In Radley Balko’s article, What You Eat Is Your Business, he aims to promote the principals of “limited government, individual liberty, free markets, and peace” (Balko 466). What he is trying to say is that the government is too involved in this nations personal lives. Throughout his article he discusses many points such as the current problem obesity is and Balko’s solution to the problem. His article has both agreeable and disagreeable points. Balko is right that people should be personally responsible for their health and that America’s health care system is too socialist, however I do not support Balko’s position on punishing people for their unsatisfactory health.
Balko starts out his article explaining how the government currently is handling the obesity epidemic in our nation. The government is fighting obesity by spending millions of dollars of the public’s budget to intervene in people’s personal lives. Across the country, school campuses have started to remove snacks and soda from school properties and vending machines as regulated by the government. The government is also calling for a “fat tax” on high calorie foods which may lead to the government being in control of what food is deemed healthy enough to be sold to the public (Balko 467). Balko does not like the idea of the government being able to say what the stores can sell and what the consumers may purchase to indulge in.
Balko claims that this is the wrong way to fight obesity and the correct way is to give Americans a sense of “responsibility and ownership” in our health and well-being (Balko 467). He believes that by people being personally responsible for their health, it will help put an end to the obesity problem of the public. Balko goes on to criticize our country’s health care system by claiming that it just keeps moving closer and closer to socialism. He worries that by doing so, issues like obesity are becoming matters of public health rather than personal responsibility. By the government being so in control of health care, it doesn’t allow any financial incentive for “maintaining a healthy lifestyle” (Balko 467). Balko means there is no incentive for him to live a healthy life if the government or other people are paying for his health care bills that are caused by an unhealthy lifestyle.
Balko also states that by allowing even more federal restrictions on what is available to the public consumer, we are just holding food companies accountable for the “bad habits of unhealthy consumers” (Balko 468). It is not the food companies fault people are making poor health decisions. According to Balko, the best way to fight obesity is to remove it from the realm of public health and stop forcing the public to “pay the consequences” of other people’s choices (Balko 468). Balko insists that moving away from socialism would allow health insurance companies to reward people who live healthy life styles and penalize poor ones. He also brings up the idea that people should be able to roll money that was reserve for health care into personal retirement accounts and by doing so people will be more accountable. Balko believes that by fighting obesity his way we will all make better choices about diet, exercise, and personal health.
I agree that people should be held personally responsible for what they put in their bodies, a point that needs emphasizing since so many people still believe that it is okay for the government to meddle in people’s private lives and implement federal restrictions on food. It is people’s lazy and careless attitudes about what they eat that makes the government feel a need to step in and take action. If people are held accountable for knowing what they are consuming and making the right choices, there isn’t the need for the government to intervene and tell people what they can and cannot eat. Like Balko, I agree that the government saying what people can and cannot eat in infringing on our rights and taking away the choice from the people who do actually make thoughtful and careful decisions. I believe that what people eat truly is their personal business and the government should stay out of it.
Like Balko, I agree that America’s health care system has been moving too closely to socialism. Along with my beliefs of personal responsibility and accountability, I believe that allowing health care companies to have the freedom to do what they please will help put an end to obesity. Balko is right that health care companies should reward people who live a healthy life and penalize people who do not. If it is people’s personal choice what they choose to eat, then the health care companies should be able to enforce this rule. After all, these companies are already able to charge tobacco users a higher fee than their non-tobacco users, which is also based off of people’s decisions that negatively affect their health. I believe that if people are held accountable, there will be an incentive for them to live a healthier life and keep the government and public out of it.
Now as I agree with all of what Balko has to say so far, I do think about the other side and how I could potentially disagree with him. It is easy to sit back and agree with him, myself being an exceptionally healthy person. However, I think that would be hard to define what is considered “healthy” and that definition could easily vary from person to person. While it is a violation of rights for the government to step in and say what we can and cannot consume, it is also a violation of our rights for the government to have a say in how people choose to live their lives, whether that be a healthy lifestyle or not. As far as punishing people for living an unhealthy life style, people are already punishing themselves enough for living that way by putting their health at such high risk. If people are living an unhealthy life, they are already punished by having a higher risk of heart problems, cholesterol problems, risk of cancer, diabetes, etc. If people want to live their lives this way, then that is their problem and their choice. If they aren’t worried about all of the negative things they are doing to their bodies, I seriously doubt a higher health care premium is going to stop them from living that way if they truly want to.
Overall, I agree with Balko’s essay and how people should be personally responsible for their actions. I also believe that our health care system is flawed and something needs to change. However, I see the flaws in Balko’s argument when it comes to the logistics of punishing people for poor health monetarily. All in all, Balko’s article is something I generally agree with and in the end, what you eat is truly your business.
Graff, Gerald, Cathy Birkenstein, and Russel K. Durst. “What You Eat Is Your Business by Radley Balko.” “They Say/I Say”: The Moves That Matter In Academic Writing, With Readings. 3rd ed. New York: W.W. Norton, 2015. 466-69. Print.