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reason: I ate lunch today at a Chinese buffet--all you can eat. At least half of the patrons were super-fat fucks--we're talking seriously obese, probably even on the moon. I alone ate about 10 pounds of food. Don't people need help in restraining themselves?
Harsanyi: Maybe they don't want to be restrained. I don't remember reading anything in the Constitution that says I can't be a fat fuck. (Though most of the founders clearly kept themselves in awesome shape.)
reason: Gouverneur Morris would fit right in at a Golden Corral, god bless him. So obesity and diet-related issues are not something that should be legislated. Obviously, I agree with you completely. But how do you debate or publicize concerns then?
Harsanyi : I don't think it would be possible for us to hear more about the obesity issue. We're in the midst of an epidemic, haven't you heard? Something needs to be done, you know, for the children.
reason: In the book, you talk up a place in Decatur, Georgia, called Mulligan's, which serves the "Luther Burger"--named for Luther Vandross, the dead singer. It's a bacon cheeseburger with a Krispy Kreme donut for a bun. I think just discussing it caused me to gain weight. But Vandross died in his early 50s; he had diabetes and at various points weighed over 300 pounds. It seems safe to assume that his death was hastened by his blubber. Is this where America is headed? And if so, is that a bad thing?
Harsanyi: I live in a mixed-use modern liberal community in Denver. Literally every person in this godforsaken place goes jogging in the morning, rides a bike, and climbs a mountain on the weekend. I root for people when I see them smoking around here. There are plenty people in this country who are healthy. And there are plenty people in this country who aren't. It's none of my business. and it's certainly none of government's business to coerce us into either camp.
reason: Talk a little bit about "keg tracking," the new craze that will prevent all underage kids from ever getting blitzed again.
Harsanyi: Essentially, it's a GPS system in your beer keg. This way, if you've bought a keg and an underaged drinker happens to sneak a beer at your picnic, you're screwed.
reason: Is there any reason to believe this kind of thing is effective?
Harsanyi: No. None. Most police departments aren't interesting in dealing with this sort of thing to begin with. It's the neoprohibitionists with groups like MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) that nag legislators to get involved. For the children.
reason: Speaking of children: Do you have any? And what did you find is happening on playgrounds these days?
Harsanyi : I have two girls (ages three and five) and I discovered that no matter how hard they try they simply can't hurt themselves at the local playground. I suppose they're lucky, though. In certain playgrounds in Florida, we have "No Running" signs. And in certain schools we've banned tag. And, as most of us have heard, in many places we no longer keep score during kids sporting events. This way no one's feelings are hurt.
reason: How important is any of this? I'm the father of two boys (ages six and 13). You weren't supposed to keep score when the kids were in Pee Wee soccer or whatever, but there's no reason to believe that sports are less cutthroat than they were back in the good old days.
Or to put it another way: Isn't it a pretty awesome time to be a kid? Sure, there's all sorts of idiotic rules binding them, but that's always been the case ("Don't lean back in your chair, you'll break your neck!") Isn't the more important thing that virtually all kids have more choices and opportunities than they used to?
Harsanyi: I agree on some level. I'm not a big believer in the "War Against Boys." Kids are healthier than ever. They have more choices than ever. And you can't suck human nature out of a child. The point I make in the book is that government, local school boards, and administrators have bought into nannyism. These people are hyper risk averse. And risk aversion, in my mind, is one of the engines of nannyism. It's all about starting early.