Social Question

josie's avatar

Isn't legislation against high calorie foods sort of like when parents '"toddler proof" the house?

Asked by josie (27480points) September 18th, 2012

Parents put up little gates on staircases, and put plastic caps on electrical outlets because toddlers are too dumb to recognize some forms of peril.
We have government (parent), banning obesity causing food (potential danger), and people (not toddlers in this case) that apparently are too dumb to know that being fat is dangerous, or what it is that makes them fat.
Is the same principle in operation?

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34 Answers

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Interesting analogy, but I don’t think it really applies. A toddler doesn’t really know what is and isn’t harmful. I don’t know why people can’t understand the relationship between fat and health problems.

wundayatta's avatar

Is this the nanny state analogy? Or maybe the nag state analogy? The mother-in-law state?

But I have no problem with the state encouraging people to engage in healthy behavior, especially since if they don’t, the cost of their poor health is spread out over all of us. If someone gets diabetes and loses a foot and is on Medicaid, you, dear @josie wails, pay for some of it.

Does it ever bother you that you pay for other people’s mistakes? It happens in so many ways. Don’t you wish you could avoid paying for other people’s mistakes? Well, the only way is to completely isolate yourself from society. Go to the moon or something. Otherwise, we’re all in this together, and you better take an interest in your neighbor’s health and obesity, because it is costing you, son. It is costing you!

Sunny2's avatar

It’s all a matter of economics. Healthy people cost the country less than unhealthy. Many health problems are due to no actions of the sick or disabled people. Those that are caused by people’s habits can be altered by changing the habits. The government has stepped in to change the number of cigarette smokers, with some success. Now it seems they want to get into changing peoples’ eating habits. For the same reasons: It costs more to treat sick people and a healthy population is a stronger population.

zenvelo's avatar

It would be easier if they just banned certain unhealthy foods, like high fructose corn syrup and factory farm meats. I’d rather they clean up the food supply than legislate menus.

Shippy's avatar

I am with @zenvelo on this one.

Taciturnu's avatar

I don’t really care for big government. I wouldn’t quite say a toddler is too dumb, so much as cognitively incapable of seeing danger, though. For us average or above IQ’d adults, we make decisions all the time. If I want to smoke cigarettes or drink too much, that’s my choice. What makes that different from scarfing down McDonald’s all day?

I wouldn’t recommend any of those, but they are options available to me, no?

Coloma's avatar

What @zenvelo said!

The current menu docking seems a bit like prohibition to me. Infact, if you want to go for an out of the box argument why is it okay for people to smoke themselves to death and pickle their livers with booze but giant sodas and super sized fries are government controlled substances?
Retarded logic, and yeah, I’m not an over the top PC type, so, retarded is my word of choice. lol
Bottom line, if people want to eat themselves into illness isn’t it the same as choosing to drink yourself to death?

I mean, we are free agents and aside from the who pays for what, I find this sort of censoring pretty big brother-ish. Personally I don’t give a crap what people do to their bodies, why?
Because it is not my business and I accept we all pay a little more, just like we do for uninsured drivers.

@Wundatta You have spoken of being 50 lbs. overweight, do your neighbors harass you for that? I think all this control freakery is, well, outta control IMO.

tom_g's avatar

…or when governments set up speed limits, create drug laws, require seat belts, require car seats for children, mandate safe workplace standards, outlaw prostitution, create regulations on food safety, etc.

Yep. It’s pretty awful.~

Anyway, I am more for governments subsidizing healthy lifestyles, rather than penalizing or outlawing unhealthy ones. It should be financially appealing to be shopping at an organic market – not a luxury. What are the implications of this? Government making value judgments about food and its implications? Damn straight. Although I believe in a universal healthcare, so what do I know.

wundayatta's avatar

@Coloma Of course my neighbors are too polite for that, and no one is talking about harassment, I don’t think. I think we are talking about encouragement to behave more healthily and making it more difficult to access unhealthy things like happy brownies… er… high fructose corn syrup.

One way to do this is to charge people like me an extra premium on my health insurance. This is fine for me, but for people who can’t afford health insurance in the first place, it becomes problematic.

Far better is to offer people free access to health clubs and workout coaches and that sort of thing. Encourage people to behave healthily. Don’t penalize them for not behaving healthily.

