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Why should I suffer for your obesity?

By Hobbes  |  May 7, 2008

The Chicago Tribune reports:

Advocates for the plus-sized, particularly activists in the "fat acceptance" movement, want obesity to become a category legally protected against discrimination, like religion, race, age and sex... One such law, to ban discrimination against weight and height, is pending in Massachusetts.

"Right now, fat is just a marker of bad character, an undesirable personal trait that people bring on themselves," said Kirkland, who prefers the word fat to the ambiguity of overweight and the clinical-sounding obese. "What you're doing is forcing the law to force social change."

As all concepts of personal responsibility and personal liberty recede ever further into the past, it's not surprising that the first place the offended turn is their lawyer, and the second to their legislator.

No doubt we've all seen, and shied away from, an unpleasant-looking, morbidly obese person waddling down the aisle of the grocery.  Of course, some small percentage of these people do have medical problems which make their corpulence inevitable.  But none of them like the glances, stares, or turning away that they experience.  Numerous studies have demonstrated that the fat are less likely to be hired or promoted.

The trouble is, there is a never-ending list of things about which people "discriminate" that have nothing necessarily to do with the actual person's "content of their character."  The tall have long been recorded to be better-paid, on average.  Likewise the beautiful or handsome, for example, supermodels.  Pimply-faced youngsters are less likely to get prom dates than their more fortunate peers; the outgoing of personality are frequently more financially successful than the shy; and so on ad infinitum.  Are we now to attempt to make any sort of preferences illegal?

It's easy to laugh at this sort of stupidity, especially coming from the People's Republic of Taxachusetts.  But it wasn't that long ago that the thought of lawsuits against McDonald's for serving fatty food was ridiculed, yet now it has taken place, and many cities are attempting to ban fats of various kinds altogether.

What's more, obesity has costs, and not just the well-known medical costs of diabetes, renal failure, gout, and other ailments encountered by the Huttesque.

A quick Google will unearth countless tales of woe on the airways, where unfortunate passengers have been forced to defy the laws of physics when "seated" next to someone who occupies the entire row.  At least one airline, Southwest, has established a clear policy of forcing the flabby to pay for the entire space they occupy, which seems fair - if I have paid for my seat, I ought not be obliged to share it with you simply because you can't fit into yours.

What's more, recent studies reveal that obesity actually works like a communicable disease, even though it's not.  The Dallas Morning News reports:

The study showed that when a person becomes obese, the chances that a friend also will become obese increase by 57 percent.

A study in the New England Journal of Medicine surprised some physicians and social scientists last July with its findings: Your friends can make you fat.  The researchers discovered that obesity can spread through social networks of friends and family. This was the first time obesity was viewed in the context of social networks.

The study showed that when a person becomes obese, the chances that a friend also will become obese increase by 57 percent.

In other words, if you become friends with someone who is fat, it becomes a lot more likely that you yourself will bloat up.  With this evidence in hand, it's perfectly clear that those who discriminate against the obese are not showing an irrelevant bias, far from it: they are making an attempt to keep themselves thinner, by staying away from bad influences!

By making discrimination against the obese illegal, we will certainly not be helping them.  Insofar as societal pressure urges them to be thin, and given the abundantly-proven health problems that come with obesity, what's needed is more social pressure, not less.

By forcing others to associate with the fat who do not wish to, science shows that the result will be more fat people - some of whom do not wish to be fat and are attempting to help control themselves by controlling who they are with.  Would we force a recovering alcoholic to be "nondiscriminatory" towards hanging with the town drunk?  What business should that be of the government anyway?

This country was founded on freedom of association where people were presumed to be allowed to choose who their friends and associates should be based on whatever judgments seemed good to them.

For various reasons, some defensible, we have moved a long way from this ideal.  However, there must be a firm, bright line drawn between things which you have no control over (like your skin color or gender), and things which almost everyone has complete control over (your weight).

There is no reason that I should be forced to accommodate or subsidize your own bad choices, or vice versa.  There can be no freedom without each person taking responsibility for their own choices.

Which, no doubt, is why we find this law in Massachusetts: somebody must have offended their chunky senior Senator, none other than our good friend Ted Kennedy.  Or is it all just another ploy by the alternative-fuel wackos?

It's time to recognize that there are whole areas where the government needs to leave the people alone to make their own way as best they choose - or before we know it, there won't be any choices allowed.  Maybe that's the plan?