Regulation to Left of Me; Regulation to Right of Me

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volley’d & thunder’d;
Storm’d at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
Rode the six hundred.
– Tennyson, The Charge of the Light Brigade

Picture those cannon as regulation and that’s probably in a nutshell how many of us feel about life in the early 21st century. But be warned: I’m pulling no punches; I’m telling it like it is as long as there is no regulation to stop me. If you don’t like this approach, stop reading now and flip over to Ready?

Ultra-conservatives think sperm is the enemy.  Ultra-liberals think it is high fructose corn syrup or saturated fat. Ultra-conservatives want to protect us from sperm and ultra-liberals want to protect us from high fructose corn syrup and saturated fact. Interestingly, they have the same recipe: abstinence.

This is a problem for me. I’m talking about extreme positions. Take Vegans and their anti-meat-eater rants.  I’ve got no problem with vegetables or people eating vegetables. I don’t even have a problem with people not eating meat. I do have a problem with people telling me what I can and can’t do with my sperm, and I have a problem with people telling me what I can and can’t eat.

Extremes are always a bit fascist, don’t you think? There is always a healthy dose of “don’t do this” involved. Choice is always taken from you. And this is a fault, I argue, both of the extreme left and of the extreme right. They both want to tell us what we can’t do. And what we can.

And as it turns out, there isn’t much.

You hear a lot of talk about the evils of big government and federal regulations but damned if both groups don’t like a healthy dollop of regulation as well. Ultra-conservatives want the government to regulate our sex lives and ultra-liberals want the government to regulate what we can eat. As it happens, I’m a believer in freedom of choice.

I am not an opponent of regulation. Regulation is necessary and our Founding Fathers recognized it as such. The government can and does protect us in many ways. We have the EPA to protect the environment, the FDA  to protect our food supplies and medications, the USDA also address matters of food safety, but also natural resources. And there are others. Without government regulation of any kind, we’d be in a lot of trouble. Look at Wall Street; look at the Gulf Oil Spill.

The question always becomes “how much is too much?”  Different folks have different standards, and as I’ve said, conservatives, while claiming to be anti-government intrusiveness actually love regulation as long as it’s regulation of morality-based or social issues. Liberals have a different focus.

California seems to be the trend-setter for liberals, whether its fuel efficiency or animal rights or marriage equality. Some of what come out of California, like the latter, is good. I give it my full support. But sometimes I just have to shake my head in wonder.

Now where kids are concerned, I’m a big believer in parental responsibility. I don’t want government or anyone else bringing up my kids. That’s my job as a parent. So if I don’t want them to watch something on TV I won’t let them. If I don’t think it’s a movie they should see, I won’t take them to see it. And if I don’t think it’s something they should eat, I won’t let them eat it.

It’s pretty easy really, and I didn’t need any government interference to get it done.

But conservatives here in town won’t let me buy alcohol on Sunday and liberals in San Francisco won’t let McDonalds put toys in kids’ Happy Meals.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors said Tuesday that Happy Meals just aren’t nutritious enough. They hope other cities will follow their lead. McDonalds says this is government intervention. The Board of Supervisors say McDonalds “entices” children to eat this unhealthy food. They are correct in saying McDonalds is not the best choice out there where health is concerned but it is, after all, a choice. And where are the parents in all this? Do they get a law punishing them next if they let their kids eat McDonalds, or if they buy them a TV dinner and a toy at the grocery store next week?

I mean, most of these kids aren’t buying their own meals, are they? Aren’t usually the parents doing the buying? I am not going to feed my son McDonalds every night but if I want to treat him to a Happy Meal with a toy, that’s between me and McDonalds isn’t it? Just like if I want to let my kid see a PG13, or even an R rated movie, that’s between me and the theater.

For me, this is an extreme sort of reaction. If people simply decline to treat their kids to McDonalds (and themselves), then McDonalds will be forced by market pressures to improve the nutritional quality of their menu. Isn’t that more reasonable? After all, restaurants have to post nutrition guides. It’s not a secret. You can always find out what you’re ingesting if you’re interested. They’re not stuffing their food full of fat and corn syrup they’re not telling you about.

If you don’t like what’s on TV don’t watch it. If you don’t like what’s in the food, don’t eat it.

Seems simple enough to this centrist.

So the Right gives us limits on which body parts we can see and which words we can hear, and the Left gives us limits on how much fat we can eat and how much vegetables we must eat. I don’t like their attitude; neither of them.

Have any of you seen that 1993 classic Demolition Man? It takes place in a city called San Angeles in the year 2032, in what is an over-regulated, rigidly enforced “utopian” society where swearing gets you fined and that has even (finally) defeated the evils of sperm by making all sex virtual sex (no fluid exchange!). Sylvester Stallone’s character is shocked, and so should you be.

