What if government treated eating the way it treats sex?

Alimentary rights.

It’s a useful distinction to consider.  A particular moral idea governs left-wing views on social and health matters, and the left’s purpose with political advocacy is to put the power of government behind that view.  By examining the left’s very different policy approaches to eating and sex, we can discern the features of the morality at work.

The left’s governmental approach to sex today involves, among other things, the following:

1.  Advertising it to children through the public schools and encouraging them to explore and participate in it.

2.  Basing policy on the assumption that no solution to any problem lies in individuals restraining or channeling their sexual urges, and therefore even the intractable facts of nature should not be left, with their powerful incentives, to encourage that posture.  It is important, instead, to create an environment conducive to sex unfettered by its natural consequences.

3.  Providing, at public expense, the means to have sex on one’s own terms, but avoid procreation and sexually transmitted diseases.

4.  Providing, at public expense, the means to support children who are born nevertheless.

5.  To adjust the balance between 3 and 4, encouraging and advocating the use of contraception and the resort to abortion.

The suite of policies advocated by the left is designed to encourage sex but limit procreation and STDs.  The social “good,” therefore, is deemed to be unfettered sex, while the social “ills” are the birth of children and the suffering (and infectiousness) incident to STDs.

Let’s compare this moral view and its program construct to the left’s policy attitude toward eating.  In this latter realm, the social “ills” are thought to be obesity and the medical problems that come with it.  But what is the social “good”?  Is there one?  It’s hard to say, because eating – which can be a most enjoyable activity, and far less avoidable than sex – is not, in the left’s moral view, considered a “good” to be promoted on whatever terms the individual prefers.

The left’s governmental treatment of eating is very different from its treatment of sex.  It runs on these lines:

1.  Advertising to children (as well as adults) the evils of certain kinds of food.

2.  Basing policy on the assumption that the people must be nudged or even coerced to eat according to whatever principle is suggested by the most recent studies.  It is important to create an environment in which eaters have to go well out of their way to avoid the choices made for them by government authorities.  The ideal, in fact, is an environment in which eaters can’t avoid the dictates of the government.

3.  Ensuring that the expenses of obesity are, increasingly, born by the public, while fanning political resentment of those expenses, and of the condition of the obese.

4.  Proclaiming that the solution in every case is controlling what people eat, rather than providing for the obese the same publicly-funded relief offered to the sexually promiscuous.

It is hard to make the case that eating a lot is worse than having a lot of sex outside of commitment and marriage.  At the very most, the two practices are a moral wash, one no worse than the other.  Both involve doing discretionary things with one’s body.  Both involve courting well-known consequences.  Both involve the strong potential for inconvenience to oneself and the larger community.  It is making an arbitrary moral judgment, to insist that what causes obesity should be dealt with through coercion and the limiting of options, while what causes unwanted pregnancies and STDs should be the object of solicitude, and public programs based not on denial but on mitigation.

We know that eating in moderation and limiting certain foods generally results in better health than eating, indiscriminately, lots and lots of things we enjoy for only a brief moment.

But we also know that not having sex prevents pregnancy and STDs with unparalleled effectiveness.  We know, moreover, that disciplining our sex drives, keeping sex within marriage, welcoming the children that come from it, and raising them with a father and mother are substantially more effective in preventing STDs, “unwanted” children, poverty, delinquency, addiction, and hopelessness than are government programs to distribute condoms and subsidize abortion providers.

If government treated obesity the way it treats sex, it would encourage schoolchildren to explore their enjoyment of Twinkies, Oreos, and moon pies; it would employ professionals to devise ways of suiting government policies to the principle that our bodies belong to us and we can put whatever we want in our stomachs; it would hold legislative hearings on the overriding importance of the freedom to eat what we want; it would resist the very idea of remedies that involve the individual eating less, or eating different things; it would pay for liposuction, cholesterol drugs, heart surgery, and diabetes-mitigation measures but not for programs of diet and exercise; it would encourage the development of drugs that could prevent fat formation regardless of what one eats; and it would make it a basic human right to be able to eat whatever one wants and have the consequences mitigated by the public.

There really is no case to be made that government should not do this.  If, that is, we accept that government’s current approach to sex and its consequences is appropriate and warranted.

Ultimately, no discussion of these issues would be complete without the observation that if government – and the federal government in particular – wasn’t involved in them in the first place, it wouldn’t matter nearly as much when the people’s opinions and our moral perspectives on them differed.

J.E. Dyer’s articles have appeared at Hot Air’s Green Room, Commentary’s “contentions,Patheos, and The Weekly Standard online.

17 thoughts on “What if government treated eating the way it treats sex?”

  1. Congrats, you’re dippy enough to be dipping into Howard territory..

    will regulations the use of sodium in restaurants cause everyone to go blind?

