Editorial: British Supernanny

So much of the advancing Nanny State agenda depends upon force and coercion. That’s why it was no surprise last week to see critics disparage as timid and weak a British government plan to reduce childhood obesity.

American kids aren’t the only ones getting heavier. According to Public Health England, British kids are among the fattest in Western Europe —about 31 percent of children between 2 and 15 are considered overweight.

In response, British authorities this week announced a number of initiatives.

The government wants manufacturers in the next four years to reduce the amount of sugar by 20 percent in a wide range of foodstuffs, including yogurt and bread. In addition, British regulators have joined the sugar tax craze, imposing a levy on soda and other drinks despite studies showing it could cost the United Kingdom 4,000 jobs and is more likely to serve as a steady revenue source for the public sector rather than reduce obesity.

Finally, government officials are urging schools to ensure children get at least 30 minutes of exercise a day while on campus and another 30 minutes outside school.

But none of this goes far enough for the foot soldiers in the Nanny State army. Graham MacGregor a British doctor and anti-sugar warrior, called the government’s actions “an insulting response” to the problem, Reuters reported on Thursday. Other detractors “slammed the government for failing to restrict junk food advertising aimed at children,” The Associated Press reported.

“Too much of it is voluntary, suggestive,” whined celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, who has a killer Fettuccine Alfredo recipe. “Where are the actions on the irresponsible advertising targeted at our children, and the restrictions in junk food promotion?”

Heavy forbid anything should be “voluntary” when it comes to nudging individuals to partake in healthier fare. Instead, the recipe must be heavy on bureaucratic restrictions, rules and mandates. And, of course, once health care has been socialized, it becomes that much easier for the state to limit individual choice and behavior on the grounds of financial necessity.

Why don’t they just force the little tykes to don Hannibal Lecter face masks whenever they finish their state-mandated daily diet of quinoa and wheatgrass?

In fact, Britain’s efforts to push schools to beef up physical education has far greater potential to yield the desired results than most autocratic alternatives. The best way to ensure kids don’t become too hefty — whether they live in Britain or the United States — is for their parents to get them off the couch, away from their electronic devices and into the great outdoors.

Let them run free.

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