NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Free Market Has Real Solutions to Obesity Crisis

May 23, 2013

Obesity is a public health time bomb. But is curbing it primarily the responsibility of the government? The food police think so, say Jeff Stier, a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research, and Henry I. Miller, the Robert Wesson Fellow in Scientific Philosophy and Public Policy at the Hoover Institution.

  • Weighing in from the Left are regulation-obsessed activists like Dr. Yoni Freedhoff of the University of Ottawa. He blames obesity on the failure of public health officials and lawmakers to "legislate change" -- not enough statutes, regulations, public monies spent or taxes on foods that he thinks are bad.
  • In addition, while First Lady Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" campaign recognizes personal responsibility, she has also advocated using the heavy hand of government to achieve "desirable" social goals. She championed a 2010 child nutrition law that let bureaucrats decide what foods may be sold on school grounds.
  • National Action Against Obesity founder MeMe Roth is less subtle in evoking thoughts of child molestation by referring to food advertising to children as "predatory" and arguing that we shouldn't let food company executives have a "relationship with our kids."

In their zeal to advance an agenda, however, it's the food police who have become the creeps. There is a role for government policymaking, but it's not intrusive, punitive, arbitrary regulation: It's allowing market forces to stimulate the production of fresh fruits and vegetables and to make them cheaper and more available to more people.

  • Major obstacles to that strategy are policies that prevent the kind of innovation that could give us higher farm yields, fewer inputs and lower prices.
  • These policies include subsidy-driven incentives to grow commodity grains instead of vegetables, and restrictions on agricultural technologies that raise yields.

And in recent years, federal officials have pushed organic and other inefficient practices that may make consumers feel good about the foods they buy but which in reality are not better for them or the environment.

Source: Jeff Stier and Henry I. Miller, "Free Market Has Real Solutions to Obesity Crisis," Washington Examiner, May 20, 2013.


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