The “Social Engineer’s Manifesto” Is Still Flawed

It’s that time of year again. No, not back-to-school, but the time of year that the Trust for America’s Health releases its annual report calling the nation’s anti-obesity policy a failure and demanding some politicians, somewhere, do something. This year, the report will come out in September, but the Trust teased its report with the latest state-by-state obesity stats and a call to implement the recommendations in the recent policy paper “Accelerating Progress in Obesity Prevention: Solving the Weight of the Nation.” (We prefer the pithier and more apt title of Social Engineer’s Manifesto.)

That report called for massive intrusions into our dinner-plate choices, including restaurant menu mandates, zoning bans, and the loathed soda tax. We took to the Fargo Forum to voice our objections. Our Senior Research Analyst writes:

The plan puts too much emphasis on government restrictions on consumer choice that will not reduce obesity, and not nearly enough emphasis on restoring personal responsibility, which is the only proven strategy for people to lose weight.

Just like horses and water, you can lead a person to kale, but you can’t make him or her eat it. And because you can’t make that person eat kale without the police power of government, the plan calls for additional regulations such as restaurant location prohibitions and sin taxes on soda and other sweet drinks.

We also took a look at those state obesity statistics and found something completely expected. The top state for slimness, Colorado, has a high rate of physical activity while the fattest state, Mississippi, has a much lower rate. We noted:

There are differences between fat states and slim states in physical activity. While Mississippians, 33 percent of whom said they engaged in no physical activity at all, sweltering in the Southern heat might pass up opportunities to move their bodies, Coloradans don’t.

When you consider that hiking, having a “good walk spoiled,” and even walking the family dog are all likely to be far more enjoyable than a mandatory broccoli ration at the ballgame, you simply have to wonder why the public health community would demand the latter before promoting the former. It couldn’t be deep-seated ideology, could it?

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