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Consumerism Essay Sample: Nanny State vs. Freedom of Consumer Choice

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There has been much debate about how best to deal with the expanding waistlines and other health maladies that Americans seem to be enduring more and more every day. There are two primary camps in this debate and both are very entrenched. The first camp are the pro-government sources who say that governmental agencies can and must intercede and force food companies and/or consumers to comply with certain regulations and rules so that it improves the general health of the broader populace over time.

The other camp decries these governmental tactics as “nanny state” government and say that while education and informational campaigns and tactics are fair game, forcing people into or away from certain decisions is a bridge too far. In short, there is a wide chasm between those that feel that people should be allowed to choose their own path and those that feel that people are too ill-informed or reckless to make the right choice. Government should in fact not be playing food cop because doing so is never as effective as instilling good values and practices thus enabling people to act better regarding their health habits on their own.

The Positions

General and specific examples of each position on the food health debate should be explained before going any further. Pro-government forces have, in the past or currently, have engaged in tactics like requiring that calorie counts be printed on menus, have place a ban on certain substances (or in excess of certain amounts) in foods such as trans fats or sodium/salt. A specific example of a government force engaging in this activity is the recent travails and efforts of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. During his tenure as the mayor, he has banned trans fats in restaurant food and he has more recently tried to ban soda and other sugary drinks above a certain size but that ban was recently struck down by an appellate court (Bassett)(Petrecca).

The opposite position typically focuses on liberty, even with the sometimes staggeringly bad statistics in the United States as it relates to the rates/mortality frequency of people with diabetes, heart disease, strokes and the like. These parties insist that people should have freedom of choice and that not everyone who consumes the “bad” foods or drinks is obese and should therefore not be punished or restricted. Others argue instead (or further) that these limitations do not do any good as people will just go elsewhere to get what they want and/or will just order two smaller drinks to account for what they would have gotten with the larger single drink. This is not true across the board as there are some signs that people are shamed from ordering large drinks due to the subject being front and center in the public sphere. Nonetheless, many hold it is not the place or function of the government to be worrying themselves with supposedly mundane subject when rapes and murders are going unsolved (Baron).

Analysis & Verdict

As noted in the thesis statement of this report, the author of this report holds that “nanny state” tactics are distractions and are, in the end, not effective or proper in most to all cases. The author of this report will offer several reasons for believing this and will justify these reasons with scholarly evidence and sourcing. The author of this report cares about this argument because government is, in many instances, acting improperly and too aggressively and they need to remember that they are elected by and given consent to lead by the people. They are not kings and queens and they do not have our permission to treat us like unintelligent and/or immature beings. When ill-advised and/or ill-informed statists like Michael Bloomberg say in no uncertain terms that he will “force you to understand” what he’s trying to accomplish, people like the author of this paper will quickly reply that it is not your right or your privilege to do what he is doing and even if he had such an edict, it is not proper for him to exercise such power as it’s not effective (Rothman).

The first reason the author of this paper would cite is an over-fixation on calorie counts. While it is true that more calories being consumed than burned by any given individual will lead to weight gain if it happens over time, it is also true that some people have rock star-metabolisms, they engage in a very high amount of physical activity and/or their resting calorie burn is extremely high due to high muscle mass. Indeed, Olympic stars like Michael Phelps had to consume a ridiculous amount of calories a day just to keep up their muscle mass and feed their workouts. While it is true that they probably were not drinking a lot of soda or eating a lot of potato chips, they were certainly ingesting a caloric intake that would stagger just about anyone else and would certainly not be considered healthy for anyone else. Much the same thing could be said for military members or other professions where a lot of arduous and/or strenuous physical activity is the norm…

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