We have evolved to need coercion.
From Daniel Lieberman, Harvard biology professor, via the NYT:
…humans evolved to crave sugar, store it and then use it. For millions of years, our cravings and digestive systems were exquisitely balanced because sugar was rare. Apart from honey, most of the foods our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate were no sweeter than a carrot. The invention of farming made starchy foods more abundant, but it wasn’t until very recently that technology made pure sugar bountiful.
Unsurprisingly, a Harvard professor is ignorant of the outside world, and ignores that there are fruits and melons and berries and even vegetables of the squash family that are quite sweet. There are many that have been more refined and developed through agriculture, but there were plenty of them around in nature beforehand.
The food industry has made a fortune because we retain Stone Age bodies that crave sugar but live in a Space Age world in which sugar is cheap and plentiful. Sip by sip and nibble by nibble, more of us gain weight because we can’t control normal, deeply rooted urges for a valuable, tasty and once limited resource.
The constant cry that there is an evil villain out to ruin The People, the constant drum beat that The People are weak, unable to control their urges, and must be controlled are all present. This is going to be very predictable.
What should we do? One option is to do nothing, while hoping that scientists find better cures for obesity-related diseases like heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. I’m not holding my breath for such cures, and the costs of inaction, already staggering, would continue to mushroom.
Mr. Lieberman opens his piece by saying that criticisms “most worthy of attention” are the libertarian arguments that this is bad. That’s Lieberman’s way of ignoring them. His questions are based on false premises. His question of “what should we do?” is really – “what should the government do to The People?” He, being an elite Harvard professor, is clearly a ruler of men, an intellectual powerhouse whose huge brain means that he is of course exempt from being lumped in with The People – but the “we” he speaks of is that of the Ruling Class.
The “do nothing” argument is flawed. If the government does nothing, individual citizens will make their own decisions. Off the top of my head, I can think of two writers here who’ve lost double-digit weight in the last year because they got sick of being heavy. Nature solves its own problems. Nobody wants to be at an unhealthy weight. Modern individuals, with modern, sedentary jobs balance the costs of health issues against those of other pressing matters in their daily life. If they have families they need to spend time with, that time at the gym may become less important. If to maintain their standard of living, they need to work more in a sedentary job and there’s a health cost, that’s a decision they make. If they recognize that their weight (whether that be too big or too small) is effecting their quality of life, then they work to change it.
The relative availability of modern foodstuffs is not an issue in their weight. Their decision to eat and drink the amounts that they do is. This goes to Lieberman’s second flawed point. Everyone knows what makes you fat. Everyone.
A more popular option is to enhance public education to help us make better decisions about what to eat and how to be active. This is crucial but has so far yielded only modest improvements.
A recent study even showed that when you feel fat, you’re getting fat. Your body will tell you. Within 3 hours after eating, you’ll feel it. From Metro:
A team led by obesity expert Prof Fredrik Karpe made the discovery by asking volunteers to eat fatty foods containing traceable carbon isotopes.
They tracked the fat’s path from the gut, which they assumed would be taken around the body by the blood to be ‘burned off’ by the muscles, with the excess slowly adding to our girth over time.
Instead, they found the first fat from a meal entered the bloodstream about an hour after it was eaten by the volunteers.
‘By the time three to four hours have passed, most of it has been incorporated into our adipose tissue, mostly in the shorter term fat stores around our waists,’ Prof Karpe said. Fat around the waist is used only for short-term storage, and can be burned off when people need energy.
Your body tells you you’re fat. You feel it. Education isn’t that difficult. Calories in > calories out, you get fat. Calories out > calories in, you lose weight. Calories in = calories out, you stay at your present weight. You intake calories with food, burn them with activity. Millions of pages have been written about this, but ultimately, it’s not that complicated. Most of those millions of pages are spent trying to balance lifestyle and eating habits and the best ways for each individual, which government cannot do anyway.
The final option that Lieberman comes up with is, as usual, that of all other final answers to problems that the state has deemed worth destroying. Of course the “final option” is the one he states that he laments by listing last. He then notes that the paternalistic state is really a good thing, and by introducing coercion to mimic the “nasty, brutish, and short” existence of primitive man, we will finally have the best solution to fighting obesity.
The final option is to collectively restore our diets to a more natural state through regulations. Until recently, all humans had no choice but to eat a healthy diet with modest portions of food that were low in sugar, saturated fat and salt, but high in fiber. They also had no choice but to walk and sometimes run an average of 5 to 10 miles a day. Mr. Bloomberg’s paternalistic plan is not an aberrant form of coercion but a very small step toward restoring a natural part of our environment.
For all the academic twisting here, no, the government’s function is not to reduce us to animals. Lieberman’s graphic represents what they think of the public – mindless apes:
And the solution is sitting in the ad bar, but I’ll get to that in a moment.
