Obesity

Surprise! Federal Nutrition Programs Don't Work

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Kids still eat what they want, even when the government tries really, really hard to tell them not to:

The federal government will spend more than $1 billion this year on nutrition education—fresh carrot and celery snacks, videos of dancing fruit, hundreds of hours of lively lessons about how great you will feel if you eat well.

But an Associated Press review of scientific studies examining 57 such programs found mostly failure. Just four showed any real success in changing the way kids eat—or any promise as weapons against the growing epidemic of childhood obesity.

"Any person looking at the published literature about these programs would have to conclude that they are generally not working," said Dr. Tom Baranowski, a pediatrics professor at Houston's Baylor College of Medicine who studies behavioral nutrition.

Also, a lesson in unintended consequences is hidden in this passage:

Meanwhile, it's harder for children to exercise on their own. Parks often aren't safe, and sports teams cost money.

"Calorie burning has become the province of the wealthy," Zeitler said. "I fear that what we're going to see is a divergence of healthy people and unhealthy people. Basically, like everything else, it costs money to be healthy."

For a long time many schools funded non-varsity and intramural sports with revenue from vending machines. Now that many schools have been pressured by anti-obesity activists into eliminating the machines, money for extracurricular activities has dried up. Meaning kids not involved in varsity sports now have less to do, making them less active, making them more likely to put on weight.

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  1. Gee, Radly, could you hide your glee just a little more?

    Anyway here’s one bit from the piece that you left out:

    Children ages 8 to 12 see an average of 21 television ads each day for candy, snacks, cereal and fast food — more than 7,600 a year, according to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation study. Not one of the 8,854 ads reviewed promoted fruits or vegetables.

    So while it may be true that kids eat what they want, it also seems to be true that what they want is what they’re told to want.

    Ironically, this may show that libertarians are correct on this point – corporations do appear to be more effective than government at influencing kids’ eating habits.

  2. The education is not working because it’s competing with junk food advertising. Until we stop allowing these corporations to pander that garbage to our children, this crisis will continue.

  3. Dan T.’s arguments notwithstanding (and they are typically notwithstanding), I have to call shenanigans on the idea that going outside isn’t safe- and I believe the main reason that kids are fatter nowadays is because parents don’t want their kids going outside, where kids get exercise. Overprotective parenting has led kids to be less active, and less active kids become fatties.

  4. You could bombard me with ads for beets from now til doomsday and I would not be tempted to eat one.

  5. Point taken, but let’s give credit where credit is due to Nanny State here, who is at her nanniest when it come to real children (as opposed to the rest of us who are merely treated as children) and the notion that the only way kids can play and get exercise is if some adult authority provides equipment, coaches, officials, etc.

    On that point, I drive through plenty of poor and working class neighborhoods where the kids are playing basketball or soccer day and night. I’d say it’s the middle class kids who suffer the from the absence of these programs because they’ve never learned how to put together a pick-up game of baseball, basketball, etc.

  6. Oh Noes! Advertising! Again, sir, again I say –

    The reason that junk food is advertised on kids TV (along with toys) is that the junk food/snacks are the only products kids have input on with mommy and daddy. Parent’s don’t say “what kind of entree and vegetables would you like, my little smooshy face honey bun?” because they already know what they’re getting for that.

    But junk food and breakfast cereal, that’s generally open to suggestions from the kids.

  7. FYI, the first post was mine, the second was not. I guess it’s time to ditch this username and go to an alias again.

  8. D.A.,

    The Nanny State causes parents not to let their kids play down the street?

    Do tell. How’s that work?

  9. ” Until we stop allowing these corporations to pander that garbage to our children, this crisis will continue.”

    That’s the spirit, Comrade!

  10. Dan, I can’t tell which one is the spoof and which one is actually you.

  11. DAR,
    Either they never figured out how to play pickup or they learned from their parents that there are magic evil sex predators and kidnappers hiding behind every bush and pole, and they mustn’t be out of earshot or eyesight at any time lest they are nabbed by bad bad men.

  12. I could tell it was a fake Dan T. right away.

    “…our children…this crisis will continue…”

    You’d have to be buried several miles deep in your own libertoid propaganda to think that anyone actually argues like that.

  13. I know what you mean Dan T. My friend’s kids only eat Skittles and Chicken McNuggets. I’m not sure where they get the money to pay for them though.

  14. I find the idea that school sports programs were completely reliant on vending machine revenues to be far fetched. What was in those vending machines? Dom Perignon? Most high schools would gladly bankrupt the social studies and literature depratments to keep the sports going.

  15. I’ll also point out that while I caught a lot of heat here once for pointing out that it seems that almost no mothers are libertarians, it doesn’t take long reading threads such as this one to see that parents as a group are often viewed with just slightly less contempt than the government.

    Ironically, the message here is “The government doesn’t know better than parents as to how they should raise their kids, but the readers of Reason sure do!”

  16. Ironically, the message here is “The government doesn’t know better than parents as to how they should raise their kids, but the readers of Reason sure do!”