San Francisco is apparently eager to become like San Angeles. I’ll decide what I watch. If I want to watch a movie full of heaving bosoms and bare backsides while eating a fatty, drippy hamburger, I’ll by damn do it, and they only way they’re going to stop me is by pulling my McDonalds and my remote from my cold dead fingers.

10 Replies to “Regulation to Left of Me; Regulation to Right of Me”

  1. I can see your point of view but frankly I think we need to face reality. The facts are that the right’s idea or regulation has been proven to
    be worse for teenage pregnancy etc many many times over. The facts tell us that a liberal approach (comprehensive sex education, availability of reproductive choice etc) works best for everyone.
    Likewise the facts for obesity paint a problem. Hraf, as you know, parents have always had the say with their children over activity and food. But the facts simply are that a very large minority of parents are failing to make healthy choices for their children. And just like you argue it is parental not government responsibility then you also must acknowledge that a large minority o parents (ever growing) ARE making highly irresponsible and unhealthy and possibly deadly decisions. There was parental responsibility 100 years ago and hardly any obesity and there is parental responsibility today.
    You can argue til blue in the face that it isn’t the governments business and you will find that on the surface most people agree with you! I think it sounds great too! So do ALL liberals not just moderates and conservatives! We wish the government didn’t have to intervene. But the truth is it is a government issue now bc there is NO CHOICE. Too many parents are irresponsible. The bottom line? Government is paying out enormous sums of taxpayer money to pay for the effects of obesity on health and wellbeing.
    Since taxpayer money goes to healthcare for people that would otherwise be perfectly healthy if not hugely obese, then why can’t taxpayer money and government control go to PREVENTATIVE measures that will reduce further payouts?
    I appreciate the standpoint of wanting no government intervention; it is the popular viewpoint and easy to hide behind. But it’s the easy way out and doesn’t provide ANY solutions bc you want the status quo when the status quo is classrooms full of fat lazy children. I know the issue is worse in the US than here in Aus and it is bad here. When I was in primary school in the 90’s there was two fat kids. Now there’d be twenty or more. And it’s the parents fault and the governments burden.
    So I’m going to take the very unpopular but brave position; something NEEDS to change. And I can’t see change happening without some government intervention.

  2. I wish people opposed to Gov intervention
    on health would actually offer some solutions bc it rings hollow to keep
    saying it is parental responsibility.
    Advocating your position is advocating obesity at it’s current rate, ever growing. You are essentially supporting this bc you support the status quo. At least liberals have the guts to advocate a highly unpopular but plausible solution.
    The problem is everyones problem. We are all paying for it and imagine the rates in 20 or 30 years when people like us (normal size) will be paying enormously for it.
    In my opinion to be honest I think for many children it gets to the point where it is simply child
    abuse and the government should intervene and find a loving home. Failing to feed a child a balanced nutritious diet with what budget you have is simply child abuse. Failing to teach a child basics of looking after themselves e.g. Eating a balanced diet, basics of cooking and nutrition, regular play and activity, the amount of food required etc is child abuse and the child should be moved to a caring home after a fair amount of warning.
    A child that is not taught to wash and brush their teeth etc would be taken away after their teacher raises the alarm. So why do we give people a pass that treat their children so hideously that they subject them to daily taunts and a lifetime of ill health and maybe an early death? I’m sick of the pass these people get because for some reason we see weight as similar to race or religion and therefore we walk on eggshells and respect obesity! No! Sorry it is unpopular but no! I’m a realist

  3. This is going to spark some debate, but I completely get your point. It seems to me that as the education system gets worse and parental guidance tends to deteriorate with the increasing financial pressures of even two parents working more than full time (hello trickle down, my grandparents had one spouse working and lived in a nice home and raised three kids…..not so much anymore), there will be a lot of temptation to regulate childhood health issues among other issues.

    If our education system were working correctly, if we didn’t have a media pandering to the dumbest of the dumb, if our TV weren’t enticing us all to become consumer drones, well — we could educate our children and ourselves a bit easier. That said, I don’t agree with telling McDonalds what to put in their Happy Meal (but a part of me loves that this is an issue, because the Right loves to fantasize about being under socialist siege, so it’s nice to give them a small taste of the tip of the iceberg, lest they begin to claim the middle of the road as socialism…oh, right, too late…).

    I do have a problem with them calling it a “Happy Meal” though:-)

  4. Thanks, Sarah. One of my problems with this is that when we start regulating private lives to protect people from themselves (not from big greedy corporations) then we hit a slippery slope. Where does it stop? Is it going to be illegal to eat certain things at some point? Is California going to make hamburger illegal and legislate that Tofu and Hummus must be served at McDonalds? For me, as long as they permit people to smoke cigarettes, they got no right to go after hamburgers.

