The Coca Cola Company Versus the Nanny State

By James Wallace Harris, Monday, April 27, 2015

I saw Fed Up last night on Netflix streaming, a documentary about how the food industry is acting like the tobacco industry when it comes down to choosing between the bottom line and the health of Americans. The documentary makes the case the Coca Cola Company sells only products that will make us fat, and it’s only value to society is the wealth it generates. To be fair, the film targets other food industries, but soft drinks are portrayed as one of society’s main causes of obesity.

What struck me was how food corporations defend dangerous foods in the same way the tobacco industry defended cigarettes.  What’s more, conservatives attack any effort by politicians to keep children from becoming addicted to junk food by referring to such laws as promoting the Nanny State. If you Google Nanny State you’ll find some very interesting political sites and news stories.

Are conservatives right? Should we have the freedom to eat whatever we want? You’d think, by the same logic, they’d be against laws that controlled recreational drugs. And if the FDA keeps our food safe and our medicine effective, is that coddling of the Nanny State?

Should the government regulate products that make us unhealthy? Or should we all be responsible for ourselves? We’ve known that junk food is bad for decades. We know that drugs and alcohol ruins lives. We know what’s bad for us, but how many people do anything about it? Fed Up shows that children have little choice in choosing good food at school, and become addicted to bad food. That’s exactly why we don’t want drug dealers selling to kids. Should kids need an ID proving they are 21 to buy a Coke and Mars bar? Or if the Nanny State theory is correct, should we let kids buy joints and beer in their cafeteria because to not let them takes away their freedom?

The epidemic of obesity has occurred in my lifetime, and I’m obese myself. I’ve been a junk food addict my whole life. This documentary makes a great case that the current obesity crisis is not due to lack of exercise or the ability to diet, but we’re conditioned to eat bad food. I now struggle every day to eat good food. I have to ask myself: Would I have preferred that bad food had been made illegal in the 1950s and 1960s when I was growing up and we lived in a Nanny State, or do I prefer the freedom of choice I’ve had for the past fifty years?

I’m suffering from the results of a lifetime of poor eating, I do wish I had lived in a Nanny State. I have an addictive personality. In the film, they showed an experiment with rats addicted to cocaine were offered cocaine or sugar water. Nearly all of them switched to the sugar water.

Is it really a Nanny State to keep children from becoming addicted to foods, especially when they are offered no healthy alternatives? We know these food makes us fat. We know even as little kids that fat is socially and sexually unattractive. Yet, kids and adults will keep eating the food  that makes them fat, just like rats in a cage. And that experiment has a ring of truth to it. Most people prefer junk food to drugs. Junk food makes us happy. Junk food fights boredom and loneliness.

Do we really have the freedom to choose? Do we really have freedom from the Nanny State when most of us spend our free time drinking Coke and eating Doritos and M&Ms, while playing video games and listening to the television? Is that what makes us free? Or does it really reflect that we’re rats in a cage sucking on a bottle of sugar water?

Is it really a Nanny State to make school cafeterias serve healthy food? Or do we live in a Corporate State where kids are forced to eat what makes the most money? Is it freedom to be free of laws, or to make laws that help make us a better society? I don’t know. I don’t drink or smoke because my parents were alcoholics that smoked like crazy. Will the next generation be horrified at all us fat people and choose a different path? Can they make that decision if they aren’t protected from addictive food while growing up?

JWH

Genetics Versus Choice in Politics

Charles Gibson, from ABC News, interviewing Sarah Palin asked her about homosexuality, giving her the choice between genetic or learned.  Palin dodged the question, but I got to wondering about the implication of that question.  I assume Gibson was using it as a touchstone question for gauging just how conservative Palin might be.  Conservatives want to believe everything in life is a choice and that we’re morally judged by our behavior.  Liberals consider some behavior genetic and believe that changes how society should be run.

What if some behavior was absolutely proven to be genetic?  How would that affect politics?  Scientists often say they have found a genetic link to various diseases and conditions, but I don’t think all people accept science at this level as being true.  To many people it’s as vague as understanding the theory of evolution.  What would it take for science to convince the majority of people that genetics is a fact of life?  Most people accept the science of aerodynamics even though they don’t understand it because they buy airline tickets.