Except when they are abusing a substance. Then tax the shit out of that substance. High taxes on tobacco lead to reduced use. High taxes on corn syrup would do the same. Although… there’s always Mexican coke…. ;-) The drink, I mean. Not cocaine.

But we have an interest in encouraging our neighbors to be healthy. Because we pay more when they get sick. Health care costs are higher, and they are spread out over everyone through insurance. If overall health care costs go down, we pay less for insurance, whether we pay it in premiums or taxes. We all win when people are healthier.

Coloma's avatar


I agree, but, I also think that we have forgotten the fundamentals we all learned in kindergarten. Some people are tall, some are short, some a fat some are thin.
It is what it is and I would never blacklist somebody because they smoked a cigarette or ate a bag of french fries or had some extra weight on their bodies.
Live and let live, and live and let die.

P.S. My Happy Brownies are gluten free, made with the finest, organic California greenery.
They are very healthy, besides, they help keep me from killing radicals. lololol

wundayatta's avatar

@Coloma It is true that we all have different genes. And it is anathema to think of blacklisting people for having a certain set of genes. But that is a red herring. A straw man. It’s not what the policy we are discussing would do.

You spoke of kindergarten. Didn’t they try to teach us to be kind in kindergarten? It seems to me that part of being kind is helping others to live healthier lives. Humankind uses social pressure to get people to conform all the time. I don’t see why using social pressure to get people to lose weight, especially when it is benign pressure, should be problematic.

I do hate cigarette smoke. But I don’t ask people to stop. I just ask them to do it where it won’t affect me. That means far away. Which means we can’t talk, but we could email. I’m not fond of pot smoke, either. But I’m happy to write to a pot smoker. Just wouldn’t be happy being near them if they were smoking. Brownies sound a lot more benign.

But I do mind when someone does something that costs me money. I don’t like people wrecking my property, or fouling my air, or raising my insurance costs, or raising my taxes. If people are doing things that have these results, then I want them to stop, because they aren’t just living and let die, they are also costing me money in the process.

Like if your neighbor starts putting sulphuric acid in a stream that runs through your property. That costs you money. That reduces the value of your property. Hell, it might even hurt your animals. Your neighbor is just minding his own business, right? Live and let live?

I don’t think so.

Coloma's avatar

Well, within reason, clearly.
French fries and sulphuric acid are really not comparable IMO. lol

wundayatta's avatar

Not comparable, no. But analogous.

CWOTUS's avatar

You’re right again, @josie, as you usually are in these kinds of questions. People ~love~ to have government take care of all those “who can’t take care of themselves”. Especially they love it because they don’t have an ox to be gored. If they’re on a diet, then everyone should be “by law”. If they wouldn’t drive a bicycle without a helmet, then of course everyone must “by law”. And in case they don’t like the laws they propose for everyone else, they make sure to lobby for an exception for their exceptional selves.


@wundayatta: “Legislation” is not “the state encouraging”; it’s the state demanding. It’s not just a semantic difference.

It’s silly, stupid, and it’s trying to turn a hammer into a flyswatter, but… H.L. Mencken was right: Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and they deserve it good and hard.

Democracy is three wolves and a sheep voting on lunch.

Seaofclouds's avatar

I don’t think it’s that people are too dumb to realize there are dangers to being over weight. I think they just don’t care. I think the government should focus more on other things than what people are eating.

whitenoise's avatar


SO what do we do with the 50% average or below IQ adults?
Have a shopping permit based on IQ?

JLeslie's avatar

I lean towards not having the government do it, but I definitely see the argument for it. Americans have basically proven they don’t make great food choices a lot of the time. I think of the government as a parent also. I just wrote an example of it regarding saving money for the futue on the topic of social security. Too many Americans don’t save nor think long terms so the government, mommy, forces you to save.

Anyway, the problem I have with controlling food is every so often it is nice to have some bad for you food. LOL. I prefer to focus on educating young people about food choices, and even adults about what is normal for children to eat and normal weight. I also am in favor of requiring calorie counts at restaurants. Basically a better informed public. I do like the idea of smaller portions at restaurants. This seems to be happening here and there as grocery items have become more expensive. The restaurants seem to be trying to maintain their prices and cut portions.

At least most of the talk about being fat and still healthy has stopped for the most part in America. That was a nightmare for public health.

whitenoise's avatar

From an economical perspective, the negative effects on health and the costs that these will bring are to be seen as external costs.

