The sheer insanity of politically-controlled dieting is illustrated in the hope of one Health Nanny that the new labeling mandates will result in “reducing the fat in pastries,” as the New York Times reports. Because, you know, sugary, empty-carb pastries are so good for you when they have slightly less junk fat in them.
To the Health Nannies, good health is about tweaking the right variables, offering people the right carrots, and smacking them with the right sticks (but of course only when they really need it). Who needs persuasion and voluntary association when we have politicians and their pet bureaucrats to tell us what to do?
I remember a professor long ago who insisted that weight loss is a simple matter of burning more calories than one consumes. By this rationale, it hardly matters what form the calories take: so much flour equals so much canola oil equals so much steak. In the real world the sort of food one eats makes a great deal of difference in one’s health, one’s metabolism, and one’s appetites. But, as the simple-minded believe that merely cutting calories is the key to a good diet, so they believe that merely increasing “preventive medicine” is the key to good overall health.
Reality is more complicated. In the real world, not all calories are equal, and neither are all forms of “preventive medicine.” For many, subsidized “preventive medicine” will largely become another way to figure out which ailments the individual need not make any effort to prevent, as the treatment of those ailments also will be funded by others.
What the “preventive medicine” Nannies miss is the critical importance of human volition. Somebody who seeks out good medical advice — as I finance out of my Health Savings Account and in a truly free market would pay out of pocket — probably is genuinely seeking ways to stay healthy and avoid unnecessary long-term ailments and related monetary costs. Somebody who does not bother to stay healthy will not suddenly do so merely because “preventive medicine” is now “free.” Such a person may indeed spend a lot more money on doctors and treatments, but that probably won’t translate to better long-term health.
On the diet side, the reporter from the Times reveals his bias against “fatty, high-calorie foods.” Yet many have successfully lost unhealthy pounds and regained good health through eating precisely such foods as consistent with a “paleo” diet or (for instance) the findings of Gary Taubes. Most Americans would be far better off if they would abandon their grains, sugars, and vegetable fats in favor of “fatty, high-calorie” meat plus vegetables.
Now that the Health Nannies will be calling the shots, they will be lobbied relentlessly by those who want to manipulate the rules to their own advantage. Which “necessary” and “preventive” services must be provided for “free?” Which practices must be legally encouraged, and which legally discouraged? Wait and see. Those political battles will never end, so long as politicians remain in control of medicine.
The only thing we can be sure of is that politically-established “preventive medicine” will tend to produce the equivalent of “reducing the fat in pastries.”