having more control over such aspects of our life as pasta indulgence and shoot-em-up video games. Thus, in order to gain any creep into our lives the State must first create crisis in the minds of the masses, otherwise permission would not be granted for further entrenchment of goverment rule over our lives. In cases like this, however, it’s merely complacency–not permission–that endows government with its place in the sun.

When you approach the public from the angle of “potential health problems” via perceived crisis, they tend to lay back and wait for the solution rather than challenge the assumption in the first place. Oftentimes perceived crises are not crises at all, but mere gnats on an elephant’s tush. In the cases of diabetes, is it a crisis? Yes, of course it is. The statistics that Bailey notes in brief are telling, and there’s far more information to tell us that diabetes–especially in kids–is quickly becoming one of America’s most frightening health problems. People are drowning themselves in sugar. If you don’t believe the diabetes statistics coming from private organizations, recheck the obesity statistics. If you don’t believe those, take a look around you when in public. Then there’s the “problem” of sedentary video gaming. Is it really a problem? It’s a sad state of affairs is what it is. American kids and adults are in a trance thanks to TV and gaming, as they notch themselves further and further down the scale of intelligence and accomplishment for fear they might miss a moment away from the couch and their stupid, braindead activities.

What to do? The answer to this is where we anti-statists diverge from the rest of the pack, for the answer is we do nothing at all. Simply nothing. Sullum makes the most important point of all in his piece:

Clinton complains that “young people are able to purchase [violent and sexually explicit] games with relative ease.” While it’s true retailers usually sell M-rated games to the FTC’s 13-to-16-year-old “mystery shoppers,” Thierer cites survey data indicating that “92 percent of the time parents are present when games are purchased or rented.” Present or not, parents have the power of the purse strings, especially with products that cost $40 to $60 each.

Thus it’s the parents, stupid. The parents buy the games. The parents allow the couch to become the parking lot and they allow the TV to become their child’s educator. Parents. That’s a word that the crisis mongers and busybodies don’t understand. We may not like certain aspects of society, or the ways of folk, but it sure as hell ain’t none of our business.

The fact that private industry groups spring up to try and inform, educate, and persuade people is a good thing. The video gaming industry has voluntarily undertaken an effective ratings system–and the parents can choose to heed it or ignore it. Most ignore it, indeed, but it ain’t your problem or mine. And it sure as heck is not the business of some fatass Senator in New York. Same goes for health issues. People are now more informed than ever, thanks to the Internet, free newsletters, voluntary issue groups, and the myriad nonprofit agencies that research and educate on chronic diseases and unhealthy lifestyles. Only market forces can and will help to clarify and solve these issues. The proliferation of such bodies will be snuffed out as government further encroaches on the private sector to take over the business of information and persuasion as they replace that with crisis mongering and coerci
on.

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