Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Chewing the Fat

An interestig debate has broken out at Commentary's blog between Peter Wehner and J. E. Dyer over Sarah Palin's criticism of the national healthy-eating campaign.

Wehner takes Palin to task:

Michelle Obama has encouraged parents to make sure their children exercise and eat healthy and has emphasized more nutritious school lunches. Ms. Palin seems to view this as an attack by Leviathan against individual liberty and parental authority. "What [Mrs. Obama] is  telling us is she cannot trust parents to make decisions for their own children, for their own families in what we should eat," according to Palin. "Just leave us alone, get off our back and allow us as individuals to exercise our own God-given rights to make our own decisions." And at a visit to a Pennsylvania high school, she handed out cookies to students. The reason, she wrote on Twitter, was to "intro kids 2 beauty of laissez-faire" amid a "Nanny state run amok."

This is worse than silly; what Palin is doing is downright counterproductive.

For one thing, nearly one out of three children are overweight or obese. The annual cost of treating obesity and related preventable chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and orthopedic issues constitutes fully 16.5 percent of all U.S. spending on medical care ($168 billion).

Dyer begins by noting that Wehner has recently been arguing that conservatives must make a moral case for economic freedom.  Ultimately, he thinks that mocking the First Lady's efforts is probably not prudent, but the heart of the argument is here.  The moral case for economic liberty:

cannot stand alone. Economic conservatism is intrinsically linked to political liberty, a liberty meaning not just the right to speak freely on political matters and to vote, but the right to set limits on the central government's power and regulatory reach. This debate we have had, if possible, even less over the past two decades than the debate on the moral foundations of conservative economics. This very question is what motivated the American colonists to declare independence from the British king, but our public discourse today has fallen into a set of unexamined bromides on topics like the meaning of political liberty and the proper relation of man and the state.

In this vein, I took particular notice of the following passage from Peter Wehner's post today on Sarah Palin mocking the First Lady's anti-obesity campaign.

... the problem of childhood obesity is real. And there are entirely reasonable steps that can be taken to address it, including (to name just one) banning vending machines from schools. Does that constitute the "nanny state run amok"?

I understand the question is meant to be rhetorical. But there is actually a very large segment of the American population that would answer, "Of course." The central government's interesting itself in our obesity because that government has made the cost of our health care "its" problem - and proposing therefore to ban vending machines from schools putatively governed by local school boards and the states - can legitimately be considered at odds with the American idea of government as limited, constitutional, and federal. This arguably puts the proposition at odds, by extension, with the American idea of the citizen, the state, and natural rights. 

Categories > Conservatism

Discussions - 4 Comments

To Michelle Obama:

Those who live in glass houses should not throw rocks or at least not until your husband Barack who smokes and eats the most unhealthiest food available stops smoking and starts eating healthy food.


Dyer might also have noted that every trivial program adopted by the central government is another claim on the attention of elected officials. More distraction means less oversight.

Exactly. There are bigger fish to fry.

I'm not a fan of Palin's use of mocking contempt. I'm not a fan of that technique in general, and I think it serves Palin poorly. Criticism, yes; mocking contempt playing the role of thoughtful criticism, no.

I've been pondering the whole "Palin in 2012" scenario and I just can't see it. She has to know, I would hope, that like it or not she's a toxic commodity. But even poison has its useful roles.

It makes me wonder if her game is to play lightning rod while serious GOP candidates develop their messages.

It should surprise nobody that the MSM is planning to take an early bead on the GOP front-runner and launch an attack. But the MSM simply can't resist attacking Palin. She as lightning rod would be a useful function.

Lightning rod does not imply fall guy. Properly played, she can exit that function more powerful still.

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