    You’re not exempting yourself from that, are you Dan?

  17. “I could tell it was a fake Dan T. right away.”

    Good job, joe! Someone give him a cookie.

  18. joe,

    Yeah, you’re right. I was really talking about the “Nanny State mentality” and the countless parents (I have known personally) who schedule little Buffy and Tad’s free time into nonexistence, restrict them from wandering around the neighborhood themselves, etc.

  19. Well put DA.

    All kids need to get a game of soccer going is something spherical and a couple of objects to act as goal posts, garbage cans will do. Why is it that the kids in the working class neighborhood seem to understand this innately while the middle-class kids need to have uniforms and nice equipment and their parents standing around watching them the entire time?

  20. I find the idea that school sports programs were completely reliant on vending machine revenues to be far fetched. What was in those vending machines? Dom Perignon? Most high schools would gladly bankrupt the social studies and literature depratments to keep the sports going.

    Yes, that one failed the laugh test. I’m surprised Radley didn’t go on to suggest that if schools allowed hookers to sell their services on school grounds they could fund their sports programs using that revenue as well.

  21. I’ll also point out that while I caught a lot of heat here once for pointing out that it seems that almost no mothers are libertarians, it doesn’t take long reading threads such as this one to see that parents as a group are often viewed with just slightly less contempt than the government.

    The two topics are tightly related Dan. The libertarian argument is that the state should stay out of private decisions and that parents are the proper authority to make decision regarding their decisions. Of course, when so many parents make those decisions badly, it just provides ammunition for progressives to say “see, this is why the state needs to step in”.

    So for libertarians, bad parents deserve as much scorn as can possible be heaped upon their lousy shoulders, because they contributing to the constant efforts of progressives to strip me of my rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

  22. I’d like to be the Food Czar. Only foods on my list will be consumed. Period. While acting as Food Czar, I also plan to operate a black market in unapproved foods.

    In other news, let me be the second to congratulate Hit & Run for its NC-17 rating. Urkobold is proud to share that rating with Hit & Run though disappointed to learn that X ratings appear to be unavailable. Shucks.

  23. Randolph Carter: smooshy face honey bun

    Do you mind if I use that?

    So, what? Parents can’t say “no” to their kids? Or is it that parents don’t want to bother with saying no? Or are they too afraid of damaging poor little smooshy face honey bun’s delicate sense of power? It’s not that difficult…

    No, I’m not buying Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs for you. If you pitch that fit you’re planning, we’ll go out to the car and have a little talk.

    I don’t care that Suzy’s mother lets her eat Cheetos and candy corn for dinner. You’re not Suzy and I’m not Suzy’s mother. Get over it and eat your spinach.

    Oh, you’re going to scream about it? Well okay then, you can sit here at the table and scream. Then when you’re done with the screaming, you can eat your cold spinach.

    I’m sorry, I can’t hear you when you whine. Try that again.

    See? Easy.

    Being a parent means dealing with whining, begging children. No amount of government intervention will change that.

  24. Dan T.

    I’ll just raise my hand then and point out that I am in fact a mother and (shock!) a libertarian.

    Wow, that strawman sure burned up quick! You built it very poorly. Wanna try again?

  25. Bronwyn,

    Calvin may eat Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs, but young Susie does not. She eats a balanced and nutritious breakfast.

    Hobbes is a figment. However, I am real.

  26. DAN T. IS RIGHT. THERE ARE NO LIBERTARIAN MOTHERS. TO CORRECT THIS PROBLEM, THE URKOBOLD RECOMMENDS DEPRIVING MOTHERS OF THE VOTE.

    LET FREEDOM RING.

  27. D.A.R.,

    I agree completely, then.

    Although it probably would have been best to just go with “Nanny Mentality,” because there doesn’t really seem to be a government angle.

    Then again, parents are supposed to treat their children like children – the stance that, when adopted by the government, is labelled “Nanny State.”

    There seem to be a couple of issues getting conflated here – the government acting like a parent, and parents being overly-protective.

  28. I’m libertarian and a mother to two children.
    I don’t put it into the grocery cart and they refuse to pay for it out of their own money. I’ve offered.

  29. Well Mr. Bun I will defer to you on one point. You are clearly in a better position to know about Susie’s eating habits; however, I must insist that Hobbes is real.

  30. I don’t put advertised junk in the grocery cart…..sorry only one cup of coffee.

    In general, children will stop whining if you are consistant. It’s not easy.

  31. We used to eat all that bad junk food when I was a kid. The difference was we were allowed to ride our bikes to the Kwik Stop to get it.

    Basically, like everything else, it costs money to be healthy.

    Hmmmmmm… I wonder where that money will come from?

    I’ve got it! Calorie Credits! Every time I eat something transfatty or high fructosey I can offset it by investing in anti-obesity programs thus lowering my Caloric Footprint.

  32. There seem to be a couple of issues getting conflated here – the government acting like a parent, and parents being overly-protective.

