published Monday, August 15th, 2011

Government obesity patrol?

Few people would doubt that the United States has an obesity problem. Too many of us eat too many of the wrong things and exercise too little. The painful health consequences range from diabetes to heart disease.

That has prompted government to intervene, by doing everything from requiring more healthful school lunches to requiring restaurants to post calorie counts on menus. Obviously, government at different levels believes that individuals need "help" to make the right nutritional choices. Illinois lawmakers, for instance, are being urged to adopt a range of government measures -- such as higher taxes on soft drinks and limits on junk food advertising -- to get a handle on that state's obesity problem.

Without disputing for a moment the fact that lots of Americans have poor diets, what is the evidence that more government is the answer? It's easy to point to a problem and say government should "do something." But would that work?

Look at the question a different way: On everything from our huge national debt to the housing market collapse to entitlement programs that are going broke, government intervention has often caused as many problems as it has "solved." Why should we assume that government involvement will help win the fight against obesity?

We fear that after a lot of government spending on anti-obesity efforts, the problem will be just as "big" as it was before -- and states and the federal government may have only higher debt to show for their trouble.

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