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April 22, 2012

Comments

sk60

It's the Observer and the Guardian. You can't expect them to understand the concept of personal responsibility.

rjmadden

then so be it.

It's almost as if they start with an impulse to tax, ban and interfere then work backwards until they find an excuse…

David

Ration books. It’s the obvious answer.

Back to the future, people.

Lovernios

"So shall it be written. So shall it be done" - Yul Brynner as Ramses in The Ten Commandments.

Our new Pharaoh has proclaimed, "Then so be it."

JuliaM

"Ration books. It’s the obvious answer."

Woolton Pie for every citizen! By order of the Ministry!

Cheers for link.

Anna

limiting individuals’ freedom to consume junk

It makes perfect sense -if you think of people as livestock.

Pete

Lots of our choices aren't made rationally and we're already being affected in our choices by all manner of factors which we aren't consciously aware of. For example, the position of products on a shelf affects which ones we will choose to buy. Putting prices up on some foodstuffs is a particularly crude way of affecting shoppers' behaviour, and there are better ways of encouraging people to make better choices about the food they buy. We're already being nudged towards certain behaviours all the time, so I don't see a problem, in principal, with helping people to act in accordance with their own interests more than those of a manufacturer of unhealthy food products.

TimT

Disagree Pete:

'... so I don't see a problem, in principal, with helping people to act in accordance with their own interests'

... 'their own interests' is misleading, since the 'helping' being done is manipulation in order to get people to act in the interests of others.

Ray K.

"with helping people to act in accordance with their own interests"

Who are you to decide what that is?

Ted S., Catskill Mtns., NY, USA

I could have sworn I mentioned what I like to call the Smug Diet the last time food nannies came up round these parts. Apparently not.

I also like to point out that every time I hear one of these "public health" nannies talk about controlling us, I can feel my blood pressure rising. I'm sure I'm not the only one, and that can't be good for the health of the citizens. When they talk about quality of life, I know I'd have a higher quality of life if I weren't being hectored by a bunch of nannies.

Ted S., Catskill Mtns., NY, USA

I also find myself referring to people like the editorialist as "Our Worses".

AC1

I think we should help people like Pete, with force and perhaps free "trips" to "learning camps" to help him correct his wrong thoughts.

Mark

What is that Mark Steyn quote again? Ah yes. "When the government controls health care they have license to regulate every aspect of life."

David

Pete,

“I don't see a problem, in principal, with helping people to act in accordance with their own interests more than those of a manufacturer of unhealthy food products.”

As noted previously, there are surprisingly few “unhealthy food products,” i.e., common foodstuffs that are hazardous in small or moderate quantities. There are only unhealthy diets, especially if coupled with sedentary lifestyles or chronic idiocy. Of course lifestyles and idleness are hard to tax and outlaw, and for some interference is the objective. It’s possible to eat marzipan and chips thirteen times a day, if one is so inclined. And yet thin people still walk among us. Also, the manufacturers of Kingsize Lard Smoothie With Extra Chocolate Shavings tend to spend their own money on enticing customers. Professor Swinburn and his Guardianista cheerleaders plan to spend our money influencing us, as much of it as they can.

Pete

TimT, we're already being influenced in all sorts of ways. If the same manipulation that is used (for example) to encourage people to eat fast food or drink sugary pop was to to be used to 'nudge' people to adopt a healthy diet, particularly when many overweight people WANT to lose weight, then that how isn't that helping them to act in accordance with their own interests?

AC1, you're the one coming across as thought police here, because I've gone against the grain here. Fortunately our host seems to be more amenable to being challenged.

David, I'm no fan of the guardian and think their idea of raising prices to affect behaviour is an especially crude way of doing it. Perhaps I didn't make my point very clearly, but our behaviour is affected all the time by all manner of things, both intentionally and unintentionally. I take issue with the idea that a supermarket shopper is a free agent making rational choices. If we behaved that way there wouldn't be anywhere near the profitability there is! We know, for example, placing a product at eye level in the middle of a shelf increases the sales of that product. There is then a choice as to what you do with that influence over a shopper, and I don't think it is a bad thing if the supermarket promotes a healthy product over an unhealthy one.

