Libertarians And Children

by Chris Bodenner

Patrick covered Frum's "crunchy con" take on Pollan, but I think this excerpt of Frum's is also worth highlighting:

[O]besity – and especially child obesity - is at least as proper a subject of government concern from a conservative point of view as single parenthood. Conservatives correctly realize that a society with a lot of single parents will require a bigger welfare state. Since conservatives prefer a smaller welfare state, conservatives have a stake in sustainable family patterns. Yet obesity also creates a demand for government programs, even more directly and expensive than the costs of single parenthood. Here’s a paper from the Texas Department of Human Services that estimates that Type 2 diabetes accounts for 9% of the state’s Medicaid budget, about $192 million per year. If diabetes continues to increase at the current trend line, by 2030 the disease will consume somewhere between 13% and 20% of the state’s Medicaid budget.

The policy response to this crisis is not obvious. And yet there are some immediate steps that make sense. State governments should ban soda machines from schools. Local governments should adopt zoning ordinances that prevent the siting of fast-food restaurants within 1000 yards of schools. (Research suggests that the near presence of a fast-food restaurant causes a 5% increase in student obesity.) Impose a steep excise tax on high-fructose corn syrup.

His words remind me of an excellent point that Matt Steinglass made recently:

The deeper point is that Megan’s argument is broadly that obesity is one’s own personal business and no one else has any business interfering in it. There is, however, a class of relationships in which everyone, even libertarians, understands that “it’s none of your business” does not apply, and that is the relationship of a society towards its children. This is true at the personal level it is my business if the rest of society is doing things that will tend to make my children fat and at the collective level it is all of our business if we are doing things that make our children fat, because we are responsible for them.