Quick Hit – National Review

Here’s someone outside FA that seems to ‘get it’ in many ways. I’ve been seeing many more libertarian-oriented blogs/magazines/papers utilizing some of the language of FA than usual, in commenting on the latest battle in the War on Fat People.

Taking Obesity Too Much to Heart

In the movie The Blind Side, the young Oher is known as “Big Mike,” to his embarrassment. He is big. Massive. One might say obese. Yet, there were no BMI screenings at the Christian school he attended. His teachers gathered to discuss his schoolwork, not to fret about his size. Oher’s size did ultimately matter, but on the football field alone, and there, it was a very good thing.

Put Big Mike in a Massachusetts public school, and this is what transpires. He is weighed, measured and BMIed; an accusatory letter goes home to his parents. Your child, it says, is failing; he is taking up too much space. “What?” his parents exclaim. “We had no idea!” Much healthy living ensues. And in three years, when the next BMI screening rolls around, Big Mike fails the fat test again. Because no matter how much money it spends, the government and its schools cannot make our children lose weight. It can, however, grow quite corpulent itself as it spills into new crannies of our lives.


8 comments on “Quick Hit – National Review

  1. silentbeep says:

    Right. One of the few people publicly, that I see “getting” what FA activists are saying outside of the fatosphere, are in fact, libertarians. Of course, I got to name Megan McArdle in this, and some people over at Cato (which of course, you pointed me to on your you own blog).

    I’m glad someone besides us is listening! lol

    • bigliberty says:

      Hi silentbeep,

      One point I’ve tried to make repeatedly on this blog is that libertarians or, rather, classically liberal liberty-lovers (what a mouthful!) are natural allies of my brand of FA.

      I had to include the descriptive ‘my brand’ because I don’t believe in winning rights for fat people by engaging in policy wars. Rather, I believe in winning the philosophical war against fat by brandishing science and facts, and by penalizing infringements on liberty with regard to fat the same way we penalize other infringements on liberty.

      The main argument I’ve seen *against* libertarians made within FA is that they blame fat people for being fat because they’re all about ‘personal responsibility.’ Even if this is true (not saying it is), the fact is that it doesn’t matter if libertarians think fat people caused their fat, even operating under that belief they *still* wouldn’t seek to punish, single out, segregate, etc fat people. The difference I’ve seen between that and the Progressive attitude—that would have fat people’s fat caused by outside factors—is that Progressives would still seek to eradicate fat people, just through programs that reduce the impact of those perceived outside factors (aka: Michelle Obama’s War on Fat Kids).

      Of course, there are libertarians and Progressives that ‘get it,’ and those who don’t. But libertarians don’t want to eradicate fat people or change you if you are fat, a fact that falls out of their philosophy quite easily. In that sense, you could say that libertarians are both friends of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ fatties, whether or not they perceive one’s behavior has anything to do with their body size.

      (caveat: there are always those who claim to hold to a philosophy who are hypocrites when it comes to their biases. So no individual libertarian is going to be perfect, and some are much less perfect than most. Same with Progressives vs. fauxgressives)

  2. loriersea says:

    The true story occurred in 2002, not 2009, when MA began it’s BMI screenings. AFAIK, no public schools were institution mandatory BMI screenings back then. So, I think the National Review is being a bit disingenuous here, and looking for a quick dig at Massachusetts and/or public education, when at the time the actual events took place, that would not have been the case.

    In a private school today, the exact same concerns about his weight might be raised that would be raised in an MA public school. A lot has changed in 7 years, regarding how we think about children/teens and weight, and NOT for the better.

  3. silentbeep says:


    Well, it doesn’t surprise me that National Review could be possibly “going after” Massachusetts. NR is a conservative publication with some libertarians, but still quite conservative (those two political philosophies are not synonymous of course). I wouldn’t expect them to be that cool with a pretty liberal state like MA. That being said, i think the basic premise of that article, holds up as being generally understanding of FA.

  4. bigliberty says:

    Point taken, loriersea, but the fact is this article was written in the context of Michelle Obama’s Anti-Obesity proposals, which would necessarily effect only public, not private, schools.

    I think the point is that if you have one wrong-headed dean of a private school instituting BMI testing and/or otherwise monitoring weight/food/exercise, you can go to another school, or as a parent you might have some bargaining power in changing the policy at the level of the school (since it doesn’t extend beyond that comparatively small sphere). But when something is put forth with the kind of financial muscle of a government program to be instituted generally in government schools, the single concerned parent who doesn’t like the new policy doesn’t have the power to change it, and may not have the ability to homeschool or send their child to a private school or move to another town.

    I don’t think you’re being fair to the writer of the article, at all, in assuming she was just trying to co-opt the childhood obesity angle for a “quick dig.” There really isn’t any evidence of that. I think it stands to much more rigorous reason that, in fact, the anti-obesity initiatives put forth by Michelle Obama do indeed highlight pitfalls of the government hand in the lives of our children, and those who will pay for it aren’t just the taxpayers, but the children themselves. That’s another reason why I appreciated the story included by the writer—the fat kids potentially impacted by these wrong-headed proposals aren’t just statistics, they’re real people.

  5. trabbsboy says:

    I come from the social democrat/Roosevelt school, and we don’t see eye to eye on economic issues at all, but I’m completely with you on this one. And I know that Michelle Obama’s campaign represents exactly the sort of smug superiority that conservatives mean when they talk about the liberal “elite”. It’s not money, it’s the whole “I know what’s best for you” attitude, and it drives me up a tree. You see it in environmentalism, in child rearing, in entertainment, in health, etc. Oy.

    This campaign has some good proposals, but fails to tackle the systemic issues (e.g. food subsidies for less nutritious crops), and will most likely result in a lot of unnecessary vilification and stress on parents and kids. I support anyone telling Michelle Obama to get off our backs, even the National Review.

  6. bigliberty says:

    Thanks, trabbsboy. I feel the same way when reading more left-leaning publications with respect to FA-related issues — I tend to find that it comes down more to an individual writer’s own bias with respect to fat, which crosses the aisle, as it were. There’ve been some bang-up good inroads with respect to FA being made on the ‘outside’ on both sides, and it’s really, really heartening to see that left, right, north (don’t know about south lol) are banding together against Nanny Michelle’s fat fears.

  7. erylin says:

    It just feels like more big brother, show me your papers bullshit…i keep thinking of gattica…..being forced to wear a heartrate monitor to prove you are exersizing enough for society’s sake. Clones running in perfect unison /shudder.

    As someone who grew up from the age 11 with exersize bulimia, then “real” bulimia bordering on anorexia, it breaks my heaert when myvery active and SMALL for her age 6 year old tells me “mommy im going to try to be less hungry” And she cant even articulate why she feels like she needs to eat less, she just thinks it’s better for her. AT SIX YEARS OLD.

    I am a libertarian myself, but for the sake of the goddam children, lay off them already. or the 10% of the population that has an eating disorder currently is only going to skyrocket. /headdesk

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