    Yes, because at the local level the parents have significant influence over the schools, who act as their agents and it is, for the most part, the over-protectiveness in play. Still, these are often the same parents who claim they can’t themselves refrain from buying clumps of sugar marketed as breakfast cereals, etc. and expect the state to solve the problem for them, that they can’t monitor their kids’ access to TV, the internet, etc. I’m all too aware that many people like and want the nanny state and that, to quote from Pogo, we have met the enemy, and they are us.

  33. joe,

    I see the nannyism/bibertarian thing as transcending the government’s odd in loco parentis role. It’s permeating our culture. Parents fear allowing children the least independence–even I’m guilty of this, and I think we’re going way too far! It’s tempting to blame the government for starting this, but I tend to blame the self-absorbed Baby Boomers. Damn them to hell.

    Anyway, bibertarianism is a cultural problem, but where it becomes something more sinister is when its proponents attempt to use government to impose their beliefs on the rest of us.

    Bronwyn,

    For my 40th birthday last year, my mom bought me the complete, hardbound collection of Calvin & Hobbes. Awesome gift.

  34. ProL: I got that for Christmas, it is AWESOME!

  35. DAR, I hereby give you permission to take me out back and shoot me if ever I become one of those parents. Thanks in advance.

  36. Wow, I totally need a copy of that.

    Complete.

    Hard-bound.

    Calvin and Hobbes.

    (Man, did that guy define “Going Out On Top” or what?)

  37. ProL – I got it for Christmas, too. I love it! It weighs a ton, too. Perfect weight-lifting exercises and for beating sense into people.

  38. People are pre-wired to crave sweets and fat, and kids are pre-wired to crave them even more than adults. That said, I believe that the right government advertising campaign will absolutely be able to wipe out several billion years’ worth of evolution, so long as we spend enough money on the attempt.

    I also believe that if men would only watch the right public-service commercials, they’ll stop having sexual thoughts about women they’re not married to.

  39. You know, much of this problem stems from the huge subsidies that the government gives to these companies, which in turn use the “savings” to produce scientifically engineered junkfood that’s cheaper to buy than actual healthy food.

    There’s no way that junk food would be cheaper than the real sort if the industry wasn’t so heavily subsidized by the feds.

    IIRC, Jacob Sullum wrote a blog entry on this a couple of months back that linked to an article in the NYT. It was interesting stuff.

  40. >Why is it that the kids in the working class neighborhood seem to understand this innately while the middle-class kids need to have uniforms and nice equipment and their parents standing around watching them the entire time?

    In my working class to poor neighborhood, they play softball with tennis balls if that’s all they have, and a milk crate with the bottom knocked out is a basketball hoop. And kids play outside all the time. I can’t say I’d want my kids playing outside here, if I had them. There is simply too much street crime. In a middle class neighborhood it would be a different story.

    I would like to see some stats on lost revenues related to removing vending machines, and impact on intramural sports. It could be that intramural sports are very cheap to finance — but I’m still a bit skeptical.

  41. The two topics are tightly related Dan. The libertarian argument is that the state should stay out of private decisions and that parents are the proper authority to make decision regarding their decisions. Of course, when so many parents make those decisions badly, it just provides ammunition for progressives to say “see, this is why the state needs to step in”.

    So for libertarians, bad parents deserve as much scorn as can possible be heaped upon their lousy shoulders, because they contributing to the constant efforts of progressives to strip me of my rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

    And of course, it’s all about you.

    Anyway, so the argument, then, is that people whom you consider largely unfit to make decisions about the welfare of children are the proper people to make those decisions?

    Granted, I do actually agree with you in principle that in an ideal world all parents would be as perfect as, say, Bronwyn and thus there would be no need for any sort of collective social programs whatsoever. But wishing that buildings wouldn’t burn down is harldy an argument for disbanding the fire department.

  42. joe,

    Watterson was the best. Although I think he had years of creativity left in him, I’d rather he went out too early rather than too late. I think. Actually, I miss Calvin, complete collection or no.

    Bronwyn,

    Our teenager reads them and loves them (he sees himself as an older Calvin), but I make him treat the books with total respect–no leaving them on the coffee table, must be placed in their appropriate location for protection.

  43. Oh, Dan T.! I’m perfect?!? I had no idea… thanks so much for letting me know because, otherwise, I’d have kept on trying to improve myself. Think of all the trouble you’ve saved me.

    Well. I guess I’m done then. Time to sit back and reap the rewards of my perfection.

    From my newly polished pedestal then, I’ll ask you to please work on your strawman construction skills. Practice makes perfect!

  44. ProL… when they’re old enough, I imagine I’ll be the same way with my children.

    Honey, those are mommy’s Legos. Don’t chew mommy’s Legos, chew your own please.

  45. Also, one problem with the whole “poor kids play outside while the priviliged kids do not” argument as it relates to childhood obesity is that it’s the poor who tend to be overweight, not the wealthy.

