The Obesity Police Are Coming
February 19, 2008
Irvine, CA--Lawmakers in Mississippi have proposed a bill that would revoke the business license of any restaurant that serves food to fat people, as measured by state health standards.
"Proponents of the paternalistic nanny-state are intent on transforming obesity into a public health issue," said Thomas Bowden, an analyst at the Ayn Rand Institute. "But obesity is a private health matter, of no legitimate concern to government.
"Each individual has a right to life, which includes the right to eat as one sees fit. A rational judgment about what to eat takes into account many individual factors--nutritional needs, metabolism, genetics, medical history, and a doctor's advice--as well as the pleasure of eating and one's personal views on body shape. The fact that some people may irrationally maintain an unhealthy weight by overeating cannot justify government control over food intake.
"Legitimate public health measures, such as quarantining persons with infectious diseases or outlawing disease-spreading cesspools, involve shielding innocent victims from physical force. But fat people do not emit physical forces that impede other people's freedom of action. Hence, government has no right to prevent or punish obesity.
"Some say body weight is a proper subject of legislation because taxpayers bear the burden of treating obesity-related maladies. But the solution to escalating health-care costs is not to surrender control of our bodies but to question the prevailing view that government should be involved in paying for health care.
"Obese individuals have the same right as anyone else to decide what to eat, and restaurant owners have a right to choose whom they will serve. The Mississippi legislative proposal is a particularly ugly, arrogant attempt to decree public ownership of human bodies. As such, it is an attack on everyone's freedom, and it should be denounced as such."
Thomas A. Bowden is an analyst at the Ayn Rand Institute, focusing on legal issues. A former lawyer and law school instructor who practiced for twenty years in Baltimore, Maryland, his Op-Eds have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Philadelphia Inquirer, Miami Herald, Los Angeles Daily News, and many other newspapers. Mr. Bowden has given dozens of radio interviews and has appeared on the Fox News Channel's Hannity & Colmes.
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