As for the guardianstas spending our money - well, the state spends our money all the time, on important stuff that we need like schools and hospitals. That money can be used more effectively by 'manipulating' people towards certain behaviours, and if the manipulation isn't done consciously it will happen anyway in a haphazard and unguided manner. For example, there are ways of minimising missed appointments with GPs by simply changing the way in which the appointment time is communicated to a patient (get THEM to write it down, rather than doing it for them, for example). There are times when the aims of the manipulator overlap with those of the person being guided, and when that occurs I don't see anything wrong with someone else doing my thinking for me and making life easier.

David

Pete,

“...placing a product at eye level in the middle of a shelf increases the sales of that product… I don’t think it is a bad thing if the supermarket promotes a healthy product over an unhealthy one.”

Supermarkets will generally position products so as to optimise their profits. It is, after all, their business we’re talking about. Is it their business to dissuade customers from buying certain products? Picture the checkout scenario: “I’m sorry, madam. Are you sure you should be buying that family-size ice-cream? According to our records you bought one only last week and that dress is looking rather tight…”

“As for the guardianstas spending our money - well, the state spends our money all the time, on important stuff that we need like schools and hospitals.”

The fact that the state already has sixteen hands in my back pocket isn’t the strongest argument to invite in another five. There is, I fear, only so much pocket. And so much goodwill. But as we’ve noted before, this is a key problem of socialised medicine. Once medical care and its costs have been socialised, there’s a foothold for obnoxious coercive urges - and a justification (of sorts) for increasing interference. Usually some variation of this: “The medical consequences of Harry’s fatness stress the NHS and cost the public X, therefore I, as a member of the public, have a right to interfere and determine Harry’s diet.”

And so the solution is always more interference, more control, more socialism.

Henry

Hi Pete

"helping people to act in accordance with their own interests"

You can see that's the sentence we've all got a problem with. It's worth examining the thinking behind it. I can't know exactly what you have in mind, but it seems to me that people who will say that kind of thing:

a) are happy with a larger state with more laws and more expenditure enforcing them,
b) believe that just providing education is somehow 'not doing enough',
c) believe also that we can't blame people's attitudes and behaviour for their plight - it is somehow the fault of all of us, especially the government who are at fault if they don't pass a number of laws and spend more money on every issue like this
d) are unaware that "helping people to act" in a certain way is a euphemism - the phrases in the article were "limiting people's freedom", "radical action", and ending "'irresponsible' marketing of unhealthy foodstuffs"*

Your sentence was seemingly harmless - you'd be surprised if I said it was a particularly evil thought. But I think a) to d) show where we all differ.

* David has already pointed out that the phrase "unhealthy foodstuffs" is dubious - I would add that dietitians routinely change their minds on what the healthiest diets and foodstuffs are.

David

Thing is, there’s a moral non-sequitur here. Just because Fat Harry can’t make it from breakfast to lunch without shovelling in half a dozen doughnuts and a large bag of Cheezy Poofs, that’s no reason to punish every other bugger who happens to like the odd doughnut or bag of Cheezy Poofs. Raising the prices of such products to ‘correct’ some people’s behaviour isn’t only “crude,” it’s presumptuous and unfair. And forcing supermarkets and retailers to lose money by repositioning their goods on ideological grounds is also presumptuous and unfair for much the same reason.

Steve

Can anyone explain the difference between 'changing peoples behaviour' by, for instance, addressing problems of single parenthood, alcoholism, child neglect etc. advocated by this site here...

http://davidthompson.typepad.com/davidthompson/2012/04/elsewhere-61.html

and 'changing peoples behaviour' by encouraging healthy eating choices?

Do I detect a, somewhat rare, whiff of hypocrisy here?

David

Steve,

“Do I detect a, somewhat rare, whiff of hypocrisy here?”