  46. I’ll take a stab at mk’s question; it’s the neighborhood design.

    Working-class neighborhoods tend to be more urban, while middle-class neighborhoods tend to be sprawly suburbs.

    Cities and older “inner ring” suburbs, are more amendable for hanging around outside than post-war suburbs. There are more people around, there are more places to walk to.

  47. Dan T lemme keep it simple, stupid – what I feed my kid is none of your business.

  48. Hey Abdul, Balko didn’t claim that schools cut out varsity programs because of the absence of vending machines, that would never happen especially here in Texas, what he said is it cut out funding for sorts for kids who suck at sports.

  49. Why is it that the kids in the working class neighborhood seem to understand this innately while the middle-class kids need to have uniforms and nice equipment and their parents standing around watching them the entire time?

    It’s probably a lot of things. Fear of lawsuits( You can’t have the kids playing in your yard because if someone gets hurt, you could get sued. You can’t bring all the kids to the park because then you’re responsible for the well being of the whole group), mixed with overexposure to TV news(It’s not safe to let them wander to a park because of predators, junkies, etc.), and a pathological need to live vicariously though the kids by having an official standard to judge them by(They can’t just play, how will we know who to brag about or expect a scholarship for? They need to do drills and have a coach screaming at them so they can learn “teamwork and self-esteem”).

  50. Dan T lemme keep it simple, stupid – what I feed my kid is none of your business.

    Okay – I never claimed that it was.

  51. Finkelstein for the win!

  52. is nick gillespie’s essay (which led with a great comparison of affluent parents to the buddha’s father trying to keep him from the danger and corruption of the material world) still on the website? (it was the one included in “choice”)

    oh it is:
    https://www.reason.com/news/show/30296.html

    ten years old but still on spot.

    the “helicopter parents” thing lasts far too long. a friend of mine works for a rather expensive private university in the city, and the shit parents pull for kids in their early 20s – THEIR EARLY FUCKING 20s – is humiliating. well, it would be if the kids had any sense of dignity, maybe.

    i don’t know how related to the government that is, or if its more along the lines of excess fear is a kind of luxury good that more and more people can afford, regardless of how apt it applies to their situation.

  53. For a long time many schools funded non-varsity and intramural sports with revenue from vending machines.

    and before that, when I was a kid they funded all that stuff without revenue from vending machines.

    and before that, when my dad was a kid, they didn’t fund any of that stuff at all. Kids played stickball and sandlot baseball.

  54. And of course, it’s all about you.

    Yes Dan. The purpose of the constitution is to protect individuals from government intrusion. You may or may not care that you are protected from those intrusions, but I do.

    Anyway, so the argument, then, is that people whom you consider largely unfit to make decisions about the welfare of children are the proper people to make those decisions?

    So bad parents are a real life problem. How should we deal with them?

    Drug addicts are a real life problem. How should we deal with them?

    Alcoholics are a real life problem. How should we deal with them?

    The primary philosophical issue is how you deal with a minority of the population that has some real life problem without trampling on the rights of the majority of the population that does not have that problem.

    Granted, I do actually agree with you in principle that in an ideal world all parents would be as perfect as, say, Bronwyn and thus there would be no need for any sort of collective social programs whatsoever.

    Collective social programs do not necessarily require government intervention. There are families, extended families, churches, neighborhood associations, and many more VOLUNTARY solutions that can help parents with problems become better parents. You need to exhaust them all before you declare that government intervention is required.

    But wishing that buildings wouldn’t burn down is harldy an argument for disbanding the fire department.

    I really wish you would stop reaching like this. I never helps the discussion that is currently going on.

  55. You could bombard me with ads for beets…

    beets taste like dirt

  56. And of course, it’s all about you.

    Memo to the T(roll):

    Surprise, but at a libertarian site you will find people who argue the supremacy of the individual over the collective. That’s kind of what it’s all about here. But you knew that.

  57. Just four showed any real success in changing the way kids eat — or any promise as weapons against the growing epidemic of childhood obesity.

    So, couldn’t the case be made that since there are examples of programs that do work, we should simply modify the other programs to emulate those? Trial-and-error often is the best way to find the solutions to new problems.

  58. are we exempting pickled beets from the evil beets meme? because pickled beats + pickles + falafel + lettuce + tomato + tahini + hot sauce + pita = god (where “god” is a value greater than or equal to “awesome”)

  59. are we exempting pickled beets from the evil beets meme?

    I hope not, pickled beets are teh goodness.

  60. Canned beets are good for one thing: toss the beets and use the juice for pickled eggs. Dee-licious.

  61. No claim was made stating that vending machines fund all school sports. The claim was that they helped fund non-varsity sports, which makes perfect sense.

  62. I like beets. And the beets go on.

  63. Another thing that happens a lot, especially in middle-class neighborhoods, is that organized leagues pay massive fees for exclusive use of park facilities.

