April 11, 2013

Should The Government Force Longevity?

St. Louis Post-Dispatch Columnist Bill McClellan takes a hard line against an overprotective government in his piece, “Government should let us eat, drink, smoke and be merry.” Who knew that the Post-Dispatch would take such a stance?

He poses the problem that Social Security and Medicare costs continue to grow as we live longer. In 1935, life expectancy was 59.9 years old for a man and 63.9 for a woman. More than 75 years later, life expectancy has grown to 76.2 and 81.1 for men and women, respectively.

So what is McClellan’s tongue-in-cheek solution? The government should stop encouraging healthy behavior and just let everyone do what they want. If people want to smoke themselves to death, eat themselves to death, drink themselves to death . . . so be it. “If somebody wants to opt for enjoyment over longevity, the government ought to leave that person alone,” McClellan wrote.

While McClellan’s overall tone is a bit morbid, he has a point. What should the government’s role be in our lives regarding our personal health choices? My natural reaction is to want all the people in my life to make healthy choices. Heck, I am a personal trainer. I spend a few hours every week educating people about healthy choices. But I am no Michael Bloomberg — I respect people’s choices and do not believe in forcing behavior that I want. The government should not have the right to do this either.

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