Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Am I becoming a libertarian? Probably not.

Every once in a while, I hear from my old college chum, the Libertarian. Under normal circumstances, we have more of an uneasy truce than a friendship, but under the current administration, we've bonded over our shared loathing of said government officials. That's been nice and eye-opening. Here are the ways in which my beliefs align with his, though divergences are noted:
  • It's kind of bullshit that I have to pay your medical bills if you don't wear a helmet and crash your motorcycle without insurance. On the other hand, if you've taken necessary safety precautions, but still crash your motorcycle without insurance, I don't mind.
  • Drugs ought to be legal and well-regulated. Not just because it's not the government's business what I do with my body (because, obviously, what I do with my body has effects on the broader community), but also because the war on drugs is futile, overburdening the prison system, and depriving the government of a great deal of tax revenue.
  • Prostitution ought to be legal and well-regulated. Again, not just because it's not the government's business what I do with my body, but because it would lessen the prostitute's reliance on a broker, allow some kinds of healthcare initiatives that would keep everyone safer, and provide a safety net for these people so that when serial killers or other assorted thugs prey on them, someone notices and cares.
  • We ought not to mistake Hollywoodish cowboy bravado for acceptable foreign policy.

We mostly differ in that I believe that we, as human beings have obligations to each other and that the government can be a more effective tool for fulfilling those obligations than individuals can. I have ideals and it hurts me when those ideals are not met.

But today, I see that the federal government is urging people to lose weight and exercise more. Yes, the republican government home of the "smaller government" mindset is wasting valuable federal dollars to tell me and the rest of us fat-asses to lose weight. Yes, this man, with the double chin, is using his last days in office to tell the rest of America to lose weight.

"Do you want to look better? Do you want to feel better?" he asks, like some kind of sleazy dope dealer. But, as if he's anticipating my recognizing him for the pusher he is, he reminds us that "people should not assume that researchers at the National Institute of Health are going to come up with a miracle diet pill. 'Every American is waiting for NIH to come up with that pill,' he said. 'It's not going to happen.'"


Listen, I'm not going to go into all of the reasons that the government has no business trying to dictate what we do with our bodies. I'm going to even attempt to refrain from pointing out how funny it is that we don't think it's weird that our government wants to tell us what we ought to weigh, but we think it's hilarious that Kim Jong Il wants all North Koreans to get their hair cut every 15 days.

Oh, yeah, I know that this is all about "feeling better" and "being healthier" and how we all ought to throw up our hands at the way we are getting fatter and fatter because it means that we're getting less and less healthy. Well, except that we're living longer now than we ever have and we all have to die of something and, frankly, though I'd prefer to live to be 95, I'd rather die at 70 from being too fat, than to die at 20 because my dress got caught up in the machine I was running 14 hours a day or at 35 after my 10th pregnancy or at 5 because I starved to death.

But really, it's about aesthetics, and even Thompson inadvertently admits it as he asks, first, if you want to look better and only second if you want to feel better.

I understand this from the Democrats. They're supposed to be the party of big, intrusive government and Hollywood (in all it's fucked up body image glory) and sleeping with whomever is handy.

But the Republicans are the party of the FAT cats. Shouldn't they be encouraging all of us to flaunt our wealth and power through our girth, like a whole nation of modern-day robber barons?


Blogger the Professor said...

But does the Libertarian actually want the government to regulate drugs & sex, or does he want it all to just be legal? Does he want a helmet law? Probably not. I imagine you two are quite similar as well as quite different. Whenever I take one of those crazy online tests that will tell me my political leanings I get labeled some kind of socialist libertarian, as if that is possible. Yet, there seem to be lots of us out there. Maybe we really do need a new frame of reference for political questions and strategies.

1/12/2005 03:49:00 PM  
Blogger The Corporate Shill said...

There's a problem here though. Because, as someone who does eats pretty well, gets regular exercise (and I don't mean running marathons, I mean walking and moving in general) and doesn't smoke, etc., I have to pay for the bills for those who willfully and deliberately choose to treat their bodies like crap. And I resent having my premiums rise to pay for them. I know that obesity can be hereditary, but that sad truth is that Americans eat like shit and we are a pretty sedentary society. And I know that food is a basic human need, whereas riding a motorcycle is not. I don't much care. It's not that hard to take a walk and stop stuffing your face with Oreos and Big Macs.

That said, I also worked for the PR firm that represented both the beef and dairy organizations and we sent public comments to the members of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee as part of the review process. So I know what a bunch of garbage the whole thing is. Basic nutrition guidance hasn't changed in years. Why we continue to spend money on crap like that is beyond me. And the commercials? Where the guy picks up a pair of LOVE HANDLES OFF THE SUPERMARKET FLOOR?! Pointless.