In the post you link to, Heather Mac Donald is arguing for a realistic debate and is (possibly, by implication) in favour of limiting the coercive public subsidy of feckless behaviour. She argues for holding individuals responsible for their own choices. I don’t believe I made any policy suggestion at all, beyond suggesting that any credible debate ought to include the role of individual agency. This post is also about individuals being responsible for their own behaviour, rather than being nannied and coerced, or the state coercing others with a uniform ‘solution’. So, no, I can’t the smell the hypocrisy. Though I will keep sniffing vigilantly, just in case.

Steve

David,

A comment from that earlier post...

AMB - "As David said, if a great deal of poverty is self-inflicted and completely avoidable, it behooves us to figure out ways to help people avoid it."

This statement was un-challenged by you or any of your contributors.

I concede that your own take on this seems to be to curtail the trend to "reward irresponsilibilty". If you are suggesting that this can be done without some degree of education / co-ersion aimed at changing behaviour then this could easily look like the kind of brutish behaviour that your critics insist is the conservatives default.

rxc

There are a number of sexual practices that can be reasonably considered risky, and therefore irresponsible. Should the government therefore start to nudge people who engage in this sort of irresponsible behavior, as well?

The march of the "progressives" continues. They will NEVER give up trying to save people from themselves.

Henry

Hi Steve,

"some degree of education / co-ersion"...two totally different things. Education (based on good science, mind) is not something I'm against.

Clearly we limit our freedom to eg: kill each other, steal, rob, etc. So noone will argue for no restrictions on liberty whatsoever. So the question is always 'where to draw the line?'

My position would be to only limit freedoms when you absolutely have to. And not to trot out new restrictions on liberty with every media-incited public health issue. Not least because there is a difference between ones freedom to eat as one wishes, and one's freedom to neglect those one is responsible for (you mentioned child neglect as though that were comparable)

If that is the view of others, where is the hypocrisy?

David

Steve,

“This statement was unchallenged by you or any of your contributors.”

If you’re planning to hold me responsible for things I didn’t actually say, we’ll be here all day. I don’t feel obliged to affirm or denounce every single comment made by other people. My own comments centred on acknowledging the role of personal behaviour in many instances of poverty – without which, a debate will tend to be misleading and unrealistic. I also suggested that the rewarding of feckless behaviour brings the social safety net into disrepute. Remember, I was responding to rv’s bizarre comment, which seemed to suggest that any hint of realism was an act of malice. People being feckless and making themselves poor (or indeed fat) doesn’t rob me of sleep. But if there’s going to be a debate about these things, it might as well be a realistic one.

“I concede that your own take on this seems to be to curtail the trend to ‘reward irresponsibility’.”

Beyond that general suggestion, I didn’t venture into possible policy measures. The ‘elsewhere’ posts are usually intended to start a discussion. That way, I get to hear what other people think.

“If you are suggesting that this can be done without some degree of education / coercion aimed at changing behaviour then this could easily look like the kind of brutish behaviour that your critics insist is the conservatives default.”

I don’t quite follow. I don’t remember objecting to educational efforts. There’s no end of information available about diet, but that’s a different matter from penalising retailers and the casual consumer of doughnuts. Or indeed the makers of doughnuts.


[ Added: ]

Wait. I have critics?!

Steve

David,

"Wait. I have critics?!"

I assume from this you are referring to a comment I left some time ago when, after posting a perfectly well intended question about the absence of criticism on your site, which was not published, I posted a second comment expressing my conclusion that this seemed to indicate that criticism might be censored. I asked the original (apparently censored) question merely because on most sites that I visit regularly there is inevitably a sea of ridiculous and often grossly anti-semetic comment the like of which has largely been absent from your site. I thought it was a reasonable question, apparently you feel otherwise. Somebody using the tag RV recently seems to have shown my assumption to be incorrect, though the question remains, how on earth do you manage to keep the fanatics away?

No doubt you now view me as a fanatic for asking that simple question and wondering aloud whether there might be some hypocrisy in the desire to change some 'bad' behaviours whilst viewing other 'bad' behaviours as protected from interference. There may of course be none.

Steve

Henry,

I realise that the words education & coercion mean different things, thats why I wrote them both!