    I play in a 38+ baseball league and one of the fields we play about 40% of our games at has a sign “By Permit Only”. Because our league pays a small fortune for the privelege. Of course, the sign is never enforced and anyone can walk onto the field. Ironically, there are 3 diamonds right next to the one we use that are seldom used – probably because they are locked up and kids can’t get into them. Perhaps those fields are also reserved by other leagues, but if so then it’s pretty fucked up that a municipal park would reserve ALL their facilities 24/7.


  64. Yes Dan. The purpose of the constitution is to protect individuals from government intrusion.

    Not really – the purpose of the consititution is to provide a general framework for the government. In a more philisophical sense, you could say that it attempts to strike a good balance between individuals and the collective.

    The primary philosophical issue is how you deal with a minority of the population that has some real life problem without trampling on the rights of the majority of the population that does not have that problem.

    I agree, and I wonder who thinks that the rights of the majority should be trampled?

    Collective social programs do not necessarily require government intervention. There are families, extended families, churches, neighborhood associations, and many more VOLUNTARY solutions that can help parents with problems become better parents. You need to exhaust them all before you declare that government intervention is required.

    That’s great, but you’re back to wishful thinking again. Why haven’t all these types of groups solved the problem of childhood obesity?

    I really wish you would stop reaching like this. I never helps the discussion that is currently going on.

    It’s an analogy. I’m pointing out how many people here, instead of offering a solution to the problem, just sort of wish it wasn’t a problem.

  65. “kids not involved in varsity sports now have less to do, making them less active, making them more likely to put on weight.

    Feel free to correct me, but I don’t believe that some alleged reduction in organized, school-supervised sporting activities is reducing recent generations’ levels of physical activity.

    It’s more a combination of PlayStation / MySpace / Ritalin.

  66. The solution: have more kids. That means that you have an excuse for feeding each one less, and you feel better about letting them go to the park ’cause it’s no big deal if a couple get snuffed out by the pervert by the monkey bars.

  67. Cities and older “inner ring” suburbs, are more amendable for hanging around outside than post-war suburbs. There are more people around, there are more places to walk to.

    I live in an “outer ring” suburb that is dotted with parks, bike trails and rec centers that are all within walking/riding distance of most subdivisions. Most of those subdivisions also have their own pools complete with waterpark worthy water slides. There are plenty of places and opportunities to be active in the burbs.

  68. Not really – the purpose of the consititution is to provide a general framework for the government. In a more philisophical sense, you could say that it attempts to strike a good balance between individuals and the collective.

    I absolutely disagree with you on this point. The founding fathers committed acts of high treason to shuck off the intrusions of the British government into the personal and private lives of the colonists. They were NOT just trying an experiment to find a more efficient means of governance.

    The primary philosophical issue is how you deal with a minority of the population that has some real life problem without trampling on the rights of the majority of the population that does not have that problem.

    I agree, and I wonder who thinks that the rights of the majority should be trampled?

    I do. As well as many others. Whenever the government steps in to “help” with some personal and private problem, they must by definition impose some restrictions on the whole population. That is a infringement of rights. That may seem to be a trival problem to you, but it doesn’t to me.

    Collective social programs do not necessarily require government intervention. There are families, extended families, churches, neighborhood associations, and many more VOLUNTARY solutions that can help parents with problems become better parents. You need to exhaust them all before you declare that government intervention is required.

    That’s great, but you’re back to wishful thinking again. Why haven’t all these types of groups solved the problem of childhood obesity?

    In can’t count how many times I have heard people say “the government should do something about . . . “.

    It frustrates me to no end how many people shirk they’re personal responsibilities under the assumption that the government should solve the world’s problems.

    I really wish you would stop reaching like this. I never helps the discussion that is currently going on.

    It’s an analogy. I’m pointing out how many people here, instead of offering a solution to the problem, just sort of wish it wasn’t a problem.

    It’s a shitty analogy. This is one of your biggest weaknesses in discussing nuanced problems. How many times have you posted “if we’re not going to do something about XYZ, why don’t we just let people murder other people”.

    It got old and tired a long time ago Dan. Try thinking up some new and original way of making your points.

  69. ”If the mother is eating Cheetos and white bread, the fetus will be born with those taste buds. If the mother is eating carrots and oatmeal, the child will be born with those taste buds,” said Dr. Robert Trevino of the Social and Health Research Center in San Antonio.

    I’d like to see some proof of this claim.

  70. Based on my wife’s pregnancy diet habits my daughter will not be able to help herself around Gyros and Cookie Crisp.

  71. My mother never let us eat serious junk food on anything of a regular basis until we were old enough to know that it was absolute trash and would probably do us harm (high school). After a few months of eating it, we gave up after the energy crashes and all that.

    I’m not THAT old, but looking at how parents treat their kids today, I would never have been able to do anything. I was allowed to ride my bike around the neighborhood so long as I didn’t cross certain busy streets and stuff like that and play with the other kids in the neighborhood. We definitely didn’t need awesome equipment and stuff to play baseball or kickball or whatever.

