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What to Eat and How to Live: Government as Your Nanny?

It is all about the role of government is setting limits on what you eat and how you live your own life vs government being simply a teacher, an instructor of the facts and allow its public to live their own personal lives as they see fit.  The recent limit-setting regulations of food, drink and other health issues by Michael Bloomberg as the previous mayor of New York city  has provoked controversy both for and against these actions.  A series of articles in Bioethics Forum, website of  The Hastings Center, bioethics “think tank”,  presents views regarding this controversy.   Lawrence O. Goslin (University Professor and Founding O’Neill Chair in Global Health Law at Georgetown University Law Center, and a Hastings Center Fellow) writes “Bloomberg’s Health Legacy: Urban Innovator or Meddling Nanny”, originally published in the Hastings Center Report September-October 2013,  with the following Abstract.

Michael Bloomberg assumed office as the 108th mayor of New York City on January 1, 2002. As he leaves the mayoralty—having won re—election twice-his public health legacy is bitterly contested. The public health community views him as an urban innovator—a rare political and business leader willing to fight for a built environment conducive to healthier, safer lifestyles. To his detractors, Bloomberg epitomizes a meddling nanny—an elitist dictating to largely poor and working—class people about how they ought to lead their lives. His policies have sparked intense public, corporate, and political ire—critical of sweeping mayoral power to socially engineer the city and its inhabitants.
Here, I seek to show how Bloomberg has fundamentally changed public health policy and discourse. He has used the engine of government to make New York City a laboratory for innovation-raising the visibility of public health, testing policy effectiveness, and probing the boundaries of state power. Even though the courts have blocked some of his boldest initiatives, he has offered a paradigm for the “new public health”—reaching beyond infectious diseases to upstream risk factors in everyday life and the human habitat. I also critically probe various arguments designed to derail his policies, along with the overarching charge of unjustified paternalism.

Apparently, after much negative feedback Goslin received about the article supporting Bloomberg, he wrote his response to the Bioethics Forum titled “Bloomberg’s Health Legacy: What Inflames Consumer Passions in the Food Wars? Goslin argues for some governmental control with the following:

Making the healthy choice is exceedingly hard, with so many forces pointing in the direction of cheap, accessible, aggressively marketed food, alcohol, and tobacco. Consumers, far from having unconstrained choices under the status quo, are actually heavily influenced in their purchasing and lifestyle decisions.

In a semi-rebuttal article written to the Bioethics Forum, Ann Barnhill, an assistant professor in the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, states:

While I agree with this analysis, I think it is incomplete. The charge that Bloomberg is a meddling nanny reflects not just distrust with government influence on our lives; it also expresses indignation at Bloomberg’s putative attitude towards us: like little children being minded by a nanny, we can’t be trusted to make decisions for ourselves. What troubles some citizens about Bloomberg’s policies is not just the material impact of these policies on their choices and pocketbooks but also the symbolic value of these policies.
Go and read the complete short articles and then return and tell us what you think of government setting regulations regarding what we eat and what we drink and even more personal choices.   ..Maurice.

Graphic: Nanny State. Expression from and graphic created by me using ArtRage and Picasa 3.

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