Reason TV on Government Solutions to Obesity

Someone on Facebook alerted me to this video:

I agree with their points (no surprise … Reason is a libertarian magazine), but I’d like to add a few more.

What we’re seeing with Mayor Bloomin’ Idiot and the other nanny-staters attempting to control our food choices is a classic case of government rushing in to solve a problem largely created by government in the first place.  I don’t think the people at Reason are aware of how the USDA dietary guidelines helped get us into this mess.  I’ve seen people from Reason make a case for freedom of choice, but I haven’t seen them point out that we’ve gotten fatter and more diabetic since the McGovern committee ignited anti-fat hysteria across the country.

I chuckled when the pro-government lady said in effect, “Sure, people would rather pay down the deficit than spend money fighting obesity, but fighting obesity will actually save money in the long run.”  If every expensive government program sold to the public with the line “But this will save money in the long run!” actually saved money in the long run, we’d be running huge surpluses by now.  When Lyndon Johnson proposed massive increases in “Great Society” programs, he insisted those programs would save money in the long run.  That was several trillion dollars ago.  (Hey, LBJ, we’d like our surplus checks now, please.)

Naturally, the same lady blamed obesity on cheap, affordable food. Riiiiiight. That explains why the poor are fatter than middle-class people on average, homeless people in this country are often obese, and some of the most impoverished people around the globe have had high rates of obesity. My great-grandparents weren’t lean because they couldn’t afford to overeat. They were lean because they knew better than to fill up on refined carbohydrates.

Finally, setting the personal choice issue aside, what makes these people think they’re competent to design effective anti-obesity programs?  Where is the evidence that similar programs have worked — anywhere?


27 thoughts on “Reason TV on Government Solutions to Obesity

  1. Zachary Kirkpatrick

    “Naturally, the same lady blamed obesity on cheap, affordable food. Riiiiiight. That explains why the poor are fatter than middle-class people on average…”

    Abundance of subsidized, fattening, unhealthy junk food is argued to be a large reason why the poor are fatter. Can you not make that connection?

    Lots of non-fattening foods are cheap too. As you may have noticed, several commenters pointed out that they couldn’t give fruits and vegetables away at homeless shelters. Food manufacturers don’t tell us what to eat; we tell them what to sell us by our choices. Yes, I can get a big serving of fries at McDonald’s, but I can also get a double-cheeseburger for $1 and toss the bun.

  2. Brandon

    Excellent video. The pro-government goon on the video embodies what worries me about Dr Lustig’s stance as of late. God love him for what he’s done to publicize the dangers of sugar, but his suggestions of government intervention are scary. I really love the suggestion that we should tax that which we subsidize. Gotta love government logic (or lack thereof).

    If they start using government policy to try to force us to eat less sugar, saturated fat will be next on their list. I don’t want government being issued those weapons. They’ll end up shooting the wrong targets.

  3. ngyoung

    Would have been nice to hear possible solutions to the problem after they got done explaining that what the government is doing is not working.

    To be honest I am really not convinced that it is all the goverment’s fault either though. When I was overweight and the people that I am close enough with that are over weight don’t follow the USDA’s healthy food guidelines or any one elses either. Everyone in the office knows who takes the most trips back to the pack of cookies that gets left out on the community table.

    After watching your movie however you have helped me by seeing a healthy way to eat without having to settle for stuff that tastes like cardboard or eating like a damn rabbit for every meal. That eating a meal that may have fat in it is fine if I am controlling my carb intake. I admit though that I still rely on prepackeged lunches like healthy choice and marie calender steamers about 50% of the time. That and squirting a bunch of Sriracha Rooster sauce on almost every single thing I eat. I’ve heard more then once that eating spicy food helps control hunger. It seems to work for me atleast.

    I just wish the government would take a page out of private businesses and try experimenting with different programs in smaller markets before enacting nation wide guidelines. Different things may work better in different communities. I would like to see them offer funding for local governments to try different programs and if it appears to be working have them roll it out to wider areas. If it doesn’t seem to be working let them try something different until they find a good fit.