Lieberman continues, justifying his desire for control of The People’s bodies:
Though his big-soda ban would apply to all New Yorkers, I think we should focus paternalistic laws on children. Youngsters can’t make rational, informed decisions about their bodies, and our society agrees that parents don’t have the right to make disastrous decisions on their behalf. Accordingly, we require parents to enroll their children in school, have them immunized and make them wear seat belts. We require physical education in school, and we don’t let children buy alcohol or cigarettes. If these are acceptable forms of coercion, how is restricting unhealthy doses of sugary drinks that slowly contribute to disease any different?
Paternalistic laws have only propagated in the last few decades because the state has sought to replace the parent. Youngsters don’t have to make rational, informed decisions because that’s their parent’s jobs. Society doesn’t agree at all with Lieberman. Government bureaucrats and the Ruling Class have decided to instituted controls regardless of what society thinks. Paternalistic laws now try to change adults into children, all of whom “need” controlling by the state.
Lieberman’s arguments are founded on a basis of overreach that has never been part of the American tradition – those aren’t acceptable, either. Taking parental authority from the parent and placing it in the hands of the state is part of Lieberman’s academic ruling class society – it is not part of greater American society. Mandatory education laws often force children into crappy schools run by governmental bureaucrats – in comparison, home-schooled children often do better because their parents have a personal vested interest in the well-being of their own child. The parent of a child will almost invariably be more interested in the well-being of their child moreso than the most enlightened, wonderful schoolteacher attempting to teach a hundred in a day.
Requiring immunizations has taken place as part of disease-reduction initiatives, but you can catch mumps or rubella. You don’t walk by a fat person and suddenly gain 40 pounds. There are also plenty of arguments against mandatory vaccinations, some of which come from Hollywood kooks, and some of which come from folks who really don’t like that medical industries can simply force people to buy their products through government mandates. If there were benefits to it, people would choose to do it. Flu vaccinations are pushed, but not mandatory, and people volunteer for them.
Children drinking and smoking were stopped by their parents, not by the state. The push for control over drinking is what begat Prohibition, wherein the moral busybodies in the Temperance Movement declared that people were too drunk and stupid to be trusted with their freedoms. That resulted in the entire nation rebelling against it. It also resulted in the state murdering its citizens for their own good.
As for seat belts:
Seat belt laws are part of the same problem. They assume that individuals can’t make good decisions, and that people must be forced into those decisions. For years, there were no seat belts in automobiles. Individual manufacturers came up with ways to make cars safer, some of them being far ahead of the curve, and as individuals saw safety features, they chose to buy them. Notably, Volvo owes much of its reputation in the US to numerous safety features. With the exception of seat belts where a person could become a projectile and impact another person, seat belt laws do infringe on personal freedom.
The children in the truck bed above are not going to be violently flung out of the truck. The driver, knowing he has a load of precious cargo, is going to drive safely and slowly. If he does, the children won’t ride with him again – their parents won’t let them. Or, even without seatbelt laws, a law enforcement officer could stop the truck and deal with the driver as necessary for endangering his passengers.
Back to Lieberman:
Along these lines, we should ban all unhealthy food in school — soda, pizza, French fries — and insist that schools provide adequate daily physical education, which many fail to do.
The state is not the parent. If parents tell the schools to stop serving foods they deem unhealthy, then the school – which is employed by the parent-taxpayers, must respond. To do otherwise is a failure of the school to live up to the contract is has with the parents. Of course, in Lieberman’s world, the school, as a function of the state, is superior to the parent. As such, the school can dictate how they will raise children.
The assumption that rich foods are a cause of childhood obesity is also contingent on portions served. 100 calories of pizza, with bread crust, a layer of cheese, a pretend piece of meat, is the same as 100 calories of sandwich, with a slice of cheese, a bread crust, and a pretend piece of meat. The decisions to eliminate soda, pizza, and french fries are based on Lieberman’s Ruling Class notion of “what is good for you”, not on what actually is. As noted in his own article, these rich foods are incredibly good for you if you’re in a state of constant activity. So their elimination not only restricts the freedom of individuals to choose their own foods, but also assumes that children aren’t engaged in any activities, and penalizes the active for the sake of the inactive.
I note that it restricts individuals freedoms, and not just those of children, because parents who send their children to school have already had lunches confiscated. The parents’ authority to feed their own children is stomped on by the state. This isn’t some case of child abuse or neglect (aside from in the minds of fascistic nanny-staters), this is a case of the state dictating how you shall live.
