Is Fat a Political Matter?

Life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness…and the right to not eat trans fats?

The Food and Drug Administration has determined that a major source of trans fats (partially hydrogenated oils) is no longer “generally recognized as safe.”

Are these trans fats poison? No, that’s not what the FDA is saying. They’re saying that because, in some studies, trans fats are associated with increased risk of heart disease, the FDA will now intervene and outlaw them.

In recent years, many food manufacturers have taken steps to limit or eliminate trans fat from their products. Why? Because many people are concerned about health and nutrition, and have, through the marketplace, demanded alternatives.

However, “current intake remains a significant public health concern,” FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg (no joke on the name) said in an official statement. [source of news story, 11/7/13]

Most people will look at this story in terms of trans fats. Are they healthy, or not? Are they always bad, or only in certain doses?

Few, if anyone, will ask, “Why is government deciding this in the first place?”

If something poisonous were sold as edible, with the threat of immediate death, this would of course be a valid legal issue. However, only a couple of deaths would be necessary before people would voluntarily stop eating the poison, refusing to go near it. This is not to minimize the tragedy of the deaths of innocent people, but these deaths could not have been prevented by the government anyway.
Outlawing of trans fats is based on an implied principle or premise. There’s no escaping this fact.

What is the implied principle? That it’s government’s job and function to regulate what we eat. That it’s government’s job to make sure we’re healthy.

Government is paying for most of our medical care, and if single-payer coverage arrives, will be paying for all of our medical care before long. So isn’t it reasonable that government intervene to tell us what to eat?

Therein lies the whole problem with single-payer insurance. Once government pays our health bills, government can tell us to do whatever it wishes. This includes sexual activity, by the way, should religious conservatives ever win a majority vote.

This is how dictatorship starts. Dictatorship is a context where nobody has any choices about anything, except in cases where the government allows it. Most Americans will laugh. “This is America. There won’t ever be a dictatorship here.”

My answer to this is: Why not? If we progressively surrender the principle or premise that government may tell us what to eat, and how much of it we may eat, then aren’t we already in something like a dictatorship, to that extent?

Don’t get distracted by nutritional issues here. I’m all for healthy eating, and I’m all ears to scientific studies on the subject. What I’m questioning here is the one-size-fits all approach to eating mandated by a central government in Washington D.C.

By what right does anyone tell you what you may, or may not, eat? Are we all little children? Even if eating trans fats reduces your chances of a healthy or long life, isn’t that your own decision to make? Does government own our bodies, or do we own our bodies? If it’s the latter, then why allow gigantic agencies of coercion to tell us what we may eat?

These are the questions we must be asking. Failing to ask them, or even think about and discuss them, is self-defeating and destructive.

The people who most stridently support this government intervention in medicine and health are usually the ones who most stridently oppose government regulation of things like abortion, birth control, and the sexual orientation or practices of consenting adults. They have my full agreement on liberty in those areas. Many of these same people are moving towards a more liberalized view with things such as marijuana, which they maintain should be legal, at least in certain circumstances. I fully agree.

So why the discrepancy in terms of health? Why is it politically correct and fashionable to support less government intervention in sexual reproduction and pot smoking, with ever more government intervention in what we eat and where we obtain our medical treatment, as well as what kinds of treatment we obtain?

I’m always waiting for an answer. I’m constantly disappointed because I never hear one. Even raising the question generally results in yawns of indifference, wide-eyed confusion or hostility.

Health is important. But the freedom to live one’s life is even more important. Without that freedom and liberty, there will be no dissemination of medical knowledge and technology to help us lead the happiest and longest lives possible.

A demand for government to get out of the way of these things is the only way to the best life possible on earth. Government cannot and will never shape human beings to a one-size-fits-all model. Fascists, Communists and many others have tried and ultimately failed. What makes you think the same mentality and laws engineered in America will lead to anything different?