I assume from your reply that you believe co-ercion to be always objectionable, though this isn't necessarily the case. For instance when I go to a building site in the course of my work I am often required to wear a hard hat. I have no choice about this but acknowledge that this is for my own good, same with seat belts, security searches etc. Conversely some 'education' may be bad, eg. Al Gore's film and pamphlets, the Palestinian authorities geography classes etc. I thought it was only the left that were absolutist?

I agree that interference should only happen where necessary. The question is, as always, who decides what is necessary?

David

Steve,

“No doubt you now view me as a fanatic for asking that simple question…”

Not at all. Why would I? As many regular readers could testify, I’m remarkably indulgent of criticism. For instance, I must’ve tried to engage rv in debate at least half a dozen times, sadly in vain.

“I assume from this you are referring to a comment I left some time ago when, after posting a perfectly well intended question about the absence of criticism on your site, which was not published… I thought it was a reasonable question, apparently you feel otherwise.”

I’ve no idea which comment you’re talking about. I don’t censor dissent, far from it. Not agreeing with me has never been a basis for expulsion into the outer darkness. Very occasionally something abusive or vile may get deleted after publication, along with general spam. I’ve actually been criticised (at some length) for taking a hands-off approach to comments. It’s possible your comment was eaten by TypePad’s filters, which can be eccentric once in a while. At least a couple of my own comments have vanished on posting, never to be retrieved, and I haven’t deleted any of your comments so far as I can recall.

Steve

David,

I am very glad to hear that you do not routinely censor. This still leaves me curious as to how you manage to avoid attention from more like RV. In an ideal World it would be because the high quality of content & comment scares them away but that certainly doesn't work for Nick Cohen and didn't work for Christopher Hitchens so I doubt that's it.

David

Steve,

“This still leaves me curious as to how you manage to avoid attention from more like RV.”

Heh. I have no idea – rv is a mystery to me, as are one or two others like him. I’ve long since given up trying to fathom his motives (though I do tend to respond anyway, just in case my replies are of interest to anyone else). I’d like to think the shortage of shouty lunatics in the comments is down to me setting the right tone. Though, as you say, that may be a tad self-flattering. Maybe the legions of shouty lunatics simply haven’t found this place yet. Or maybe they just don’t care about what I bang on about. It’s a mystery I can live with.


[ Added: ]

The thing is, the accusation of censorship is almost funny. After over five years of doing this, I can still count on one hand the number of commenters whose welcome has been withdrawn. And none of them were banned for disagreeing with me. I’ve put quite a lot of effort into debating with dissenters and trying to keep things civil. Ask Georges, ask Lee, ask Dr Dawg – all of whom are very welcome here. See, for example, this. Or the thread following this.

Tor H Tor

Betters? Moi's Betters?? HoHoHaHaHee, thou art most amusingly droll, David.
Here, allow moi to share me wee vid, just did
"Jesus Christ [is the] AntiChrist."
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dLGJXo8gshg
Now, ain't that a hoot 'n a 1/2?

David

…though there’s something to be said for keeping things on topic.

Henry

Hi Steve,

"I assume from your reply that you believe co-ercion to be always objectionable"

Well that's a little mixed up, as (from your other remarks) you've obviously understood what I've said about "only when absolutely necessary" being the best rule of thumb.

If we take that as read, we're certainly going to need to be very sure that the overall effect of any laws or interventions will be positive at all, let alone necessary - which would be much harder to argue.

"in the course of my work I am often required to wear a hard hat"

Yes and that raises questions as to whether this is a viable analogy with what is being suggested wrt action on obesity. Like most analogies, it breaks down early on. With security searches we're back to the effect of one's actions on others. With seatbelts and helmets the %s of serious accidents was deemed convincing - as said we remain to be convinced about the obesity measures suggested (quite different in nature) - but we don't seem to be going that way.

Education/geography classes/absolutist: I wonder if you're being serious here. I said quite clearly education based on good science - which indicates that we're talking about a different matter from the rather grey areas of propaganda posing as education - usually in non-scientific subjects.

