Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Transfat, life, and a whole lot of shaking going on

So I haven't been posting in several days, and I missed out on my promise to start posting my epic poem. While I have a legitimate excuse for the latter (the poem is located on a computer that lacks internet access or any easy means to remove files, and so it will take me some time to get the poem to the internet), I have no legitimate excuse for the latter. I apologize (to anyone who noticed, who might actually be simply one person and most importantly to myself). This session is itself not a real session, but I feel alright with that since it is addressing some important issues. This is actually an essay I'm doing for a Libretarian Newsletter I work on, The Invisible Hand (it will be out and around Rutgers (and possibly other campuses, especially if you out there print out some copies to distribute) relatively soon, check it out, it is also at the website (I'm not sure yet how to do links with myspace), and you should also check out the Rutgers Libretarian website, but hopefully you should enjoy it.

The Insidious Logic of Transfat
I have mixed feelings about healthy foods. On the one hand, I like to be careless about what I eat, I like my food casual and worrying about what's in it tends to deflate that casualness. On the other hand, I do want to loose some pounds. But if there's one thing that Libertarianism holds dear its that personal preferences should not dictate government policies. Thus I try to distance my analysis of health issues from my personal feelings on healthy foods, I know its impossible to do so completely, but it is certainly valuable to try. Thus I will try to keep my preference from transfat heavy foods from my opinions on government policy towards transfat, although it this case the two tend to coincide. The government really has no business dealing with transfat. Yes, it is bad for you, but people should be able to make their own lifestyle choices. I understand that most of those wanting to ban transfats act out of concern for their fellow human beings, and I appreciate that, but concern is not justification for forcing people to eat how you want them to. While I can understand the arguments of those arguing against transfat, one argument in particular I find incredibly frightening. That argument is that because the government pays some health care costs like emergency hospitalization and since transfat causes obesity which causes health care costs, government therefore has the right to ban transfat because of how much the medical care costs. This argument has also been used to attack smoking. I am frightened by it because it opens the door to a monstrous trend of limiting what people eat, what people do and possibly even what people think all because of the many fields that government has involved itself in. To say that if the government helps people out in a certain aspect of their life justifies the government controlling that aspect of life is an invitation for unlimited government control, and I find that truly terrifying.
Let us start out with the original argument, that since the government pays for certain health care costs, the government is justified in controlling activities like eating transfat. I do believe that transfat increases obesity somewhat and there is definitely a correlation between eating transfat and being unhealthy. Yet looking at that correlation alone would exaggerate the effects of transfats. Remember always that correlation is not causation. While transfat does have an effect, the greater reason for the correlation is that people who eat lots of transfat tend not to care about what they eat in general and this causes them to become obese. If then the government really wants to control health care costs it will have to go far beyond banning transfats. One of the biggest causes of obesity is red meat, the government would have to ban that or at least give it an extra tax. Candy also causes obesity, as does ultra-refined, empty of nutrient grains like cookies, so these too would need taxes or bans. To really cut down on obesity the government would have to invade every aspect of people's diets. I'd like to point out that this is fundamentally different from say making sure food manufactures do not put poisons in our food, in that case there is a deception on the part of the food manufactures, here there is no deception, any person who wants to face the truth will know most of the foods that are bad for them, and with a little research they will know all of them, anyone who wants to control their diet will need will power but they would be capable of eating well. That is not the issue, the issue is those that eat badly cost the health cares system money, even if they eat badly knowing fully well what the food does to them, and thus the government is justified in controlling their diets and their free choice in food. To say this opens the door to hundreds of taxes and bans, and to carry this logic further can lead to even more control of peoples life styles.
If the government is justified in controlling what people eat because of health care costs, why not other activities. After all, eating is something essential, while many other enjoyable behaviors which tax the health care system are not. Bungee jumping is dangerous and those injuries cost money, extreme sports can also cost money, and so they can be banned. Unhealthy food is usually justified by people because it gives enjoyment, so if it can be banned it makes sense that so can other enjoyable activities. Certain cars are less safe than others, so they can be banned. Convinces like drive-throughs cause less walking and therefore worsen obesity and so they can be banned. Throughout our lives we make choices between the safer or healthier course and the more enjoyable or convenient course, and to say that because of the costs to the health care system the government can force us to choose the healthier course would mean that the our lives would be removed from our control. Often we are defined by the choices we make, often those same choices between safer or more enjoyable, if we choose to engage in dangerous sports we can make ourselves the daredevil guy, if we choose to eat tasty but unhealthy food we can make ourselves food connoisseurs. Yet if we let the government make those choices for us then the government will define our lives. In fact, if they are justified in forcing us to choose the safer path in what we do, simply because it costs them, then they can stretch that justification to what we think.
If anything that costs the government money can be controlled, then our thoughts are not safe as well. Many have argued that certain video games cause violence, and violence costs money, so they can be banned. In fact, certain books might cause people to be more aggressive and violent so the government can control books. Ideas can be violent, many variants of Communism contain calls to violence, so they can be banned, and so can perhaps certain variants of Christianity. Some would argue Islam should be banned because they associate it with violence and it doesn't matter that that idea is ridiculous, if we argue that the government can ban things because it costs them money, well, keeping order costs them money, and if a majority of people then feel Islam is too violent, then they can pass laws against it because the floodgate was opened by this logic. So much of the thought-life of the nation can be construed as violent by different groups, and if those groups hold the majority, and if the government can ban anything which costs it money by threatening violence, then the thought-life of the nation will come to a standstill. In fact, the ideas themselves do not need to be violent, ideas that promote theft cost the government money because the government needs to investigate such thefts, ideas that prompt civil disobedience cost money because the government needs to deal with such civil disobedience, even ideas that upset people can cost the government money, because those people might become violent and that would need a costly response. To say that the government can legislate in any area that would cost it money is to say that the government can legislate anywhere in our lives, our thoughts, and our souls. To say this is to discard the very idea of freedom.
If the government can ban things that might cost it money, suddenly everything is open to a ban. We are the sum of the choices we make, what we choose to eat, what we choose to do, what we choose to think, if the government can dictate those choices it can control us. It doesn't matter if the government is right or wrong (although we should remember that even if the government is right at this moment, it might be wrong later), what matters is to give control up control of our lives would be to discard our fundamental humanity. We are humans because we think up our choices, we are human because we make mistakes, we are human because we have a soul that is free to choose right or wrong. If we discard our choices we reduce ourselves to animals, and no amount of money is worth that. Yes the government pays and extra price for our freedom, and yes that price is passed on to the general public through taxes, but there is no price tag on freedom, to make one is a crime against our very souls.

So that's about it for now, I might do another session later today. I'm not sure if I will I actually feel quite shitty (I'm putting sick for my mood, but that really isn't how I'm feeling, I'm more feeling, well, shitty, just irrationally overwelmingly shitty) (I wasn't sure if I'd do any session at all today, but well here we are). But anyways, take it to your head, take it to your heart, and remember Rand rocks. Goodnight Folks!

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