    Keeping it on topic, I blame the government for parental paranoia. Government self-propagates by inflating its own importance, and parents give-in to the bullshit about terrorists and child-molesters in an effort to make them feel like exercising complete control over their children’s lives is justified.

    No, I don’t see a conflict between saying that both government and parents are retarded, but only one of them has the right to raise a child.

  72. ”If the mother is eating Cheetos and white bread, the fetus will be born with those taste buds. If the mother is eating carrots and oatmeal, the child will be born with those taste buds,” said Dr. Robert Trevino of the Social and Health Research Center in San Antonio.

    He could mean that the gene that makes Cheetos taste good to one person but not another is hereditary, but it sure sounds like he means “Eat Cheetos while pregnant and you’ll give birth to a fat little Cheeto-monger.”

  73. Matt J,

    That sounds like it would be very convenient for kids to get to their pre-arranged activities.

    But at sprawl densities, there isn’t going to be the critical mass of people hanging around that makes it possible for individuals to expect that they will be able to reliably find a game there if they wander down on their own.

    Facilities are great, but it’s people that make the difference.

  74. fat little Cheeto-monger

    Why would the munchin feel compelled to sell Cheetos?

  75. I absolutely disagree with you on this point. The founding fathers committed acts of high treason to shuck off the intrusions of the British government into the personal and private lives of the colonists. They were NOT just trying an experiment to find a more efficient means of governance.

    Come on, now. The Constitution was written over a decade after we had severed ties with Britain and most of it pertains to how the government is supposed to be set up and operated. Remember that the Bill of Rights was kind of a last-minute addition and are amendments – not even considered important enough to be part of the main document.

    I do. As well as many others. Whenever the government steps in to “help” with some personal and private problem, they must by definition impose some restrictions on the whole population. That is a infringement of rights. That may seem to be a trival problem to you, but it doesn’t to me.

    Yes, it’s true that government by definition restricts the behavior of the governed. But nobody thinks that we have the right to behave however we want, without any sort of restriction. The whole idea behind civilization is that people benefit from having their behavior restricted. In this context, rights are those things that we agree cannot be restricted. But that’s hardly supposed to mean “everything”.

    It frustrates me to no end how many people shirk they’re personal responsibilities under the assumption that the government should solve the world’s problems.

    But in the context of this debate, nobody is shirking their personal responsibilities. Even if I’m an ideal parent who fulfills my personal responsibilities (who decides that, btw?) by making sure my kids eat well and exercise, that hardly addresses the social problem of childhood obesity.

    It’s a shitty analogy. This is one of your biggest weaknesses in discussing nuanced problems. How many times have you posted “if we’re not going to do something about XYZ, why don’t we just let people murder other people”.

    I suspect that you don’t like the analogy because it illustrates well the mindset around here. I mean, the problem being discussed is that kids are becoming more and more overweight, and the general answer is that “I wish parents would stop letting their kids become overweight”. How this differs significantly from my fire department analogy you’ve yet to explain.

  76. Beets are bad, children. Mmkay?

    [pickled, jellied, steamed, pureed, or deep fried with beer batter]

  77. Why would the munchin feel compelled to sell Cheetos?

    You’re right. That should have been written as “Cheeto-Muncher”.

  78. Remember that the Bill of Rights was kind of a last-minute addition and are amendments – not even considered important enough to be part of the main document.

    Wow

  79. I was a suburban child, and I had no problem whatsoever playing unorganized sports. Or organized ones. Of course, here in Florida, we’re attempting to breed the super-athlete, so maybe that’s an atypical situation.

    My wife and, to a lesser extent, I, see the neighborhood kids that are allowed to roam about as the neighborhood’s hellions. I’m not sure that’s entirely accurate, but there’s enough truth to it for my wife to not want to let our kids simply wander about. It’s a catch-22, and while we’re adding to the biberfication of our own children, we also talk about how free we were to tempt death and maiming on a regular basis as children.

    I was even closer to death when visiting my cousins in rural Tennessee, now that I think about it, with exposure to shotguns, dangerous animals, and sausage gravy and lard biscuits.

    Incidentally, Alton Brown can help those of you who hate beets.

  80. But nobody thinks that we have the right to behave however we want, without any sort of restriction. The whole idea behind civilization is that people benefit from having their behavior restricted. In this context, rights are those things that we agree cannot be restricted. But that’s hardly supposed to mean “everything”.

    I know this has been explained to you in the past, but I will repeat it for your benefit.

    As a free individual, I may do anything I want so long I do not directly interfere with another free individual who is exercizing his/her right to do whatever he/she wants to do.

    The only acceptable restrictions on my freedom are those that prevent me from directly harming another person.

    That’s it.

  81. Remember that the Bill of Rights was kind of a last-minute addition and are amendments – not even considered important enough to be part of the main document.

    That is not correct. The Bill of Rights were considered superfluous, because the government, as established by the Constitution, would be powerless to harm our liberties, in theory. If was fear that this would prove not to be the case that caused the Bill of Rights to be adopted. It’s offensive that some people read the first ten amendments as a “grant” of rights, which they most certainly were, and are, not.

