In Defence of Liberty

Driven by data; ridden with liberty.

Choice and Campaigns

Catherine Bennett has written an article for The Observer, which concluded:

When Farage argues for zero interference by the nanny state, this inevitably makes him an unhealth campaigner – for lung cancer, for obesity and for an epidemic of diabetes, not forgetting his party’s enthusiasm for higher speed limits, thereby adding thousands more to Ukip’s morbidity targets. Why Farage should be 100% in love with easeful death is anyone’s guess, but, for pure, cautionary value, he could still be the best thing to happen to the nanny state since the foundation of the NHS.

Once again, strong claims require strong justification. (Photo: XKCD)

Once again, strong claims require strong justification. (Photo: XKCD)

The article is ostensibly about UKIP leader Nigel Farage, but also launches an attack on the laissez-faire government position on public health. Despite Ms Bennett’s penchant for Newspeak, ‘unhealth’ is not a word. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, a “campaigner” is “a person who takes part in organised activities that are intended to change something in society”.  Libertarian attitudes on public health are not to drive against healthiness, but to be in favour of people being free to make their own choices over their health.

A Broad Definition of Healthiness

As Christopher Snowdon notes, health once meant the lack of disease. The World Health Organisation today believes that health is “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. Public health campaigns were limited to “vaccinations, sanitation and education”, but now desire to make all of the public healthy, agreeing to this broad definition. Since health is a subject that infects every aspect of our lives – from how much sleep we get, what we eat, to how much we exercise – such legislative focuses are often a creed for limitless government. The British Medical Association, which is habitually seen as the national voice of doctors, has regularly crusaded for bans: including on boxing and fighting competitions, using vaporisers in public places, as well as sunbeds for anyone under the age of 18. Medical journals launch statutory proposals, such as a fizzy drink tax and the price-regulation of tobacco. This is an unending toil, since the public is not ‘healthy’ due to every person who rejects orderly exercise or who succumbs to eating choux buns and gorging on chocolate.

It is outrageous to say that to oppose these intrusions is to be “100% in love with easeful death”. Other freedoms are not afforded such ludicrous arguments. A person can favour freedom of the press, without “inevitably” campaigning for shoddy articles to be published in The Observer, or being “100% in love” with unpleasant screeds.

Fundamentally, the libertarian stance on public health is that it should be a matter for the public, in their personal capacities. Whilst cultivating our own well-being – as well as supporting similar improvements in friends, family and colleagues – is usually desirable, it must not be forced. The goal of enhancing health is indisputable: it is the means by which this is achieved that matters. Through bans and regulation, removing these choices infantilises the populace, making what should be our decisions for us.

Cats are a good reward. (Photo: LOLDAMN)

Cats are a good reward. (Photo: LOLDAMN)

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This entry was posted on December 11, 2013 by in National Politics and tagged , .
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