Libertarians don’t care if you’re fat. But they do care about your civil liberties.
So the topic of libertarianism and fat came up at BFB (a little off-topic though, sorry Paul!). Specifically, richie79, AnnieMcPhee, and DebraSY discussed how the libertarian philosophy intersects with fat liberation.
Now, we’ve talked about the common misconceptions non-libertarians have of libertarian beliefs (as did AnnieMcPhee), and we’ve also explained how libertarians can (and have) misinterpreted their own tenets to support fat discrimination (no political movement is devoid of its ignoramuses, I’m afraid).
To summarize for those who are new to this blog and the idea of libertarianism, libertarians believe, first and foremost, that granting individuals as much autonomy as possible will create the best possible society. While at some level most of us will admit there have been many examples of fascism and statism, the antitheses of libertarianism, going wrong and contributing to the great suffering of a society, we’re still brought up to believe that, at bottom, the greatest moral virtue is altruism for altruism’s sake. In other words, we’re brought up to believe that self-sacrifice — giving with the express desire not to get anything, not even happiness of moral satisfaction, in return — is the true moral spirit.
Tit-for-tat, or an eye for an eye, is considered to be a cold game of strategy between wheeler-dealers, a distasteful reality of the business world. However, it has been shown that giving with the express desire of receiving an equal return, or in other words cooperating with another in order to achieve some kind of personal reward not shared or owned by others, is the most stable societal strategy.
So just giving, and giving, and giving, will do nothing except keep you poor and keep your exploiters rich, until they are exploited by others, and society eventually collapses when there’s no one left to exploit. This is seen evidenced by the history of the income tax, which was originally initiated at a small percentage only for the very rich. Exploitation has a racheting effect — it begins at the expense of the few to the benefit of the many, and ends up preying on those who initially benefited, when everyone else has been sucked dry (or taxed at just a low enough percentage to still not unseat the status quo).
Libertarians believe firmly in the success of the tit-for-tat strategy: they believe that individuals should not be exploited, and if there are taxes, services for all should be rendered (yes, even the rich) – like defense, roads, a fair and balanced justice system, police, fire, jails, and the maintenance of basic government.
What does this have to do with fat people? Very much, in fact. One of the main tenets of libertarianism is “Hands off!” That is, if an individual is doing something that doesn’t infringe on the liberty of anybody else, that individual is free to keep doing it, regardless of whether it is “moral,” “successful,” or “healthy.”
And this brings us to the topic of universal healthcare.
Libertarians are not in favor of universal healthcare for the following (and possibly additional) reasons:
1. It costs more per person than private healthcare.
2. It delivers a lower quality of care than private healthcare.
3. It infringes upon the patient’s liberty and body autonomy in all cases.
4. It infringes upon the doctor’s liberty and financial autonomy in all cases.
(As a note: What the United States currently has is not private healthcare, it is mixed — heavy regulation, strictures, oversight, and bureaucracy.)
As such, it would follow that an individual being fat, thin, short, tall, male, female, and so forth, whether that be healthy, unhealthy, risky, or whatever — is completely a matter between the individual and his or her healthcare provider and doctor.
Body autonomy, some would suggest, is the most important part of the libertarian philosophy. As long as you are not infringing upon the liberty of others, you are free to make every and all choices for your body. I don’t care what you put in your mouth, how you feel about it, how tight or loose your pants fit, and so forth. It is not my business.
Ah, but there is a caveat, of course. Many modern societies have accepted the idea of body autonomy to some extent, but it seems as if the long arm of the government have found its gateway into your private lives in the form of concern for children.
Children are powerful political tools. Since that statement sounded rather strange, I’ll explain: many moral crusades and moral panics gain foothold with an appeal to others that, in their current state, children are somehow being neglected/abused by their parents and hence need the neighborhood/state/feds to step in. It turns the home from a sanctuary to a social welfare center, where interested parties can gain access at whim.
Libertarians love children; they are our future. But libertarians also know that government needs heavy checks and balances. The natural function of government (no pun) and its institutions is self-perpetuation. That is why it is so difficult to abolish an institution once it has been established by law and budgeted from the tax pool. It follows that governments, without proper checks and balances, often run amok, with the first thing lost by its citizens their individual autonomy and family rights.
There’s also the question of efficiency. Can governments parent your children, on average, better than you can? It would seem, on its face, inefficient: children go from having one or more adults concerned with their and possibly one or two other children’s welfare their whole life long, to one adult concerned with their paycheck first and then the welfare of twenty to thirty other children for at most one year at a time. And while there are exceptionally good and exceptionally bad parents, there are also exceptionally good and exceptionally bad teachers. In the end, mass parenting is less efficient and results in a lower quality of life for the average child.
That’s not to say that true neglect and abuse should be allowed. Children are citizens too, and have certain rights. However, the care of children is best left up to parents at large, with neglect and abuse dealt with by the courts on a case-by-case basis.
A widely successful tool of political manipulation is to claim that children are in harm’s way, and hence it is necessary for the state to step in. Those making this claim would go to any lengths to persuade you of its veracity, for if they are successful, they will wield immense power over the lives of not only the children, but their parents.
It is not a surprise that the concern over “obese” children has led to pressed charges, requirements, and regulation of the parents. What do you think would be in your, as a representative of institutionalized government, best interests once you have successfully invaded a fat person’s home? Why, set it up so that you can invade as many homes as you desire. Create an “obesity epidemic” by lowering the BMI cutoffs for obesity, support faulty studies creating the notion that “obesity kills” so the voters won’t be horrified when you rob them of their civil liberties, and create a funding pool in the form of interested parties who will profit from the fear you’re creating so that the programs which steal the civil liberties of your citizens become institutionalized, and hence almost impossible to abolish.
It’s a fast ride on that gravy train.
What is the number one concern of libertarians? Civil liberties, of course. Hence, who is on the front lines, fighting against the slippery slope described above? Libertarians. Libertarians recognize your fundamental right to your body, your right within reasonable limits to parent your child as you see fit (“reasonable” being whatever doesn’t infringe upon the civil liberties of your child), and to make damned sure that before any new law or regulation is enacted, the rationale behind the law/regulation is airtight (as we know the ant-obesity scientific rationale is most certainly not).
Of course, none of this is to say that I agree with the idea that the vast majority of fat people are fat because they’re stuffing their face all the time and not exercising (we all know I do not!), but that it doesn’t matter if that is indeed the case. It does not matter if one man stuffs his face to 500-lb newsworthy headless infamy, or if another man believes his thinness to be due to his constant heroic feats of self-control.
None of that matters, because someone being fat, thin, tall, short, male, female, white, black, Jew, Muslim, healthy, unhealthy, is no one’s damned business but his/her own. It makes NO DIFFERENCE to their legal protected status as citizens, it makes NO DIFFERENCE to their ability to add to their country productively, it makes NO DIFFERENCE to their ability to raise future generations of citizens. And yes, I know that the “unhealthy” label is extremely loaded these days. Being “unhealthy,” especially perceived as actively so, is often perceived as somehow actively infringing upon the rights of your fellow citizen. I hope, having read the argument above, you’ll realize why that’s moral panicked nonsense.