Steve

Henry,

I apologize if I have mis-represented anything you have said, I have been dipping in & out of this whilst drawing up a boring survey so am not fully engaged. My analogy wasn't intended to be taken literally, I was merely trying, rather clumsily, to suggest that words which at first may appear suspect (coercion, propaganda, elite etc.) are not necessarily so, whilst words such as education, inclusion etc. which are deemed good may also be anything but.

With regard to the 'harm' caused by obesity, quite obviously this is in the over-loading of the health system with all sorts of avoidable complaints, diabetes, joint problems, heart problems etc. Not as direct as a street mugging but still involves pinching from all of our pockets.

As with almost everything in life, there are no simple answers and it is extremely difficult to tackle the problem without appearing preachy, bullying, calous or any number of other things.

My own, rather fascistic instinct would be to restrict healthcare to people who self-harm whether it is through food, drugs, tobacco, alcohol or whatever. But I keep coming back to my own knees, damaged in sporting incidents and I can't help wondering whether somebody would consider that I should also be denied healthcare on the grounds that my injuries were self-inflicted. (This is not entirely a paranoid fantasy, when I was taken to casualty with a torn knee ligament the first attending nurse said, only half jokingly, "it's your own fault for playing that stupid game" (football). Getting knocked off a bicycle or motorcycle usually elicits the same condemnation.

It's not easy 'helping' people!

AC1

Pete is obviously sarcasm blind. A common feature of the authoritarian mindset.

David

Incidentally, regarding fast food, see also this. Some of the comments may be of interest too.

lauraw

Despite our betters' constant wish to whip us toward a tame perfection, you can't legislate away impulsiveness or stupidity or evil. Has merely the existence of law eliminated all crime? Are you going to make sugar an illegal substance? How did alcohol Prohibition work out in the US, eh?
And some folks are just always going to be unhealthy. What will you do with these people who are just expensive by nature? Comforting the afflicted is a moral duty of civilized people.

That aside; a look at the changes the government-endorsed food pyramid has gone through tells you much of what you need to know about allowing strangers to tell you what you should eat. It has been improved but it is still WRONG, lol.

Even in whole form (which many people are allergic to or develop inflammations from), if I ate that much grain I'd bloat up like a whale inside two weeks.

Also, it is missing the vital 'alcohol' food group, which is essential to mental health, a better way to consume grain, and which these elitists love to vice-tax us to the poorhouse over, while they indulge themselves cheerfully. PAUGH.

When the people in government are incorruptible beings with perfect knowledge, then they can meddle in my life more than they already do.

Maybe.
OK, no.
Tyranny is tyranny.

dicentra

It seems Professor Swinburn believes the population is too stupid to live unsupervised by the state

Stupid? Maybe.

Unsightly? Definitely.

They also never stop to consider the fact that people overeat as a type of self-medication, and that perhaps the proles are deeply unhappy with the "progress" made thus far in their lives.

Henry

Hi Steve, perhaps the wrong person is apologising :) Blame too much time spent by me in long argument with a more mischievous person elsewhere. Good points

Related to what you said: I seem to remember someone (who had done pretty high level research into it, and quite unbiased I thought) telling me that the evidence showing smokers with lung cancer were a significant drain on the NHS... didn't exist*. By which I was rather taken aback.

Perhaps the problem was with how you would design a good study showing this. But the point seemed to be that lung cancer is usually detected late, and sadly progresses fast, meaning less healthcare in old-age. The situation may be quite different with drinkers.

*if I've remembered this wrongly I do apologise but that was the gist. I've also seen it argued that cigarette taxes balance it out further, but I'm not on top of the stats

svh

the vital 'alcohol' food group, which is essential to mental health

Testify!

Sam

Is it their business to dissuade customers from buying certain products? Picture the checkout scenario: “I’m sorry, madam. Are you sure you should be buying that family-size ice-cream? According to our records you bought one only last week and that dress is looking rather tight…”

LOL

i. Make supermarkets (and all shops) hide the ice-cream.
ii. Watch supermarkets and ice-cream companies start losing money.
iii. Watch supermarkets and ice-cream companies start laying off staff.
iv. Fat people still just as fat.
v. Pat self on back. Another progressive success….

