I read this rather disturbing article in the Associated Press today, in which it is reported that “Manchester is hoping to fight fat with a reward system that works like a retail loyalty card. But instead of earning credit for opening their wallets, residents will be rewarded for keeping their feet on the treadmill and their fridge stocked with healthy food.”
Now, on the surface, this might seem like a good idea. Heck, I could stand to lose a few myself, and who wouldn’t want to be rewarded simply for doing the right thing? But if you look a little under the surface, this becomes troubling.
First and foremost, I have a problem with the government sticking their nose into my personal life, no matter how benevolent the motive may seem. It’s a short but steep slope from “We’ll reward you for being healthy” to “Get healthy, or else!” Right now, they’re offering the carrot, but who’s to say that once we accept this latest incarnation of Nanny government that the carrot won’t be replaced with a big and expensive stick. For example, what’s to stop the government from offering two tax tables, one for people who meet its definition of “healthy”, and those who don’t. As an overweight man who loves to smoke, I know which table I’d be paying under.
“Ah Ha!”, you say. “Smith, you big fat smoker you, you’re a drain on the health care system! Look at me: I’m a non-smoking vegetarian who runs five miles a day! You and those like you should be like me!”
To which I say: that’s the price you pay to live in a FREE COUNTRY. (Remember that phrase?) You have to put up with my bad habits and I have to put up with yours. Chances are, you are not entirely vice free yourself. And even if you are, I have news for you: unless you get hit by a bus, you too will grow old and become a drain on the health care system. It happens to almost all of us. Your wonderful “healthy lifestyle” won’t save you in the end.
Those who believe in the Nanny government and who wish to control us realize that they cannot do so without uniting people against a common enemy. For Hitler, it was the Jews. For McCarthy it was the Communists. For Nanny government advocates, it is: Bad Health. These people feel they can enact all manner of government intrusion into people’s lives, as long as it is being done in the name of Good Health. Good Health has become our new Golden Idol.
And for some of you who were nonplussed at my recent post about the 2008 election, know this: this is exactly why I have never voted Democrat. It is why I remain profoundly concerned about the Obama presidency. This sort of thing is far, far more likely to occur in the United States under a Democratic government.
Says Timothy Armstrong, coordinator of the World Health Organization’s global strategy on diet, and quoted in the same article, “I haven’t seen any evidence that it works, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try it…as public health officials we really don’t have the luxury of waiting to see what works and what doesn’t. We really do know that, in terms of curbing the obesity epidemic, all of society needs to play a role”.
It takes a village, right Timothy? And naturally, this is being funded by (who else?) the taxpayers.
Just so no one gets the wrong idea here, let me state flat out that I realize that this program is benign and well meant. And yes, I realize it’s happening in England, but our two countries are so closely linked culturally that it’s no stretch to imagine it happening here. Just look at what the Boston Public Health Commission is trying to get away with. People are getting fatter (probably because they’ve stopped smoking). But I become deeply troubled when the government starts using its leverage to try to force me to live a certain way, because I realize how quickly and easily the can change from benevolent cajoling to a direct order. I believe that, deep down, the Nancy Pelosi’s of the world don’t really want to be agreed with, they want to be obeyed. Once people allow themselves to buy into the idea that Nanny government is taking care of them, anything is possible. “Get healthy, or else!”.
Now where did I put those Cheesey Puffs?