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The Limits of Libertarianism

I recently watched an excellent movie called “Fed Up” with my family and friends.  The movie is a must-see for all families as it explains very clearly, in a manner accessible even for young children, why obesity is so prevalent today, and it dispels numerous falsehoods that lead so many down the wrong path.  In short, sugar is the main culprit.  It is apparently 10 times more addictive than cocaine.  The worst offenders are sugary drinks, which enter our bodies with nothing to slow down the liver’s insulin response, thus translating into immediate creation of fat in our bodies.  Food companies that want to continue to sell their products with impunity have paid for studies that blame the obesity epidemic on the sedentary nature of kids today and shift the blame away from their sugary products.  I won’t dwell more on the science, but instead strongly suggest that each person view this film and if you have kids watch it with them.

After the movie we debated the correct societal and governmental response to the facts.  A very libertarian leaning friend felt that it was not government’s responsibility to intervene, fearing that there is a very slippery slope before government is called upon to control all aspects of life and then our freedom to choose for ourselves is sacrificed.  I am personally very sympathetic to this line of thinking and am a huge believer in personal responsibility, however, I believe that freedom is lost once society agrees that there needs to be any social safety net.  At that point, people lose the freedom to keep the rewards of their efforts, and must subsidize the lives and bad choices of others.  As I explained to my friend, if government simply allows the purveyors of sugar to prey upon human beings’ proclivity towards addiction then the consequences will inevitably be borne by all of us in the form of higher taxes to pay for the increased medical care costs that result.  

A true libertarian society is one that in reality no one really wants – a complete free for all.  There is and will continue to be a social safety net to protect our weakest and most vulnerable and lift them up into some reasonable quality of life.  This is the reality and it will never be any other way.  Given this, there must be laws in place to limit the societal costs associated with human weakness. Addictive behaviors that businesses can easily prey upon such as illegal narcotics, sugar, and gambling must be heavily regulated lest their costs to society continue to skyrocket.

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