Big Government Doesn’t Mean Smaller Waistlines

Kelly Brownell, Yale’s resident food-policy and obesity blowhard, is once again using the opinion page of the Hartford Courant to score some points in favor of wildly unpopular and ineffective soda taxes and other food legislation. In Brownell’s newest version of the same old tune, he insists that government, not individuals, should play the biggest role in slimming everyone down:

Governments around the country and in Washington are considering public policies to create a better nutrition environment in schools, require honest claims on food packages, restrict food marketing directed at children and even — the most controversial proposal of all — a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages. Connecticut has much to be proud of, including the strongest school nutrition legislation in the country and action by our attorney general to shut down the food industry's Smart Choices program, which assigned healthy eating labels to foods such as Froot Loops and Cocoa Krispies.

Make no mistake — this debate about personal responsibility and government action is about money. Obesity rates will go down when the country eats less and exercises more. Whether someone exercises is as personal a decision as choosing what to eat.

Brownell is right about one thing: This is about money, for bureaucrats who need an excuse to rake in more. But news reports imply that Brownell would benefit from a little personal responsibility himself. The Associated Press noted in 2003 that he sported “a good-size paunch thanks, he says, to a book project that has kept him relatively sedentary and snack-prone for the last year or so.” And in a CBS News report that aired in January, it didn’t look like he had made much progress in whittling down his waistline during the past seven years.

It’s a huge stretch to say that government should have the power to decide what’s permitted in our cupboards and fridges. But what’s even more preposterous is the belief that personal responsibility doesn’t work, just because certain people—even the most educated among us—aren’t prepared to put in the effort.

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