    The argument that we all pay for it applies to literally everything, including driving cars, motorcycles, or anything else that can lead to injury or death. That argument logically leads to the outlawing of all activity.

    I agree about education and of course that both parents often work outside the home today, leaving less parental supervision at home. That’s a real problem.

    Yeah, “Happy Meal” for a unhealthy kid’s meal is like calling a Cigarette a “Lucky” – oh wait, that’s been done :)

  5. I am a little bit torn on this issue. for one thing McDonald’s food is garbage. Complete unadulterated garbage. And unfortunately there are now McDonald’s restaurants in schools. I shouldn’t say restaurants, it’s more like just a counter in the cafeteria. Your kids are going to eat this garbage whether you tell them to or not. And kids are what they eat.
    and on the other hand I can agree with you if you say what right does the government have two say we can’t eat the food. I then think of what right does the government have to tell General Motors that it has to have acceptable brakes on their cars? You and I both know that without government standards General Motors would not put good brakes on cars, or at least ones that are as good as the ones they use now.

    I think that the sperm and the food arguments fall into two different categories. And again this is extremely arguable. Your sperm is your person. What you eat is not. It is my humble opinion that there should be no restrictions on what choices you can make with your body. It is your business and your business only.

    What you eat is your business and your business only as well. But I think that until someone stands up to companies like McDonald’s and others and tells them to stop producing garbage we will have sick and obese children.

    Incidentally and you can google this if you wish, I listened to a lady on a radio show the other day while I was driving was the head of some huge hospital department discussing the fact that due to what we eat the sperm count and sperm quality of the average American citizen has decreased dramatically. Something you might want to think of if you make this comparison again.

  6. A word about what I eat, since I wrote this piece:

    McDonalds is not good for you. I agree, Shiva. I said so in this piece. I am absolutely opposed to fast food in our schools. School nutrition should be improved, not degraded. I have no parental control when my kids are at school and expect a school not to allow my children come to harm when they’re in their care.

    I had heart surgery in March. Valve repair and a maze procedure. I am more careful than ever about what I eat. I have cut almost all processed foods out of my diet. I eat less table salt, I eat low-sodium bacon when I have bacon, and I’ve tried low sodium soups, etc. I drink less pop and less caffeine. I seldom dine at McDonalds or any other fast food restaurant anymore. I have even tried hummus.

    That said, I would not argue that others have to eat any particular sort of diet, or surrender my right to eat a greasy burger if I want one (and I occasionally do).

    I think regulation directed at self-serving corporations at the peoples expense should be regulated. Government is a social contract and the government, being established by us and for us, has an obligation to defend us. I don’t believe this extends to telling me what I can do with my sperm or my food and I really see no difference between the two. The same goes for what I watch, what I read, and what I listen to (I miss you George Carlin!). It reminds me far too much of those old anti-sodomy laws that are still in place. It’s my bedroom; if you don’t want to know what goes on there, don’t look.

  7. Makes sense, the article and comments. We can learn from both ends of the spectrum, mostly from the liberal end on healthy choices; but now that I think about it, I’m not sure what we can learn from the ultra conservative. It can get pretty confusing when some conservatives, are screaming about government is too big, government is intrusive, but then they want to tell us how to live by using government for their fight. I’m a live and let live kind of person and I would think that most people in this country don’t want the government telling them how to live but the government should be able to regulate and monitor big business and their tactics for protection of the consumer. I agree that parents should take responsibility for their kids’ choices, but kids who don’t have parents that provide the proper guidance should be able to rely on proper education in schools and/or the community. I listened to a C-Span segment recently about funding programs to feed hungry children in America and there was a mention of offering meals for all students. Some poor children and families don’t always sign up for the free programs for pride issues I guess and offering meals to all students eliminates that stigma. Over the years though, the schools didn’t always offer very nutritious choices either, but I thank the liberals for fighting for change in that area. A good mix of both worlds I guess is what makes a centrist. I don’t think the government should tell McDonalds that they can’t put a toy in with a Happy Meal, and like what you said, what next? The toy is the Happy part of the meal, so I don’t have a problem with the name. As far as the other, and I know we’re all adults but being a lady from the south makes it a subject that I try to be a little more tactful about, it’s a private thing and I don’t want to hear about anyone else’s private business. These days though, it is pretty hard to not see it everywhere you go. Thank goodness we have a choice to turn off the radio and TV. But, I agree with the comment that the conservative approach doesn’t work as effectively. Education on the subject that includes prevention works best.

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