It's not about awareness -- Americans are aware they need to eat better and move around more; they know they come in all shapes and sizes and size is not necessarilty an indication of health. So while you and I have some different ideas about some of these issues, Aunt B., I agree with your main point -- it is about aesthetics and about the gov't putting on a good show.

Perhaps we can count the BS gov't show programs that we pay for: Verb, No Child Left Behind, Dietary Guidelines, the Medicare drug benefit, Small Steps to Better Health... there are tons! (And mostly from HHS it appears.)

I wonder where I would score on a test of my political leanings? I feel like I've got something I believe in from every party. Can you be a Socialist Liberal Libertarian Conservative? Let us start a new political party!

Apologies for the disjointedness of this post. My job does that to me.

1/13/2005 05:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is entirely not on the topic but I can contain myself no longer. For three days this has been here and each day when I do my daily TCP check, I think you are becoming a librarian. :)

-The Speed Reading SuperGenius

1/14/2005 08:55:00 AM  
Blogger Aunt B said...

Corporate Shill--

I don't think we're actually too far apart. I just think that the concern about weight (until we get to the point where we're talking about people be immobalized by it) is attacking and holding a side-effect to blame instead of a root cause. It's as if we say "huffing paint gives you headaches before it kills you" and then the government figures it's their business to get in there and prevent your headaches.

Being fat doesn't kill you. Eating like shit, clogging up your arteries with deep-fried Snickers, sitting on the couch 16 hours watching tv, avoiding fruits and vegetables like the plague--those are things that will kill you and one of the side effects of living like that is being fatter than you would be if you were more mobile and ate better.

I mean, even if you get gastric bypass surgery and loads of liposuction, if you don't get off the couch and eat better, are you really healthier or just successful at masking your unhealthiness?

So, I'm all for being healthy and non-goverment agencies encouraging people to be healthier, eat better, move around more.

But I will continue to laugh at the government's doomed-to-fail attempts to make us all look better.

1/14/2005 09:25:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, in response to your question, studies of post bariatric patients have shown them to be healthier (assuming they survive the surgery which is very risky and has a long, complicated recovery process which many patients do not abide) than they were prior to surgery and healthier in comparisson to other overweight people of similar age and whatnot. (In the interest of full disclosure I do represent a nubmer of doctors and hospitals that perform this procedure).

All that being said, a government program encouraging a fat a lazy populace to get off of their ass and walk around the block will not work. I find it curious that this program is advanced by a government that considers ketchup a vegetable and allows our schools to be so underfunded that local districts must sell their souls to Coke and Snickers to make up budget shortfalls. Maybe instead of directing a program to overweight adults, who have made their own choices and are responsible for themselves, at least in theory, the money spent on this campaing could be redirected to feeding kids and educating them on proper food choices. I seriously question what type of dietary role model most American adults make for their kids. What with cramming pre-packed heat and eat crap down their gullets and taking them to McDonalds when they break a C average on their report cards.

Also the Libertarian is not really a Libertarian. He is a Contrarian, a much lesser known political organization whose platform consists solely of taking your side, spinning it on its head and berating you for being wrong.

The Legal Eagle, esq.

1/14/2005 04:42:00 PM  
Blogger Aunt B said...

A Contrarian?! That is a genius description.

I've got conflicting thoughts, though, about the surgery because I think there's a distinction, even if the government doesn't make it, between fat people who can and should get off their butts and move around and eat better--who shouldn't have dangerous surgery, but instead should, if they choose, make some lifestyle changes and folks who've gotten so large that their size prohibits them from getting up and moving around.

Conflating those two groups of people under the banner of "morbidly obese" is misguided.

Anyway, that's neither here nor there in the context of your post. I started out just wanting to say that you're spot on about our ketchup-as-vegetable Government maybe funding schools so that they don't have to sell out to corporations that get rich off of feeding our kids junk food.

Now, I'm off to hit the drive-thru at Mickey D's.

1/14/2005 05:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No one has to have the surgery, though. Even people who cannot walk under their own poer can lose weight without it. Case in point, there was a really fat guy in Nebraska (by really fat, in excess of 1000lbs) who had not gotten out of bed for seven months and was dependent upon his wife to bathe and feed him (surely there are some co-dependent/enablement issues in that relationship) who checked himself into the hospital and was placed on a 1200 cal/day diet and lost three or four hundred pounds in four months. Now not everyone can just stay in the hospital for four months to lose weight as this guy did (the hospital donated his care) but anyone, no matter how big can lose weight, if they want. Its just really, they don't want to. (this said from a person who is watching, sometimes in fascination as his own belly spreads).

We do not live in a society that penalizes poor choices, but rather one that spreads the risk of stupidity.


1/14/2005 05:13:00 PM  

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