L. Neil Smith's
"We Have To Do Something"
by Vin Suprynowicz
Special to TLE
Typical of the mail responding to my recent piece on the absurd proposal to "ban Ronald McDonald" from the airwaves (on the theory he's as bad as Joe Camel) was this, from Mercerville, N.J.:
"Ya know, Vin, I agree that we gotta get away from this nanny- government thing somehow, but you know as well as I do that corporations will do whatever they want until someone with some clout tells them to stop. The thing is, we have to find out what it is that making so many Americans fat. Why is it that we are the most weight conscious and the most overweight? Why is it that we have the highest rate of late-onset diabetes, heart disease, and the highest rate of juvenile obesity? ...
"We have to do something. The corporations keep the real research from being done by lobbying the government against it, and they constantly challenge the guvvamint to prove that sugar is poisonous (or whatever)."
The evil "corporations" are keeping us from finding out that we ought to eat less fatty food and exercise more? How much more "research" is needed to figure this out? Can I get in line for one of the grants?
There are some obvious suspects for obesity in the American diet: The puritanical preference for sugared soda pop in place of the Europeans' healthier glass of red wine with lunch; breads and "convenience" foods full of taste-deadening preservatives which consumers in other nations would never tolerate (to restore a simulacrum of absent flavor, raw salt and sugar are then poured in); kids grabbing a bag of chips because there's no one home to hand them a salad.
Solution? Close the mandatory government youth "socialization" camps (Americans were more literate in the 1820s, before we had a single tax-funded government school.) This will help us lower taxes till one income will again support a family and mom can stay home if she wants.
But few Americans are actually deficient in nutrients. We simply eat too much.
Equipped with bodies designed to thrive on hard work and store fat to survive the occasional famine, mankind has dreamed for millennia of having to work less and getting all he wants to eat. The problem is, the biology of our bodies couldn't possibly adapt quickly enough to account for the fact that, in a mere century, this dream (once realizable only by royalty, who interestingly enough have been suffering from obesity and diabetes for centuries) is now a reality.
But now "someone with some clout" must "tell them to stop" selling us what we demand? When you're perfectly free to jog five miles each evening and eat nothing but carrots and bean sprouts if you want?
Think what you're saying here, Frank. Once that "someone with some clout ... forces them to stop" selling me Coke and candy bars, I presume "they'll" next be forced to stop selling me dangerous cars that can go faster than 40 mph? Then what? A congressional mandate forcing Victoria's secret to switch over to Mother Hubbards and chastity belts, while our breweries are limited to producing nothing more potent then 3.2 percent "boy beer"?
It'd only be for our own good, after all -- all easily justifiable to "reduce the expenses of the socialized medical system."
Which is why generations of our forebears correctly warned us there's no such thing as "just a little, gentle socialism," any more than you can have "just a little sewage in the drinking water."
Those "people with some clout" have been trying to stop "them" from selling us dangerous marijuana and cocaine for, what is it now, 86 years? Pretty close to winning that battle, are they?
Totalitarianism would be bad enough even if it worked ... but it never does. Go ahead -- outlaw candy and potato chips. I'll promptly invest in the biggest damned Snickers factory ever seen, deep in the jungles of Colombia. I'll hire the best smugglers, and a whole generation of 12-year-old "flaggers" to help me sell them on every ghetto streetcorner in America, at $10 apiece. I'll die rich; you'll die broke; and you'll still be eating them.
No, you do not "have to do something" other than take control of -- and responsibility for -- your own life. Try anything else, and you merely invite a modern version of Dostoevsky's Grand Inquisitor, preening: "For centuries ... we have been wrestling with ... freedom, but now it is ended and over for good. ... They have brought their freedom to us and laid it humbly at our feet."
How? Under the now-familiar cry: "Save us from ourselves! Take away my gun; I don't trust myself! Loot enough from my paycheck to set up a federal retirement account on my behalf; I can't be trusted to save and invest! Take away my french fries, please!"
The reason we have "the highest rate of late-onset diabetes and heart disease" in this country, Frank, is that we've cured just about every damn thing else. When life expectancy goes up from 50 to 80, you can bet we're going to start dying of a lot of interesting and newly diagnosed conditions.
Find me a statist control freak who will ever say, "You know what? We've solved most of the problems. Everybody seems pretty happy and healthy now, all things considered. No sense being a burden on the taxpayers any longer. Let's disband our agency, turn off the lights, and go home."
No, no! Instead there's ... Global warming! Yeah, that's the ticket! Or if not that, maybe ... Global cooling! That'll do! Juvenile onset obesity! The epidemic of juvenile firearms deaths! Menacing asteroids from outer space! The deadly ozone hole! Alar on the apples! The nefarious Asian Hydrogen Dioxide plume! Gin up the greenback presses, boys, the National Health, Security, and Colon Defense Administration needs more funding!
Chill out, Frank. Eat an apple and call me in the morning.