Steve

Henry,

Excellent. You may not remember the details but the smoking points seems plausible, the tax on fags would certainly make an enormous contribution to the public purse. It's not just the lungs though. I've never been able to figure out why but, apparently, smoking is a contributing factor for all sorts of other diseases both in smokers and those of us that spend time standing next to smokers so, whilst lung cancer sufferes may certainly expire rapidly, people suffering from smoking related blocked arteries, smoking related mouth cancer, smoking related diabetes, smoking related gonorea etc. are likely to hang around draining hospital resources for some considerable time.

I'm off for a dougnut and a packet of crisps now, but will spend time in the gym afterwards.

AC1

The left seem to think the stuff the state does has no cost.

dcardno

...smoking is a contributing factor for all sorts of other diseases both in smokers and those of us that spend time standing next to smokers...

Actually, there is precious little research showing any medical effect of 'second-hand smoke' as experienced by those who stand next to smokers.

dicentra

I concede that your own take on this seems to be to curtail the trend to "reward irresponsibility". If you are suggesting that this can be done without some degree of education / coersion aimed at changing behaviour then this could easily look like the kind of brutish behaviour that your critics insist is the conservatives default.

Actually, the way to do this is to remove Gubmint Enabling Devices and to expose people to the consequences of their own actions. The School of Hard Knocks will be the corrective, and any "education and coercion" can come from private entities such as churches and civic groups, voluntarily organized and funded.

Here's the thing: Under that system a goodly number of people will continue to engage in self-destructive behavior either until it kills them or they hit bottom and decide to change. People will behave badly for decades before they stop, and they'll have wreaked havoc on numerous lives in the meantime.

Guess what?

You can't get rid of such behavior any more than you can get rid of entropy, and only a fool or a tyrant would dream otherwise. The best you can do is let the poor be uncomfortable in their poverty, as Ben Franklin recommended, and let the rest of them die in their own filth, if that's what they want.

when I go to a building site in the course of my work I am often required to wear a hard hat. I have no choice about this but acknowledge that this is for my own good

No, it's for the good of the insurers and other parties who might be sued if you suffer a head injury on their site.

People are gravely mistaken if they think that the State can "care" or be "compassionate." Politicians and bureaucrats may affect such an attitude, but a State can only penalize or fail to penalize: nothing more.

David Gillies

There is no tension between wishing to influence self-destructive behaviours by removing or reducing their subsidy and not wishing to influence self-destructive behaviours by legislating restrictions and price increases. I presume this blog's host and most of its commenters would be equally opposed to government subsidy of Gregg's pasties and deep-fried Mars bars to help poor people afford more of the foods they (apparently) like. Similarly if, for example, single parenthood were punished, we would be against it. No, in both cases our primary objective is to LEAVE PEOPLE ALONE, to make as good a fist of their lives as possible. The State seems to draw a distinction between some unwise lifestyle choices which are sacrosanct and not merely not to be discriminated against but exalted, and others for which mere opprobrium is not enough but instead sanction. We reject that distinction. Just bugger off and stop bothering us.

David

“The State seems to draw a distinction between some unwise lifestyle choices which are sacrosanct and not merely not to be discriminated against but exalted, and others for which mere opprobrium is not enough but instead [require] sanction.”

A Chatsworth House steak pie for Mr Gillies. With all the fixings.

Incidentally, I wonder which costs the taxpayer more (and how much educational spending is devoted to each) – chronic overeating or feckless breeding?

sackcloth and ashes

'We're already being nudged towards certain behaviours all the time'

You mean the sort of 'behaviour' which says we want to make sure our families are fed, as opposed to the natural and healthy instinct of making sure they stay hungry?

Dr Cromarty

I'm sure there's a class element to this. I'm old enough and working class enough (at least in my origins) to remember a time when to be a bit on the chubby side was seen as a sign of health - meant you had enough food on the table and enough physical reserve to fend off the ravages of illness. Thinnies were seen as a bit unhealthy - possibly in the early stages of consumption and headed for an early grave.

