The freedom to be fat isn't much of a freedom

So I’m not a health freak, and no, I don’t want to pass laws mandating the eating of broccoli. But I do want us to understand how wrong and simple-minded our definition of freedom is today. Any time the government appears to be suggesting some program aimed at getting people to do something that is obviously good for themselves—buying health insurance, not eating a bucket of popcorn big enough that two cats could screw in it—a certain number of idiots jump up and cry “Ha! Nanny state! Taking away my freedom!” This, according to that Times article, is what the Obama administration feared Fox and Glenn Beck would do if it issued too many new FDA rulings.

Well, in one sense, any person is “free” to eat as much Snickers-bar cheesecake as he likes. But that isn’t actually what freedom means. Actual freedom contains elements of responsibility and recognition of oneself as an actor within this larger thing we try to call society. Eating anything you want isn’t a definition of freedom. It’s just indulgence. And it says something depressing about our country that it is permitted to masquerade as the former…

But it’s not going to be a liberal presidential administration that changes our habits along these lines, alas. Government is too discredited in many people’s minds for that. One of these days, though, McDonald’s or somebody is going to say: “You know what? We’re done serving super-size portions of fries. We’re going back to 1970s portions.” And that may start a trend toward more health-consciousness that others will follow. When it’s corporations taking away “freedom,” people might not mind so much.