    Government didn’t tell us to eat cookies, but they did tell us to cut back on fat and eat more carbohydrates, which I believe put us on the path to becoming a nation of carbohydrate addicts.

    Trying out a government program in one area to see if it works doesn’t fit with the government mentality, which tends to favor big, “bold” programs.

  4. Jakou

    Well… since most really cheap affordable food mainly IS made out of refined carbohydrates I wouldn’t be so fast to discount that same lady Tom 😉

    Other commenters have pointed out that more nutritious food is also cheap — quality meat being the primary exception.

  5. Jan's Sushi Bar

    Have you heard of Nauru? It’s an island located in the South Pacific that is the third smallest country in the world (behind Vatican City and Monaco). There are about 10,000 inhabitants, and the people used to subsist on fishing, fruits from the forest and gardening. In the 20th century, phosphates were found on the island and mining became the principal industry.

    The dietary habits of the population changed then; they switched from their traditional diets to one almost exclusively of industrial foods. It is now the world’s fattest nation, with an obesity rate of over 87%, and nearly 1/4 of the adults are diabetic. Life expectancy on the island is 49 for men, and 55 for women.

    But it’s all a matter of just eating less and moving more, you understand. These people obviously just don’t understand moderation.

    Yes, after many, many generations living on the island, the latest generation simply lost all discipline. Same as what happened in the U.S., according the Bloombergs of the world.

  6. Firebird7478

    i found it incredibly ironic that Bloomberg wants to reduce consumer intake on drinks that contain copious amounts of high fructose corn syrup while the federal government subsidizes farmers to grow the stuff. That was the first thing that came to mind when I first learned about his plan.

    That’s what I mean by government rushing in to fix a problem largely created by government.

  7. Steve

    Government creates problem.
    Government recognizes problem has gotten worse.

    In response government:
    A. Recognizes their error and changes course.
    B. Ignores their error and passes the blame by fighting the symptoms of the problem of their creation.

    To borrow from Battlestar Galactica:
    All this has happened before, and all this will happen again.

    So say we all.

    I’ve never seen A. happen.

  8. Dave Mayo

    First off, I’d like to state that I am a libertarian as well. Why get the government involved is the initial question posed. In a perfect world, the government wouldn’t be involved at all. Unfortunately, there is such thing as Medicare. So, my answer to why get government involved is that once people hit 65 .gov is involved anyway. In the absence of Medicare I am 100% for .gov being out. However, when someone hits 65 and has spent their entire life not exercising and gorging on terrible food, I don’t feel it is my responsibility to subsidize that behavior by paying for their diabetes medication through Medicare taxes. They can subsidize it themselves by paying a tax on it when they’re 40. In cases where we are talking about diseases where lifestyle has a smaller impact, I am all for Medicare.

    I understand your point, but it assumes two conditions:

    1. The people in government know how to regulate us into better health.
    2. People who get sick from bad diets are costing you money because of Medicare.

    I don’t think I have to convince you as a libertarian that 1. isn’t likely. As for 2., check out this post:

  9. William

    The word is getting out, Tom. Your movie “Fathead” and website are referenced in a blog/article on National Catholic Reporter Online by a Catholic Sister. I think she “gets it”, excepting the first part of her critique of your movie.

    Wow, I love it that Fat Head prompted her to question her doctor about statins and he couldn’t provide any evidence they work for women! I’ll take her mild criticism along with that very positive outcome.

  10. Frank

    Recently, I was watching Adam-12 on Netflix. The officers responded to a domestic squabble where the husband complained: “She only cooks spaghetti and pasta for dinner. That’s pure carbohydrate, and I’m trying to watch my weight!” What was common knowledge at the time documented on a TV show that aired in 1968.

    And then we all got smart … or so we thought.