I guess modern medicine has largely seen off many of the diseases mostly infective) for which a large body habitus would confer and evolutionary advantage. Now the fatties are largely working class (apart from Nicholas Soames) and therefore clearly can't make any decisions about their lives for themselves. Needs a clever chap like Prof Swinburn to prod these unruly cattle towards the low-fat trough. It's for their own good, poor creatures.

I suspect the idea that people should be free to decide what to eat and how much of it doesn't cross Prof Swinburn's mind. Coming across plenty of these people on a daily basis professionally they see the whole of human life as a public health problem to which they and only they have the solution. Everything is an epidemic usually of mammoth proportions (pun intended) requiring bold policy decisions (like lying about the safe limits for alcohol consumption). The fact is that the success of modern medicine (although it probably has more to do with good drains and cheaper food) means that people live more comfortable, healthier lives than their forefathers and any benefits from any intervention the medicos make is more and more marginal.

The sad thing is that it's not as if there aren't plenty of people out there, old, frail people who are dying in shitty overheated or freezing wards with too much light at night and noise and crappy food and poor nursing care. Most of the quacks who make their way into the news studios (like the odious, illiberal Professor Sir Ian Gilmore) are so busy proposing radical changes to what we are allowed to do they don't have the time to put a shift in looking after real patients with real (raher than made-up) illnesses and suffering. In the meantime the utopians would rather pretend that by controlling peoples lives and what goes into their mouths, they will in some way ensure a happier life for all of us - walking out through golden cornfields with our BMIs of 20-25 and shining, scrubbed faces towards a golden future.

Dr Cromarty

On this very subject,you might like the late Petr Skrabanek's book, The Death of Humane Medicine and the rise of Coercive Healthism.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Death-Humane-Medicine-Coercive-Healthism/dp/0907631592

Rob

Yes, the foods to be controlled will just happen to be those that the 'lower classes' enjoy. You won't find Waitrose's mature Brie on the list, or Tartiflette, or Pasta, even though you can become just as fat overeating them as you can with burgers, chips and ice cream.

Just like food miles, the other middle-class progressive bigotry dressed up as principle. Wine, houmus, pasta, olives - these foodstuffs are mysteriously never mentioned.

Pure bigotry and snobbery, nothing more, nothing less.

sackcloth and ashes

'I'm old enough and working class enough (at least in my origins) to remember a time when to be a bit on the chubby side was seen as a sign of health - meant you had enough food on the table and enough physical reserve to fend off the ravages of illness. Thinnies were seen as a bit unhealthy - possibly in the early stages of consumption and headed for an early grave'.

In the kind of ideal society favoured by a certain type of 'Guardian' reader, proles tended not to suffer from over-eating and obesity. The reverse was often true.

'You won't find Waitrose's mature Brie on the list, or Tartiflette, or Pasta, even though you can become just as fat overeating them as you can with burgers, chips and ice cream'.

In the same way that those that condemn cheap flights will not eschew air travel themselves, because whilst the hoi polloi's flight to Tenerife is bad, the book promotion tours to the USA (Monbiot), trips to one's pied a terre in Tuscany (Toynbee), or nice foreign holidays in places like the Maldives (Brigstocke) are a completely different matter.

AC1

"X should be banned because it's a drain on the NHS" merely shows that the NHS model is wrong.

Simen Thoresen

"
Yes, the foods to be controlled will just happen to be those that the 'lower classes' enjoy. You won't find Waitrose's mature Brie on the list, or Tartiflette, or Pasta, even though you can become just as fat overeating them as you can with burgers, chips and ice cream.
"

Hi Rob,

That's an interesting point - I've noticed that we have our own discussion here in Norway paralleling what I've seen in the US about 'pink slime' - a process to increase the amount of foodstuffs that can extracted from an animal carcass. This is seen as bad.
Similarly, we're subsidizing 'ecological' farming, and have instituted minimum-quotas for less-efficient production.
Both of these strategies are of course driving food prices up, with little obvious benefit to those who already are stretching their money to pay for foods.

My own theory, is that in this round of forced egalitarianism, it's not the elite products that are being banned - the elite can and will pay for black-market goods - but rather the staples of the poor. We shall all be equal, and we'll be healthy and environmentally conscious.