  2. I fear you are looking for logical consistency in the liberal establishment. That quest is doomed to failure and cannot be good for one’s mental health and sunny disposition.

  3. Before the food police showed up, the juxtaposition was between sex and smoking. The first no longer has any rules; the second is not permitted, ever. (Well, unless it’s medical marijuana.)

    1. Hi, Richard,

      There are actually no “food-police” to stop you eating 10 x 5000cal burgers each and every day if that’s what takes your fancy. And why should we worry if half of the up and coming generation of Americans is too obese to be fit for military service, anyway?. On the other hand, there is a hell of a lot of fast-food advertising out there. There is also contrary advice from the Surgeon-General and others that self-indulgent eating of certain foods is inadvisable if you want to stay healthy. The great thing about advertising and advice is that you are perfectly free to ignore both. And, just like those whose sexual-practices invite disease, we similarly provide medical treatment for those whose eating-practices also invite ill-health. I am unaware of anyone who has suggested we withold medical treatment for those whose eating-practices have brought them ill-health. This is in marked contrast to the fundamentalists on the far-right who frequently opine that medical treatment should be witheld from those with AIDS. Thankfully, most people have the compassion and sense to ignore the latter.
      The only law-based food regulation I am aware of relates to things like standards and information. In other words, to stop the food-industry actually poisoning you. As for information: The food-industry has spent billions on lobbying to prevent you knowing what you are eating. Their enthusiasm for freedom of information matches that of the KGB for “glastnost”.

      And of course, we used have lots of government in our bedrooms when the fundamentalists ruled the roost. Remember when adultery was a crime in most states of the Union? Recent goings-on in the inter-nicine brawl in the Republican Party suggests that the far-right and their priests and pastors have undiminished appitite for “big-government” when it comes to regulating what we do in our private lives.

      Now, do you really need that 2nd burger today…………?

  4. Is the point you are making that the left has no stable moral code? It appears that rather than promote a higher good based on a proven code of conduct (such as those biblically based) the left is pandering to whatever lawlessness (moralessness) garners votes; promoting the basest of behaviors. Frightful.

  5. Since we generally get the kind of government we deserve, the origin of the cognitive dissonance rests in the people. If we treat eating like we treat sex, look for “Broccoli Pride” parades in your favorite liberal fiefdom.

      1. Nothing better than frogs legs with a side of calabrese broccoli washed down with a nice chianti.

  6. I wasn’t aware that anyone in government had plans to interfere with your inalienable rights to indulge in as much sex and Big Macs as your fancy takes.

    This is your big Santorum moment. Deprecating 5000 cals a day is liberal snobbery – just like being aspirational for your kids.

    The mind boggles.

    1. You should get out more. Nurse Bloomberg in NYC definitely wants to control your consumption of fast food. He is the mayor, by the way.

      1. Yup, he’s a Republican.

        And don’t worry CV, I’ll defend to the point of anexoria your inalienable constitutional right to acquire STDs and eat yourself to death.

        p.s. Will someone tell JED that:
        No-one is forcing you poor Republican victims to:
        1. Vote in your primaries in accordance with the supposed opinions of the so-called MSM.
        2. Have casual sex – unprotected or otherwise.
        3. Eat 5000 cal burgers twice a day.

        You are perfectly free to ignore the advice of the Surgeon-General and Michelle Obama. This is only ADVICE. It is NOT compulsory, even in whining paranoid-victim land. And what do THEY know anyway?

        p.p.s. If I were lecturing in what is known as “media studies” I could find no better example of why the Republicans are losing the argument than this self-pitying nonsense from JED.

      2. cuz—are we supposed to think that a desire to have people eat less fast food is a bad idea?

        you wanna talk to a health professional about that?

        or do you actually expect us to believe that Bloomberg is going to have NYPD jail New Yorkers with a MacHabit?

  7. We need to keep the full message of Michelle and the food police in mind. It’s not just that poor and middle-class people should be prohibited from eating fast food. The other half of the message is that they should be encouraged to eat like Michelle — who for years has been scarfing up high-end restaurant food and Whole Food products (remember Barry’s “how bout the price of arugala” comment?), currently at our expense of course.

    This is an example of what Charles Murray suggests that the elite should be doing more often: Preach what you practice.

    Unfortunately, of course, the poor and middle class can’t afford Michelle’s diet. At least for now, and until the real redistribution of wealth occurs.

    BTW, why do I have the feeling that Michelle and Barry also eat a lot of fast food? Maybe they just don’t swallow. That much.

    1. DAN, those “food police” want to have people to make better food choices. they’re not “food police” any more than the FDA is a police force denying people the freedom to consume bottles of Elixir containing methyl alcohol and formaldehyde.

      1. We used to have a concept that many things were simply part of society or personal preference/pleasure and had nothing to do with the government’s proper role. Eating was one of those things Hopefully, it will continue to remain so.

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