In general the normal demand-supply-pricing model doesn’t deal well with external costs and benefits (externalities). These are after all not part of the buying / production decision. Therefore goods with negative externalities are over-consumed / overproduced, while those with positive externalities will be under-consumed /underproduced .

The government is introducing a correction for these external effects into the market model, if it either limits supply or puts extra taxes in place for these products. This is what governments or regulatory bodies should be doing, I feel.

from wikipedia:
In the case of both negative and positive externalities, prices in a competitive market do not reflect the full costs or benefits of producing or consuming a product or service. Producers and consumers may neither bear all of the costs nor reap all of the benefits of the economic activity, and too much or too little of the goods will be produced or consumed in terms of overall costs and benefits to society.

JLeslie's avatar

@whitenoise Many people believe high fructose corn syrup is bad for us. I oersinally don’t think it is worse than sugar, but let’s say it is true that HFCS has harmed the health of Americans. From what I understand our government policy to subsidize corn is one of the reasons corn syrup is a less expensive option for packaged food manufacturers. The government seems to have helped create part of our problem possibly. I also think the American lifestyle in general is a problem for our health, and that would necessitate a cultural shift, not easy, and takes time. So, I think involving government is a mixed bag, and the problem is more complicated than government just putting restrictions on what types of food can be sold.

whitenoise's avatar

That is true… however, if the government is putting legislation in place to combat food that is creating health issues, it is doing what it should be doing, from a market model perspective, I feel. it is not being paternalistic, just doing what it should do. There may be other positive externalities that could be a reason for the government not to intervene, but free markets do not optimize well for externalities.

That governments also create misery with their decisions, is another thing.

JLeslie's avatar

@whitenoise I see your point. I recently asked a Q about McDonald’s not offering supersize anymore. That was not because of government. It seemed to be a decision based on the publicity of the movie Super Size Me and law suits that had been brought against fast food for causing harm.

cazzie's avatar

Imagine if your healthcare was State funded?? The government may see, after a cost/benefit analysis, that actually educating the public would SAVE them money?? (read sarcasam)

Taciturnu's avatar

@whitenoise No… the adults with an IQ of 90 or below usually have someone helping them shop, who is responsible for helping with their purchases.

Average was an inaccurate word. I hate using normal in this or many senses, but please substitute.

wundayatta's avatar

@CWOTUS I don’t have a problem with the state demanding. If the state didn’t demand we pay our taxes, chaos would ensue. I don’t have a problem with the state forbidding hazardous activities, or regulating them to keep people who engage in them from hurting outsiders, by demanding that people do them as safely as possible.

Do you have a problem with the state demanding safe operation of hazardous endeavors?

So I don’t have a problem with the state taxing corn syrup consumption. Do you?

I don’t have a problem with the state regulating the size of corn syrup sales at the retail level, just as they regulate the size of so many other products. Do you? I think the public has a legitimate interest in the behavior of our fellow citizens when that behavior is detrimental to us. Do you believe other people should be allowed to do their thing even when it hurts you?

I assume not. So perhaps we are only arguing about whether other people’s consumption of corn syrup hurts us. Is it the principle or the facts that we disagree on? Or maybe something else.

Coloma's avatar

@Taciturnu LOL

Hilarious, yes, and while we’re at it why doesn’t the government step with mandatory sterilization for low IQ types, after all, stupid breeds stupid. We pay to keep thousands upon thousands of criminals and mental cases incarcerated in our prison systems, if you want to get radical lets just gas all repeat offenders, sterilize the low IQ types, which would eliminate a LOT of crime, and put those monies towards universal health care system.

I’d rather pay to care for a chubby smoker than a moronic criminal. haha

wundayatta's avatar

The thing is, @Coloma, none of us get to decide directly what we want our tax dollars to pay for. It’s got to be based on principle. I don’t want to pay for military spending, but I do. I’d rather pay for a sex change operation or fat farms any day. Those help some people. Military spending helps no one, in my opinion.

Coloma's avatar

@wundayatta That I agree with. Hell, my tax dollars just helped fund an 8.5 million dollar forest fire set by an arsonist….I say get a rope!

