The article what you eat is your business written by Radley Balko focuses on the government’s involvement in the diet of the citizenry, and also focuses on the impact that obesity has on our public healthcare system. Balko is adamantly against obesity being a public health issue and the government proposed restrictions on unhealthy food; he believes that “the best way to alleviate the obesity public health crisis is to remove obesity from the realm of public health.” (Balko pg468). He asserts that after obesity and its subsequent medical expenses are no longer covered by public healthcare people will make better health decisions, but as long as their medical bills are being paid by someone else they don’t have any reason to lose weight. He mentions the absence of responsibility that occurs when someone else is paying for your medicine and how socialism is on the rise in government healthcare policies. Balko is very anti socialism and leans toward people suffering the consequences for their own actions instead of the tax payers having to pay for all of their medicine. He also mentions an “army” of nutritionist activists who are supporting this movement and want to remove personal responsibility from being obese. Towards the end he warns of a society that is too dependent on each other being more likely to accept government restrictions.

I agree with most of what Balko says, we share some of the same ideals regarding personal responsibility for your lifestyle but he makes a lot of assumptions about people and their lifestyles that I can’t agree with. I agree with his assertion that you shouldn’t be able to get obese through your own unhealthy choices and then become a burden on the taxpayers however it is important to note that some obese people are born that way because of genetics. I think that people should bear the consequences of their actions and those consequences should be what determines the next course of action they take in this case unhealthy or healthy eating habits. I am of two minds about Balko’s claim that “We’ll all make better choices about diet, exercise, and personal health when someone else isn’t paying for the consequences of those choices”  (Balko pg. 469). On the one hand, I agree that there would be more incentive to eat healthier if you were being financially punished by healthcare companies. On the other hand, I am not sure if that will be motivation enough for people to change such a large part of their lifestyles. One of his largest points was the idea that obesity should be removed from public health and I have some reservations about that statement. If he means “self-inflicted” obesity that someone gained through their own choices then I wholeheartedly agree that it shouldn’t be covered by public healthcare, but if he wants to include people who are genetically predisposed to obesity then I would have to disagree with him there. It is important to note that Balko seems to be a very anti-government writer who displays a lot of libertarian ideas in his other articles. He is focusing a lot on the expansion of government powers and socialism in this article and not so much on obesity really. I have to agree that someone’s weight is a private thing but when it’s being paid for by government provided healthcare it has become a government issue and it is in their interest to take control of the situation.


The fact of the matter is that the American healthcare system is not perfect. The government is involved to protect its citizens from the big healthcare companies and in my opinion it is the only way for us to not get exploited. If the government were to be removed from the equation entirely as Mr.Balko seems to desire then I can only see bad things happening for people who have serious diseases or anyone who is chronically ill. Removing obesity from public health would no doubt be a powerful motivator for people to get healthy, because you will be financially punished if you don’t, but it seems like such an inhumane thing to do. The people who eat the most fast/junk food are not wealthy people he seems to assume they are. Growing up with divorced parents my siblings and I would often have fast food for dinner , knowing well enough how unhealthy a choice it was , because we were poor and our parents were usually too busy or too tired from work to cook. Now that I am an adult and my family isn’t as poor as we used to be I have almost entirely eliminated fast food from my diet. However others who have consumed a diet like this from a young age can create an imprint on the individual and make them more likely to make a habit of it that could continue into adulthood.  An Unhealthy diet isn’t always a choice, as Balko seems to believe it is, sometimes it is the only choice that can be afforded either because of time restrictions or financial ones. He wants to see these people cast out to fend for themselves against the uncaring insurance companies who will eat them alive, according to The National Bureau of Economic Research “The average cost to traditional health insurers for the first 90 days following a heart attack is $38,501.”. Heart disease is a common ailment of obese people and Balko would see them pay these bills themselves as motivation to get healthy. I agree with Balko that people should feel responsible for their own choices and try to improve themselves but this is not the way to go about it, this path will only lead to the already poor losing everything they have because of their ailment.

all images taken from google images

Balko, Radley. “What You Eat Is Your Business” They say I say with readings, 2016 pg.466-46


Nesvisky, Matt   The National Bureau of Economic Research