  11. Dave Mayo

    I am with you on both accounts, Tom, but this is a pretty big problem. Obesity isn’t really the issue I am worried with, it’s Type 2 Diabetes and every other disease associated with it. Just look at the costs from Alzheimer’s Disease alone. Researchers agree it’s going to hit these 13 year old kids with Type 2 Diabetes around the time they’re 40. Assume they live to 65, how much is it going to cost to provide managed care for 25 years? This isn’t even counting the people who have heart disease, hypertension, metabolic syndrome, arthritis, neuropathy, etc. If people don’t start getting their crap together this is going to mushroom in to something huge. I think we can all agree on sugar being a problem with diabetes since it is about blood sugar, and at this point we are starting to see good information being distributed through your site, movie and others about saturated fat being fairly benign. I don’t think we’ll see another McGovern Commission, information is too readily available to everyone now

    I wish education would be more powerful, but it won’t. I do this for a living, what you need to do to get a p90x style body is really not that much. Maybe 90 minutes of strength training and 27 holes of disc golf or 3 hours of hiking a week, getting 10-12k steps a day and following a Paleo diet is more than enough. Doing half that would take about 5 hours a week and involve mostly walking. Still, people don’t want to change or put in any time. I just got done a 30 day Paleo Challenge that I offered for free online, I answered questions via facebook. 43 people joined and maybe 10 people completed it, and most were my clients. People can’t even be bothered to put their health as a primary concern for 30 days, how do we expect them to be able to do it for 30 years? I am definitely not ok with a ban, and this ban is obviously stupid and will accomplish nothing, but when behavior is going to lead to consequences 10-15 years down the road I am fine with using the tax code to modify it. I believe you have the right to do whatever you want, but others shouldn’t have to subsidize it.

    I hope people start to smarten up. You would think with medical costs skyrocketing and being passed on to patients in the form of copays and premium increases that this would modify behavior in and of itself.

    I’m concerned about the eventual cost as well. I’m not a fan of socialized medicine, but frankly it doesn’t matter whether it’s a private system, public system or mixed system — runaway diabetes is going to bankrupt the system regardless of whether we pay through taxes or premiums.

    That being said, I don’t want the government using the tax code to tell us what to eat. They’ll go after saturated fat next, and they’ll never, ever go after grains. People will smarten up if they have the information to do it. Unfortunately, we still have a government and an ADA telling people diabetics need to be on low-fat diets.

  12. Michael Cohen

    I dont think that Mr Bloomberg became one of the richest men by being stupid or lacking foresight. I think that he is fully aware that the soft drink law will never fly. But look at the press and air time he is getting on a very real problem. People learn( or are conditioned) now a days by the repetition of 3-5 second soundbytes. He is using the food industries primary weapon, advertising, against them, without paying for any airtime.

  13. Caro

    I just watched My Big Fat Fetish on Channel 4 Documentaries and the largest lady featured recommended fried foods and carbs to gain weight. Love your blog. Keep up the good work!

    Thank you.

  14. Ken Row

    Most of this seem old news, same old stuff rehashed, but the one bit that did grab my attention, that made me back up and watch it a second time was the bit about spaying pets. As if there’s tons of people saying, “I’d go for a walk if it weren’t for all those stray dogs and cats.” I somehow missed that story the first time it came out.

  15. Davida

    I have noticed how the definition of a healthy diet has changed on TV shows as well… the first season of Mary Tyler Moore, a diet plate consisted of very little to no carbs. As the show moves through the seasons, it changes to being low-fat & low-calorie.

    Yup, and I noticed by the time Seinfeld was on the air, fat was the devil. Remember Jerry spitting out the mutton because he was on a health kick?

  16. Elena

    Funny how they never suggest stopping the heavy subsidizing of corn and wheat with taxmoney. A dollar NOT spent ther would be a gift that just keep on giving. Wheat and corn would be more expensive, the farmers would have less incentive to kill off good soil with monocultures and would be more likely to grow produce that is healthy (and maybe in a healther way?) and maybe the foodsupply wouldn´t be endlessly contaminatide with dirtcheap crappy carbs. That would save suffering and loads of money in the health costs.

  17. Paul L in MA

    At 1:15

    It was called a

    “Health prevention agency”


    “Preventative health agency?”


  18. pam

    i’ve been hoping that John Stossel would do a program on dietary absurdity in USA.

    some food is cheap due to subsidy. that make the poor fat. then get sick diabetes, then we pay for their medical bills for diabetes, statin, etc. sigh.


    I sent a copy of Fat Head to his office awhile back. I doubt he’s seen it.


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