June 9, 2017

Economic Freedom is Sweet

Nina Robins ‘19

Obesity is a massive epidemic in the United States. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, the overweight population of America has risen 30 percent since 1962. Today, at least 240 million Americans, almost three out of every four adults, are classified as overweight.
The United States has implemented several educational and fitness programs in order to combat obesity. However, one measure the government have rightfully refrained from imposing is a ban on advertising unhealthy, sugary snacks.
“At first glance, I think that there could be a benefit to a ban,” sophomore Maya Wasserman said.
By banning advertisements for junk food, public knowledge of the products would decrease. As a result, the companies producing these foods would make less profit and eventually be forced to cease manufacturing.
In addition, one could consider that it is the government’s purpose to “promote the general welfare” of its citizens, and that deterring obesity is among its responsibilities. A government that does not actively fight against obesity in every possible medium could be considered negligent.
“The government currently regulates advertising of cigarettes to minors and forces
cigarette companies to put pictures of people with diseases on cigarette packages,” sophomore Theo Deitz-Green said. “Clearly, people have determined that the government has to step in to protect the general public from things that pose a risk to health.”
However, this ideal scenario crumbles when facing the reality of the American society - we are capitalists and we do what we want.
Our country developed on a foundation of reward for innovation in the form of wealth and success within a flexible economic hierarchy. Historical events such as the Great Depression have placed some restrictions on our otherwise free markets, but there is no question that we still value financial autonomy.
Placing a ban on advertisements of unhealthy snacks would compromise this value.
Restrictions were placed on monopolies in order to encourage market competition. Eliminating several companies from the advertising industry creates an unfair financial disadvantage. Eventually, millions of workers who are employed in these snack producing companies would be fired and entire companies would shut down.
This is not the solution that America needs. We desire more jobs, not fewer and banning certain advertisements would cause a financial regression.
Outlawing advertisements of food, which do not physically threaten or harm anyone, would also be a violation of free speech.
“I think that while there is a trend of obesity going on right now, the government still shouldn’t be able to censor things about our media,” Wasserman said.
Within an free market atmosphere, companies are generally allowed to publicize however they like. Likewise, consumers must also have a say in what they purchase and the government should not be deciding for them.
“People have the right to make their own decisions, especially when it comes to what they eat,” sophomore Jacob Bier said.
Citizens have the ability and independence to decide whether or not they are to limit unhealthy products in their lives and can be guided simply by reading nutrition labels.
“People are entitled to know what they are consuming and make choices for themselves,” sophomore Ian Rosen said. “Some people structure effective diets based off of the facts.”
Although obesity is a serious issue, the government, as a federal body, must prioritize financial gain and personal freedoms over the general health of the populace.
“All individuals have the ability to choose what to consume,” sophomore Fanya Hoffman said. “They should not be hindered by a lack of advertisements, no matter how helpful the government is trying to be.”

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