If the science of genetics evolved to the point with near 100% accuracy to predict future behavior from pre-natal testing would that be convincing?  If all pregnant women got a blood test and one of the factors given was a 75% chance of having a homosexual kid, and studies later showed that 75% of those kids did indeed turn out to be homosexual, would conservatives accept the science of genetics and its implications?

We know that conservatives can radically alter their positions – Sarah Palin is proof of that because accepting her as suitable for commander in chief asserts an acceptance of radical feminist ideals from forty years ago.  If homosexuality is proven to be part of nature, will conservatives accept that and love their gay and lesbian kids?  Or will their loathing of homosexuality change their position on abortion?

What if the science of genetics goes further.  What if genetic testing could predict that children will become atheists, criminals, terrorists or even Democrats or Republicans?  Will fundamentalists be willing to abort Democrats as fetuses, or a family of Yellow Dog Democrats want to abort a young Republican?

Am I an atheist because of genetics or choice?  Growing up I thought at age 12 I was making a decision on my own to abandon primitive superstition, but as I’ve grown older I’ve sometimes wondered if atheism isn’t just my nature.  I went to the same schools as my peers, and went to church with them too, so why do 90% of boomers think about God, and us other 10% don’t?  Maybe there’s a constant 10% of skeptics in every generation, no matter what the educational system is like.  Would pro-life fundamentalists accept abortion if they thought they could stomp out atheism in a few generations?

Or would conservatives feel less threatened if they knew that homosexuals and atheists were just weird breeds in the population like Calico cats.  I’m not the kind of atheist that wants to convert religious people.  I believe that genetics makes some people religious and it does no good to try and make them scientific.  To me, atheists who try to convert for their cause are like religious people who try to shanghai people into their belief systems.  I’d like to believe if people read and study enough on a subject they will come to their own conclusions, but I don’t know if that’s a scientific truth.

What I would like is a political system that allows everyone to pursue their on beliefs as long as they don’t interfere or harm other people and their beliefs.  And I think that was what the American founders intended for our American way of life.  The problem we face today is some people think their personal beliefs, maybe genetic in origin, should be how 100% of people should believe and those beliefs should be codified into law.  Some of the extremes of this thinking would like to get rid of homosexuals, atheists, liberals and environmentalists.

To these thinkers, that’s the path to a successful government and a happy population.  But think about this.  If GM and Ford, and the auto unions had supported conservation and environmental recommendations from back in the 70s and 80s instead of seeking to politically change laws to meet their own self interests they wouldn’t be heading down that steep economic decline towards bankruptcy.

I know this illustration might sound like it’s coming out of left field, but hear me out.  What I’m saying is government laws that were meant to protect all people would have been much more beneficial to the special interests of the auto industry if they had not interfered.  The American auto industry inflicted it’s own near mortal wounds by getting laws customized for their way of thinking.  If they had had to compete with world auto makers under the laws that were meant to help everyone, they would still be prosperous today.

Whether our behavior is learned or programmed by genes, it should not matter to our laws.  We need laws designed for the common good that ignore special interests.  We need to accept diversity and account for it in our legal system.  Gays getting married should not affect fundamentalists who believe that marriage is between a man and a woman, if we have a system that allow for both.  To me the solution is simple.  Have two kinds of marriages, the first, a basic legal marriage that meets state and federal laws, good for all people, and a second marriage within churches that meet the laws of their gods, for those people that have extra special interests.

My mother-in-law never believe my wife and I were properly married because we weren’t married within the Catholic Church, but the laws of the nation believe we are married.  If I believed like my mother-in-law, I would have converted and gotten married in the Catholic Church.  The law of the land would have no affect on that.

By the special interest beliefs of Catholics, anyone not married in the Catholic Church is not married.  Should that be the law of the land?  See my point.  This world will never know which religion is right so we have to create laws that work for all religions.  We need generalized rules for laws, and let people pick their own specialized beliefs that they keep to themselves.

I don’t know if our behaviors are programmed or created by our free will, but should that affect the political system?  We need a system that works either way, or any combination of the two.  As long as I can be an atheist I don’t care if other people are Christian, Jew, Muslin, Pagan or Hindu.  Governor Palin should have said to Charlie Gibson, “It doesn’t matter if homosexuality is learned or genetic, the American way should protect them to the fullest extent of the law.”  Our only enemies that we should abort are those that threaten us physically or interfere with our ability to pursue happiness through American ideals.  Those are the true terrorists, whether from outside of the country that want to attack our way of life, or criminals that want destroy our system from within.

Jim