CWOTUS's avatar

Yes, @wundayatta, I do have problems with the state regulating corn syrup consumption, just as I have problems with its regulation (prohibition) of drug consumption. I don’t know for certain that “corn syrup prohibition” would lead to the same kinds of problems that alcohol and drug prohibition have proven to lead to, but why feel a need to “prohibit”? We don’t have laws against consumption of carbon dioxide, and that stuff will kill you.

I don’t see a need to regulate sizes of retail servings “as they regulate the size of so many other products” (?). Really? Which ones? I fully support honest weights and measures, “truth in labeling” and other laws that prevent fraud, but “regulating serving sizes”? Really?

No, of course I don’t believe that people should be allowed to do “just anything” when it may directly harm others. That’s why we agree to form governments in the first place. But neither do I think that it’s my business, or yours, or a health czar’s, to determine whether someone is treating himself properly. How much intrusion are you willing to allow, given your acceptance of such oversight?

I can’t imagine the circumstances where anyone else’s consumption of corn syrup – or almost anything else that’s not radioactive or explosive – is likely to harm me, you or anyone else. So I guess that’s what we’re arguing about. I don’t believe that we should create more types and classes of “victimless crime”, along the lines of prohibition of activities that harm no one but the willing participants: drug consumption, suicide, prostitution and the like.

Coloma's avatar

What about regulating genetically modified foods? We can’t super size our sodas but it’s perfectly fine for the big ass psycho Ag. corps. like Monsanto to peddle potatoes with built in systemic pesticides that explode insects stomachs and kill rodents? Jokes on us!

wundayatta's avatar

Ok. Consumption of sugar is not a crime, as far as I’m concerned, too. Neither is consumption of alcohol, pot, or whatever.

On the other hand, it does cost me money when people engage in those victimless not-crimes. When people are less healthy, it costs more to provide them with medical care, and that drives up my (and your) health insurance costs. People like me who are overweight use more health services, and you are paying for it through higher taxes and higher health insurance premiums.

Does that bother you at all? Do you ever wish I would lose 50 pounds and stop seeing the doctor so much? Me and the rest of this obese nation?

Because if we all got healthier, we could probably save around a thousand dollars a person, nationally. Would you like another thousand dollars in your take home pay? Would you like a tax cut for the federal and state portion of health care costs involved in that figure? Or are you happy to let me eat my fancy cheeses and gourmet mushrooms and high fat butter, and paying more than you otherwise would for health insurance?

CWOTUS's avatar

No, that doesn’t concern me in the least. I’d like to be healthier myself for my own reasons, and I presume that you would like that for yourself as well. Totally our own affairs.

As for the sharing of health care costs, you’re conflating two issues. I don’t believe we should have conjoined insurance, unless we choose to in an open market where we can choose our insurers. (To a very limited extent we do that through our choice of employer, but I don’t even like employer-provided health care. I’d prefer to arrange for that privately, like I do all other forms of insurance and nearly all other purchases, period. But this is the market we live in.) You’re assuming the conditions of the market we’re being driven to. I will keep fighting against that drive.

wundayatta's avatar

@CWOTUS What about the public portion of the health care financing system. Even if we had private insurance in the way you envision it, we still have a public portion, where all the sickest people will end up, getting health care and we still pay for it. Would you eliminate public funding of health care?

CWOTUS's avatar

Regardless of how much or how little I would devote in a public budget for health care or other social welfare, I would not support legislation to control what people ate or drank or prohibit or require any other behavior that only affected them and capable / competent and willing partners.

If you or others want to pretend that you / they are subjects to a monarch or dictator, property of the state, or members of some other type of feudal / slave society, then I want to be explicitly dis-invited to that party.

Any public policy that decides to pay for the costs of repairing people who are too stupid or negligent to take care of themselves is probably going to find that cheaper than trying to force them to take the required (or desired) level of care (and will probably end up with a body politic that is generally too apathetic about its prospects to want to do that, otherwise). I think East Germany was a good example of that in many of our lifetimes.

If we get to a place where we think we can make people live healthier through force of law, then I think many of us would be looking for the wall to tunnel under to escape from that place.

whitenoise's avatar

@Taciturnu you are joking, right?

“No… the adults with an IQ of 90 or below usually have someone helping them shop, who is responsible for helping with their purchases.”

Roughly one third of the population scores under 90 on most IQ tests. These all have shopping coaches? How do you think the shopping channels on your tv get funded?

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