June 27 2012
You need someone to tell you that you’re overweight. The tight pants, bulging tummy, and double chin aren’t clues enough according to a government panel that today recommended doctors calculate body mass index for each patient and refer overweight patients to weight loss programs.
A few questions come to mind: Why is the government telling doctors how to do their jobs and why do they think overweight people need to be told the obvious? The Associated Press journalist who covered the story inadvertently provided a bit of insight into the paternalistic thinking that surely prompted the recommendation. The journalist actually chided readers, “Don’t assume your weight is OK if the doctor doesn’t bring it up.” Patients should always ask. Since when does AP do advice columns?
Nannyist logic flows like this: fat Americans don’t know they’re fat and their doctors aren’t telling them so government experts must advise doctors to tell their patients they’re fat. The same logic prompted the federal government to try and force tobacco companies to print graphic images of dead people on cigarette packages. If only smokers knew smoking was bad for them! Two weeks ago NYC Mayor Bloomberg decided to ban large soft drinks because fat New Yorkers weren’t making the connection between their waistline and the size of the soda. He declared, “We're simply forcing you to understand that you have to make the conscious decision to go from one cup to another cup." Without the mayor’s kind intervention, chubby would have kept mindlessly gulping back colas. Now he stops and thinks, “I am drinking an excessive amount of sugary, calorie-laden beverages. I think I’ll have a carrot juice.”
People aren’t overweight because they simply don’t know the difference between soda and juice or vegetables and donuts or because they just didn’t notice the extra pounds and needed a medical expert to diagnose them. Like it or not, in a free society, people have a right to make decisions about their health and lifestyle and to experience the consequences of those decisions. Mayor Bloomberg and other “experts” may disagree with the choices of their fellow Americans but they do not have a right to impose their own will upon them. Equally offensive, the government should stop waging awareness campaigns with taxpayer dollars to tell Americans what they already know.