- The Washington Times - Friday, December 21, 2001

Don't send Surgeon General David Satcher Christmas cookies this year. Don't buy him cooking lessons either, although the evidence suggests that he desperately needs a hobby.
During the season in which Americans everywhere (except perhaps Montgomery County, Md.) celebrate by eating their waistlines to St. Nick-esque proportions, Dr. Satcher decided to drop a heavy lump of guilt into their stockings.
America's problem with obesity has been eating at the surgeon general so much that he recently released a hefty report on the subject, calling overweight Americans to action. Dr. Satcher estimates that turkey comas and other stuffing-related inaction (and action) kills approximately 300,000 Americans each year, roughly 100,000 fewer than are killed by tobacco.
Such comparisons are perhaps inevitable in a society that often expects heavy-handed regulation to compensate for scanty individual will power. While Dr. Satcher didn't actually propose a fat tax a heavy surcharge on high-caloric junk food others have. In an unintentionally hysterical op-ed in The Washington Post on the subject titled "Supersize Country," authors Shannon Brownlee and Patti Wolter blamed the problem on an environment engorged with wealth and fat. They complained, "We are surrounded by tasty, cheap high-fat food, while fruits and vegetables are comparatively more expensive and less readily available," which makes one wonder if they are living at the fast food-mall at Union Station.
Indeed, it would be a colossal mistake to blame America's gigantic problem with obesity on anything but wasted personal choices. Americans who order three double whoppers (and a Diet Coke) could have gone with a leafy salad instead. They simply choose not to, estimating that they will have enough greenbacks to pay for a happy meal today and an angioplasty tomorrow.
That's the vice, and the virtue, of the economic freedom that we enjoy, particularly around this time of year.
So should we slim down? Almost certainly. But restricting our exercise of capitalism or enlarging already bloated books of silly, inconsequential regulations is simply not the way to do so. Instead, we should enjoy our freedom to indulge, but resolve not to waste the next chance to slim down.

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