We almost missed this important opinion piece, coming from Down Under. Anaesthetist Michael Keene, adapting his American Journal of Bioethics article for The Australian, eviscerates the philosophy behind Kelly “Big Brother” Brownell and the other food cops:
In a recent article in The New England Journal of Medicine, a group of academics attempted to justify a public health-inspired tax on soft drinks. Within medical academe the ideological pendulum seems to be returning towards that of paternalism (the informed doctor taking responsibility for the uninformed citizen). Thus the authors argued that people couldn’t make a free choice to purchase a soft drink because most of the population doesn’t have the capacity to understand what it is doing. This necessitates the extraordinary premise that people have no realisation that consuming junk food in excess might be bad for their health …
But it is a bedrock legal and societal principle that we consider differently those who cause harm to others and those who make choices that harm themselves. Crucially, there is a real possibility that taking action against harmful consumption under a public health imperative may end up causing more overall harm.
The public health view tends to promulgate a culture of abrogation of personal responsibility. "I drove when I was drunk because of my alcohol disease; society failed me." Thus, even if increased regulation does not cause a major impediment to people’s freedom, failure to address the relevant complex societal, philosophical and ideological questions may prohibit a more effective resolution to the problem.
Read the whole piece here.