Adults need help, too, and we should do more to regulate companies that exploit our deeply rooted appetites for sugar and other unhealthy foods. The mayor was right to ban trans fats, but we should also make the food industry honest about portion sizes. Like cigarettes, mass-marketed junk food should come with prominent health warning labels. It should be illegal to advertise highly fattening food as “fat free.” People have the right to be unhealthy, but we should make that choice more onerous and expensive by imposing taxes on soda and junk food.
And here we get to the “nudging”. Make choices so onerous and difficult that people will be forced into what the dictator desires. The iron fist of an authoritarian state is wearing a velvet glove.
Adults who face the consequences of their own decisions will make choices. No one wants to be a bloated fatass. The mayor was wrong to tell people what they can and can’t put in their bodies, but he’s a tyrant across the board, and his only redeeming quality is that he’s a wonderful example of one.
The food industry doesn’t need to be more honest about portion sizes. Individuals need to be responsible for their own actions. Saying “people have the right to be unhealthy, but…” is another excuse justifying dictatorial control. These taxes and impositions aren’t about health, they’re about control. Individuals who eat foods in moderation can eat what they like and have no issues. Those individuals are being denied choice foods by their own government because other individuals make poor decisions. None of this is the province of government.
Individuals then don’t have the right, with onerous taxes and impositions, they might have the priviledge of being unhealthy. It will be restricted to those who can afford it. The wealthy and powerful will be able to afford one lifestyle, while those who are relatively poorer will no longer be able to enjoy the fruits of their own labor. The reason the term “fat cat” came about is because previous to the last few decades, the only people whose labor had ceased to be vigorous manual labor and who could afford enough food to be fat were the very wealthy. Today, thanks to advances in technology and agriculture, everyone can afford the bounties of those foods. Lieberman is desirous of price controls and taxes to socially return us to a time where only the wealthy and privileged could enjoy dining as they see fit.
This would hardly be progress, and does not improve the life of the individual.
Additionally, labeling doesn’t work. A study I’ll link to as soon as I can find it again brought up that people who guess calorie amounts of foods usually get them fairly close, or overestimate. If you’re looking at this breakfast:
You know there are a LOT of calories in it. You don’t need a chart to see that it will make you full, it will keep you powered for most of your day, and you can eat a light lunch, because you had a massive breakfast.
With regards to Lieberman’s absurd statement that food makers shouldn’t be allowed to say “fat free” if a food can make you fat, that’s just stupid. Fat is a substance. If the substance is in the food, it’s has fat, it has lipids. If it doesn’t have fat, it’s fat free. Anything eaten in excess can make a person fat.
Finally, Lieberman sums up with this cry for tyranny:
We humans did not evolve to eat healthily and go to the gym; until recently, we didn’t have to make such choices. But we did evolve to cooperate to help one another survive and thrive. Circumstances have changed, but we still need one another’s help as much as we ever did. For this reason, we need government on our side, not on the side of those who wish to make money by stoking our cravings and profiting from them. We have evolved to need coercion.
We did evolve to eat healthily. We evolved to eat what our bodies need. We didn’t evolve to go to the gym, we evolved to live at the gym. Modern workplaces and modern conveniences mean we’re enjoying a sedentary life. The key word there is that we are ENJOYING. Millenia of our ancestors as poor dirt farmers working their way up from misery have allowed us modern luxuries. It’s up to us as individuals to do something with them.
We didn’t evolve to cooperate, we cooperated to survive. The individual’s survival first, and the enhancement to individual survival that a group provides is why we got together in groups. Here Lieberman’s thinking is exposed in such a short sentence. He shows a collectivist mindset, that there is “the people” and not the individual. We banded together to aid each other, not to coerce each other. We as individuals found that survival strategies worked better when we formed voluntary bonds. The government, as it was intended, is a voluntary cooperative that exists as a construct of the Constitution. It follows the orders of We The People – each individual – it is there to provide for our security and defense that we as individuals might live freer lives. We established our government to provide for our rights to live free of the rule of a king or dictator, that we might exercise our inalienable rights as bestowed by our Creator.
Lieberman’s cry for the government to crush the free market is that of a Marxist useful idiot. “Those who wish to make money by stoking our cravings and profiting from them” are the usual class-enemy capitalists, and his desired government is one that will crush capitalism. His desire is for tyranny. He makes a plea for coercion, and through his warped world-view, demands that the state protect us from ourselves. The people are stupid, unreasoning, mindless apes who are still trapped by their weak bodies and weak minds, fooled by the decadent capitalist exploiter! Thus we need the government to beat us, to crush our freedoms, he reasons. He demands a government that will coerce us in order to free us from our exploiters, trading in someone who offers you what you want for someone who tells you what you are allowed.
This is the very heart of tyranny.
And it’s complete bullshit.