    Individual rights and freedom to live without much government interference was and is the whole point of this country. Unfortunately, certain people want to take that away, not realizing that increasing the power of the government will result in a whole host of nasty consequences. Don’t like Bush’s abuse of power? Restore limited government. There is no “right” Caesar.

  82. Pro Libertate,

    I was a middle-class, suburban child, too, and I used to get together with friends who lived in and about a nearby cul-de-sac for tennis-ball baseball and such.

    My point is about tendencies and differentials. I’m not speaking in absolutes here. It’s an issue of “more” and “less.”

  83. joe,

    Well, I think the urban parents are even more scared of letting their kids out of sight. Higher population density also tends to mean more violent crime.

    The problem here is the fear, not where the kids are living. Fear, and all the non-active options these days. Maybe the Wii will save our children 🙂

  84. That sounds like it would be very convenient for kids to get to their pre-arranged activities.

    It’s also very convenient if you want to grab a buddy and go chuck a ball around or go for a ride. I lived in a similar community as a kid and outside of organized sports, next to none of our activities were pre-arranged.

    Facilities are great, but it’s people that make the difference.

    There were always large groups of kids out doing kid stuff. If we weren’t at the park or the rec then we were playing massive, neighborhood wide games of hide and seek or tag. I just don’t see that anymore. I think it has more to do with better video games and more paranoid parents than with urban planning. The kids are there, they’re just inside instead of outside.

  85. I’m actually really bummed about this. When my daughter gets older I want to send her out to play and roam, but who the heck is she going to go play and roam with if none of the other parents allow their kids past their driveway? I’ll take her out on bike rides and to the park as much as I can, but who wants to hang with their Dad that much? If you want your kid to interact with others the organized activities thing is kind of unavoidable at these days. That sucks.

  86. I have to confess I have no idea what any of you are going on about. I live in a small town, and the streets are crawling with kids walking, riding bikes, and riding skateboards. Any place with enough space gets a horribly unsteady ramp where kids do bike stunts and jumps. I confess I don’t see this wave of inactivity.

  87. I know this has been explained to you in the past, but I will repeat it for your benefit.

    As a free individual, I may do anything I want so long I do not directly interfere with another free individual who is exercizing his/her right to do whatever he/she wants to do.

    The only acceptable restrictions on my freedom are those that prevent me from directly harming another person.

    That’s it.

    I understand that’s the philosophy, and it does show why libertarianism has a kind of utopian appeal to it. I think most of us figure out pretty quickly that it doesn’t work in the real world. Otherwise, there would simply be no such thing as government, would there? We’d all just do our own thing and not harm others.

  88. I’d just like to join the rest of the people who’ve come out of the woodwork with this post – I’m a mother and a libertarian. And I think that the government has no business telling me what I should feed my child. I feed her healthy foods, but it’s really fun to think of how much more healthy food I could afford if I had back those tax dollars that are currently going towards worthless government programs like this.

  89. I understand that’s the philosophy, and it does show why libertarianism has a kind of utopian appeal to it. I think most of us figure out pretty quickly that it doesn’t work in the real world. Otherwise, there would simply be no such thing as government, would there? We’d all just do our own thing and not harm others.

    You are conflating libertarians and anarchists again.

  90. Ironic then that the U.S. federal government continues to fund school lunch programs, and that most of the food they provide is unhealthy and often unpalatable as well. I’m no libertarian, but this seems like a monstrous boondoggle which should be cancelled.

  91. My experience is that 90% of parents can’t outwit a 4 year old. – no, I’m not talking about giving in to whining (although apparently most adults can’t say no to children), I mean they’re simply not as smart. Not to mention that if the parents don’t care about what the children eat, gubermint programs won’t do no good. Plus, you can have my sugar smacks when you pry them out of my cold, dead, sweet, sticky fingers.

  92. Ironic then that the U.S. federal government continues to fund school lunch programs, and that most of the food they provide is unhealthy and often unpalatable as well. I’m no libertarian, but this seems like a monstrous boondoggle which should be cancelled.

    Of all the sucky federal intrusions into education, I think the hot lunch program sucks the least. I don’t know that the food served is unhealthy, but if it is then that should be fixed and even if it isn’t fixed, getting even somewhat unhealthy food to comparatively poor kids isn’t such a bad thing.

    Now, I’d get rid of Head Start in a heartbeat because there is no evidence it has sufficient positive long term effects, but out of the thousands of ways the federal government wastes my money, giving a kid at school who might otherwise go unfed a hot breakfast or lunch or both doesn’t bother me in the least.

  93. You are conflating libertarians and anarchists again.

    Maybe a little, but what I’m really pointing out is that the libertarian model, which by your own definition allows people to indirectly harm others, requires a sort of suspension of human nature to work. People would have to voluntarily agree to not take advantage of one another.

