.. and then he goes on and on about how “Big Goverment” should not tell our children what to eat, because it infringes on their freedom to chose.

I have seldom read a more misguided opinion piece. The article is labeled “a humorous look at area life”. The humor evaded me. In fact, Mr. McInnis seemed to be very serious about our childrens’ right to chose. To support his point that the freedom of choice must be valued above everything else, McInnis brings to his aide other examples such as mandatory car insurance (he is against it), mandatory health insurance (he is against it), and a few other conservative favorites. Have we not heard enough complaints from people fearing the loss of their freedom to chose – not to buy health insurance, that is?

It troubles me that so many conservative commentators fail to see the real dimensions of the challenges that we face as a society. Mr McInnis, freedom of choice (or the lack thereof) is not the issue here. There are so many ways in which our society restricts your freedom of choice already – for a greater good. Aren’t you glad that people are not able to chose to run around with an assault rifle and randomly fire at bystanders? I don’t own a $200,000 car, but I know people who do and occasionally get rear-ended – hopefully by a driver who carries mandatory liability insurance.

See the pattern here? The purpose of these rules is not to restrict the choices of the individual but to protect the rest of us from individuals who make the wrong choices.

The freedom to not buy health insurance is about as justifyable as the freedom not to buy car insurance – not at all. Both are designed to protect the people around us. We don’t let our uninsured neighbor die if he comes down with cancer or some other incurable condition, of which there seems to be an ever-growning variety. As a society, we haven’t fallen quite that low. But my point of argument is not a soft ethical one, it is a hard economical one. There is a safety net for people who are not insured, but it is fragile and has big loopholes, and it is more expensive than having insurance in the first place. We simply cannot afford people who are not insured.

Should homeowner insurance be mandatory? If a house burns down, who else is affected other than the homeowner? Since it is only his problem if he failed to protect himself, shouldn’t he have the freedom to chose not to buy fire insurance? It can be argued that a fire ruin in a neighborhood is not a desirable thing to have, and if the homeowner did not have insurance coverage and the funds to rebuild after a fire, that’s most likely what will remain. But the picture changes again if this homeowner carried a mortgage. Lenders require a homeowner’s policy not because they want to restrict the individuals right to chose, but they want to protect their shareholders (and other policy holders) from the risk, and the higher cost that the risk would come with. I don’t want my mortage interest to go up because my lender has uninsured properties in his portfolio, do you?

Unfortunately, nowhere else does this society have a greater need to protect itself than when it comes to school lunches. With obesity soon taking over smoking as the #1 cause of death in this country, with health care spending rising fast and already being 50% higher than in other, more developed countries, there is no time to lose. Research is lagging quite a bit in the area of how food, food production, and health are linked, but this cannot be an excuse for inaction. We don’t need to be rocket scientists to make the more obvious connections.


So, again, Mr McInnis, I’d take the limitation on my children’s choice to eat Twinkies over a healthier society any day. You say that “kids will find a way to eat junk food, no matter what”? Nonsense. My 7-year old will not find a way to eat junk food, unless I feed it to her.  When 7-year olds are conditioned to eat junk, they will continue to do so into their teenager years and with high probabilty for the rest of their lives. I want my children to be conditioned to eat a healthy diet.

There is a cost to feeding our children junk food that I am not willing to pay. The health care system in this country cannot sustain itself indefinitely. We cannot all work in healthcare and treat each other and make a living from that. Someone actually has to do real work, produce something, create value. Mr. McInnis, we need our children to be healthy and ready for this challenge in a few years. Fatalism is definitely not the right attitude in the face of these challenges.

Read the full McInnis piece