Or, to quote a recent political figure, Let them eat Roquefort.

Personally, I'd prefer to be able to choose - even if I risk making the wrong choices.

Yours,
-S

Jason Bontrager

I don't know if I've posted it here before (a quick google search indicated not), but the short story, _Lipidleggin'_ is apposite and quite entertaining, in a gallows-humor sort of way. It can be read online at: http://billstclair.com/DoingFreedom/000623/df.0600.fa.lipidleggin.html

And what comment on the nanny state would be complete without everyone's (or at least *my*) favorite C.S. Lewis quote?

"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."

Steve

Apparently the Hungarian government are ahead of the curve on this...

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/04/24/hungary-deprives-diabetics-treatment-punishment_n_1449036.html?icid=maing-grid7|uk|dl5|sec1_lnk2%26pLid%3D105797

“Taxpayers’ money should not be spent on patients who don’t cooperate with their doctor,”

Rob

For Authoritarians the beauty of socialised medicine is that (a) the patient is robbed of the cost long before treatment and (b) the State has an effective monopoly of treatment. Thus patients must 'co-operate' with the doctor (i.e. obey unconditionally, regardless of circumstance) or be denied treatment they are entitled to.

In a system closer to a true provision of service, if a doctor withdrew treatment the patient could go to another.

MarbellaBoy

My biggest objection to socialised medecine is this aspect that because your ill health becomes a cost to the taxpayer rather than directly to yourself, the state then feels it has the right to dictate to you the minutea of how you live your life under pain of withdrawal of healthcare. We have seen the effects of this again and again with authoritarians demanding that we smoke less, eat a certain way, excercise more etc. etc.

Its not like we even get good value for the money we are taxed to pay for it. If you divide the annual budget of the NHS by the UK population it comes out at about £160 pppm for a crap service. As a middle aged man (and so not at the cheap end of the curve) I can get excellent private healthcare for about £50 pm, be seen by a doctor on demand in minutes rather than hours, get an appointment for a procedure in weeks rather than months. Yet I still have to pay taxes to cover a crap service that I do not avail of.

I'm all for ensuring that the poor should not forego healthcare for lack of funds and am willing to contribute to that with my taxes, but surely if we made it an expectation that people pay for their own healthcare automatically out of their paycheck, then the number who would lack cover due to poverty would be a tiny fraction of the population and thus the annual amount paid by the taxpayer to cover the poor would be a tiny fraction of the current budget. Far better to subsidise the genuinely poor to pay for private healthcare than create a public behemoth that cares nothing for us because we have no choice. It's monopoly, as always, that kills good service.

I currently live, work and pay taxes in Spain and when I was shopping for private healthcare, I had dozens of companies to choose from with prices starting at around €50pm for bog standard cover to €120pm for Rolls Royce cover, still far less than my share of taxes to pay for the public system which I pay for but do not use. The public system has perfectly good and professional doctors and nurses and a good standard of care. What I pay extra for is to slash my waiting times for any service by 80%. Like all 'free' services, rationing needs to be made somehow, and in the public system rationing is by way of waiting list.

MarbellaBoy

I've just checked my policy and I actually pay €150pm for my health insurance, but it was the very best cover I could find, I doubt you could find better here. Still less than the £160pm I would be contributing in taxes for my share of the NHS were I still living in the UK. I should clarify that the quality of care is very high in the public health system here in Spain. My worry was, that if I were to get a critical illness, I know that with my Rolls Royce private cover, I would get get every procedure I needed in a fifth of the time it would take in the public system and I would never have to argue my case with any beaurocrat with my imperfect Spanish. In a critical health issue, those months of waiting would make the difference between life and death.

I had a health issue recently that needed me to visit A&E. The nearest hospital was the public one. When I walked into the waiting room my heart dropped. There were at least 200 people waiting and the reception nurse told me it would take at least 4 hours for me to be seen. I jumped back in my car and drove ten minutes further to the private hospital. I was in front of a doctor 5 minutes after walking through the door. I won't make that mistake again. I now pay my premium every month with pleasure.

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