  94. Maybe a little,

    Maybe all the time.

    but what I’m really pointing out is that the libertarian model, which by your own definition allows people to indirectly harm others,

    There is no such thing as indirect harm. If I didn’t harm you, then I didn’t harm you. You cannot claim, that if I didn’t help you, then I harmed you indirectly.

    requires a sort of suspension of human nature to work.

    People cooperate all the time without government coercion.

    People would have to voluntarily agree to not take advantage of one another.

    Duh!

    The foundation of the US justice system is that most people voluntarily agree not to take advantage of each other. The purpose of government is to track down and punish those do take advantage of someone, after they have taken advantage of that person.

    Prior restraint is a no-no.

  95. For Dan:

    The Americans, however, insisted that in the nature of things all rights inhere in the individual, by virtue of his existence, and that he instituted government for the sole purpose of preventing one citizen from violating the rights of another. Sovereign power, they said, resides in the individual; the government is only an agency of his will. If it fails to carry out its duties properly, or if it itself presumes to invade his rights, then the moral thing to do is to kick it out.

    read the whole thing here.

  96. Thanks for the link AnonCowHerd:

    These were my two favorite paragraphs in the article.

    But, government is not an abstraction; it consists of people, and the inclination of all people is to improve upon their circumstances with whatever skills or capacities they possess and by whatever opportunities they meet up with. The power placed in the hands of this agency – to enforce the observance of an equality of rights – is in itself a temptation from which only the saintly are delivered.

    The Founding Fathers were therefore confronted with a difficult contradiction: men being what they are, a government is necessary; and government being what it is, men must be safeguarded against it. Their recipe was the Constitution. Whether or not the ensuing government would materialize the metaphysics of the Declaration, the Constitution was, at any rate, a definite pattern; and when it was ratified and put into operation, it became the end-product of the Revolution.

  97. There is no such thing as indirect harm. If I didn’t harm you, then I didn’t harm you. You cannot claim, that if I didn’t help you, then I harmed you indirectly.

    Of course you can harm someone indirectly. It’s usually just not intentional. Consider pollution, for example.

  98. Of course you can harm someone indirectly. It’s usually just not intentional. Consider pollution, for example.

    I was waiting for this one.

    Dumping toxic chemicals on the ground that leach into the ground water is a DIRECT harm regardless of the fact that it was not targeted at any specific individual or group of individuals.

  99. I was waiting for this one.

    Dumping toxic chemicals on the ground that leach into the ground water is a DIRECT harm regardless of the fact that it was not targeted at any specific individual or group of individuals.

    Well, I suppose it is if you’re going to use the term “direct” in such a manner. I guess we could also say that the people who produced the chemicals also directly harmed someone for that matter.

    Take the logic far enough and I could have you arrested for driving a car, since the CO2 it produces directly has harmed me by contributing to global warming.

  100. Well, I suppose it is if you’re going to use the term “direct” in such a manner. I guess we could also say that the people who produced the chemicals also directly harmed someone for that matter.

    There’s that overreach again.

    Things that occur on my property are my business so long as it stays on my property.

    Dumping chemicals on the ground which makes my neighbor’s house unlivable is a direct harm.

    Smoking dope, watching porn, and engaging in anal sex may violate my neighbor’s christian sensibilities, but there is no direct harm regardless of how much mental anguish he suffers when he thinks about all the things that I do.

    Take the logic far enough and I could have you arrested for driving a car, since the CO2 it produces directly has harmed me by contributing to global warming.

    You’ve reached clean off the chart on this one.

  101. Cities and older “inner ring” suburbs, are more amendable for hanging around outside than post-war suburbs.

    I hear what you are saying. As a former soccer coach I can attest to the fact that there were very few spaces where kids could play and those spaces were reserved for organized play. There were really few if any places where kids could engage in some spontaneous activity. Trying to find a place to play as an adult was similarly frustrating.

  102. mk . . other thread dude

  103. my fault . . I forgot where we actually started before Dan distracted me 😉

  104. Y’know, this thread would have probably been an interesting read if y’all would have stopped responding to the chum T-Nad tosses in the water.

  105. One of the key failures in these government “nutrition education” programs is the lack of behavior change. What exactly is the action plan for these kids to follow? Because of all the external factors (the marketing, the peer influence, economic and political climate etc.) it is so important for the parents to take responsibility and I just wonder how we can move the needle on that one. I think parents don’t even know enough nutrition basics and they are passing it on to their kids. Most Americans don’t know what a calorie is, let alone how much they should have. They couldn’t even begin to know how much added sugars they are consuming because it is not on the food label and there is no % daily value (the answer is 32g – less than one 12 oz soda) I once had a person ask me “what is the difference between salt and fat” in a nutrition presentation I gave in the community.

    I wrote a speech related to this topic in my grad school class and posted it on my blog. It’s about how to survive a grocery store trip with your kids.

    http://rebeccascritchfield.wordpress.com/2007/07/04/inside-aisle-nightmare-surviving-a-trip-to-the-grocery-store-with-your-kids/

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