Circumstances have changed, and we have one another’s help. Lieberman views us as unreasoning apes, and it’s not much surprise that his apes are black, seeing as how demeaning races tends to be a theme for Harvard academics. The very page that Lieberman posted his desperate cry for government to oppress and crush the freedoms of individuals refutes his own idiotic claims.
Look to the right of his misanthropic screed and you’ll see the solution.
We have one another’s help in voluntary cooperation. It’s called freedom.
In the form of the free market, CocoaVia there is introducing a product that fulfills that desire for sweet foods. Interestingly CocoaVia links to Mars Botanical, which links to Mars, as in M&M Mars, who make all kinds of candies and food products, for humans and our animal friends.
The very same “those who wish to make money by stoking our cravings and profiting from them”, as though profit, money, and desires of free individuals are all dirty things, are here to provide us with options we want. If our sedentary lifestyles result in us getting fat, we’ll change to diet soda. If we still want candy, but we as individuals know that a king size Snickers is going to be a lot of calories, then we swich and try something like “CocoaVia” and enjoy the taste without the calories.
Stoking our cravings and profiting from them is why we aren’t Lieberman’s ideal of a caveman. Our cravings for food, water, shelter, sex, and the rest of Maslow’s Hierarchy has driven us to the point where we can communicate these ideas through the digital realm instantly across the entire planet, and for some ideas, even beam them around the planet and off into space. Our desires are what drives us. To squelch these desires, to have them crushed beneath the boot of a tyrannical government that knows what’s best, is the dream of a power-hungry fool. Lieberman is an idiot of the most educated, highest caliber. Lieberman views us as the sum only of our nature, and not of our minds. He sees the people as a mass of idiot cavemen who must be controlled and coerced – forced by government into doing what he has decided they should. If he includes himself among the cavemen, it is only in a self-flagellating gesture of his own misery; but he still views himself as more intelligent than the foolish fat cavemen around him, viewing them as Cass Sunstein’s ideal of the average American as Homer Simpson, an idiot roaming through life who needs government to control him.
Freedom itself refutes the needs that ostensibly cause demand for tyranny. Freedom itself, as shown above, has generated a response to the demand for healthier alternatives. People don’t want to be bloated fatasses. People want to be thin – and there are plenty of people who want, through voluntary cooperation, to help their fellow man. There are a myriad of programs available, and there have been for years. There have been people selling or giving away fitness advice for years from Jack LaLanne to Richard Simmons to Billy Blanks to Jillian Michaels to Suzanne Somers to Zuzana:
There have been groups of free individuals who voluntarily cooperate in order to help themselves, and others, be healthy. The luxuries afforded by millenia of slow standard of living improvements have made it so.
To demand that a ruthless government oppressor force people into being healthy is at best a pathetic indictment of the character of the person demanding it, and at worst a sniveling plea to allow the egghead arguing for it to become a greater power in the dictatorial Ruling Class.
While doing research for this piece, I stumbled over some supporters of these measures. Most fall in line with Cass Sunstein’s idea that people, as opposed to individuals, are dumb Homer Simpsons, too stupid to live, and need to be controlled. A few even indict themselves for the same traits, as here:
What is going on here?
I know you think I’m going to come down on the “food police” banning cupcakes in schools. But as an adult constantly struggling with my weight who was a fat kid, I have to say that schools being forced to serve healthier food could literally be a lifesaver.
There are a few who want to be treated like Private Pyle because they can’t take care of themselves. You want to eat how you like, you pay the price in your own life. You want to budget some fat into your life because you enjoy chow? That’s the prerogative of the invidividual.
Lieberman and the “Serious Eats” fatbody, however, want everyone to be treated like the platoon because a few people are fat. They want everyone to pay for one individual’s decisions. Notably, the world of the military exists through voluntary cooperation, through voluntarily subordinating the will of a free man to that of a state forged on a Constitution made by free men to protect the rights of men to be free. The US military swears an oath to a piece of paper that protects the right of the individual to eat those jelly donuts, while they themselves go without. There is actually a purpose for it there. In free society, there is not.
Lieberman and the “Serious Eats” no-self-control fatbody begin to fall into a subset of that leftist mindset of the “Moral Equivalent of War”, wherein they believe the state should use force against its citizens – for their own good. These fools believe it is moral to hurt one’s own people; it is moral for the state, which exists at the behest of the individuals, to oppress the people, because it’s what they’d really want. They want free men outside the realm of that squad bay to be treated like recruits becuase it’s “for the people’s own good”.
Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.
- CS Lewis
Lieberman, you are demanding force be used against free individuals, free men. You view us as rapacious, mindless black apes; you dismiss the individual’s will and wish to control men as a collective. Yesterday was the anniversary of D-Day, where we fought against your kind of ideas. You want us all to suffer and couch it in your pseudo-science belief that people are in biological need of control.
We have evolved to need coercion.