What You Eat Is Your Business: Summary Essay
Obesity is one of the most discussed health issues in the modern world. The cost of treating obesity cases account for a significant portion of the healthcare budget. Individuals, concerned groups, and governments voice out the health and economic impacts of obesity. Balko, a CATO Institute policy analyst, delved into the debate in his 2004 article, “What You Eat Is Your Business” as summarized in this essay.
Balko (2004) notes in his essay that the government has gone too far in controlling what people eat. Politicians advocate for anti-obesity measures. He cites President Bush’s decision to allocate $200 million to anti-obesity measures. Attempts to limit or even ban snacks, soda, and other junk food from academic institutions and to impose ‘fat tax’ on foods categorized as high-calorie foods is counterproductive. In addition, an attempt by Congress to introduce menu-labeling legislation is the wrong way to fight obesity. It is an attempt to manipulate consumers’ food options. It represents an attempt to intervene in people’s food menu which goes against expectations. Anti-obesity measures spearheaded by the government such as outlawing of junk food in academic institution vending machines, federal funding of pro-health measures such as sidewalks and bike trails, limited children-related food marketing all amount to interference in private matters.
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There are other better ways which, according to Balko, have a better, direct impact on the decisions that consumers make without necessarily seeming to intervene in people’s food choices. The government should enhance a sense of responsibility among individual consumers. Socialism and government control of health care is counterproductive. For instance, private health insurers are not allowed to impose higher premiums on obese and overweight clients. As a result, obese and overweight people do not have the financial incentive to make decisions that lead to healthy lifestyles. Private health should be managed by each individual yet this has been made a public affair. The government is now regulating what people eat. This encourages irresponsible people to continue making adverse lifestyle decisions (Balko, 2004).
The government pays for obese people’s medication, including anti-cholesterol medication. Consequently, individuals who make healthy lifestyle decisions such as not eating junk foods are compelled to pay for avoidable health care costs (Balko, 2004). He refers to this as collective ownership of private health. Obese patients need to be forced to pay for their own treatment costs. Unless such people feel the financial burden of paying for health services including buying costly anti-obesity drugs, they will continue making choices that impact on responsible consumers.
Consumer choice is limited and civil liberties are trampled when the government continues to nurture collective ownership of private health. Nutritional activists and related groups such as Margo Wootan of the Center for Science in the Public Interest also promote consumer irresponsibility by encouraging the government to put measures in place to fight obesity, including making food companies accountable for the bad decisions that unhealthy consumers make. This is one way in which the health of a population continues being ruined.
Balko (2004) suggests that obesity should be taken off the public health realm. What someone chooses to eat is their business. It should not be a public matter and socialization of medicine and health care is not the best approach to solving obesity. As an alternative approach to solving obesity problems, insurance firms should be encouraged to reward individuals and groups practicing healthy lifestyles. By intensifying access to both health savings and medical accounts, Congress would make it possible for consumers to save such money in retirement accounts. People with a tendency to eat junk foods should be made accountable for their health, not by restricting what food they eat but by allowing them to pay for their health care costs.
- Balko, R. (2004). What You Eat is Your Business. CATO Institute. Retrieved from: https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/what-you-eat-is-business