Henry Kissinger famously said about the Iran-Iraq war, “It’s a pity they can’t both lose.” I feel kind of the same way about this column by MSNBC’s Arthur Caplan, criticizing an AMA suggestion that fat kids be put into foster care.
The underlying suggestion is horrifying. The geniuses behind it are Lindsey Murtagh, a lawyer and researcher at Harvard’s School of Public Health, and David Ludwig, an “obesity specialist” at the Harvard-affiliated Children’s Hospital, two people who have obviously never had to deal with Child Protective Services in their lives.
Is it really necessary to detail what is wrong with taking children away from parents? To I really have to list all the ways this policy, if enacted, will inevitably go wrong? Honestly, I don’t think so. Anyone who has ever tried to get any government agency to do anything will instantly see that letting it steal children to raise as its own is a bad, bad idea.
So MSNBC gave University of Pennsylvania bio-ethicist Arthur Caplan the easy task of pointing out all the reasons Murtagh and Ludwig are wrong. He does a just-barely-adequate job (you should only take kids away when death is imminent, see, and obesity is a slow killer) before launching into his preferred solution: a huge government program that raises taxes on foods Caplan doesn’t like and that forces food companies to run advertisements blaming food companies and not fat people for fat people being fat.
In summary, since Caplan admits that putting kids in foster care is a bad idea, instead he wants to put the whole country in foster care.
Seriously, what is wrong with these people? They all have PhDs, so they can’t be total mouth-breathers, right? Is the contradiction between believing the average person is too stupid to figure out what to eat and believing he’s smart enough to figure out how to vote (and thereby select someone to tell him what to eat) really so obscure? Is it really so difficult to admit that some individual problems are individual’s problems and are out of the scope of the government’s authority and responsibility?
Bonus innumeracy: Caplan says there are “an estimated 2 million children with body-mass index above the 99th percentile” in the US. By definition, that would mean there are 200 million children total (out of a population of only 300 million). No, there about 80 million children and, necessarily, only 800,000 of them are in the top 99th percentile. Heck, half of them are below average weight!