I am going to give a hard time to someone I like immensely, but sometimes, it must be done – more on which later. In this case, it is blogger Harry Hatchet, who has posted an online poll on banning “junk” food advertisements, along with his argument for why the state should step in so that he does not have to say no to his child when she asks for “bad” food from McDonald’s.
I will quote Dr Sean Gabb on the “obesity epidemic” (which might more accurately be described as a “sedentarism epidemic”):
Whenever the government does something for us, it takes away from our own ability to do that for ourselves. This diminishes us as human beings. Better, I suggest, a people who often eat and drink too much, and who on average die a few years before they might, than a people deprived of autonomy and shepherded into a few extra years of intellectual and moral passivity.
Lest you think that I am preaching to the converted here, I mention this to make a larger point: These ideas are nothing new to those who believe in the concepts of personal liberty and the free market and who reject the slave-to-the-state mentality that’s all too prevalent in western society. But it is worth remembering that not everyone accepts these truths to be self-evident. And, unless you only surround yourself with those who agree with you on every single issue, sometimes (just sometimes!) the people who reject such truths will not be total idiots who are not worth engaging in discussion. Sometimes they are, like Mr Hatchet, intelligent people with whom you are friendly and with whom it is often possible to find common ground.
In cases like this, when we are dealing with fantasy “epidemics” spun by the government and irresponsible media outlets, I think it is worth making the effort to find that common ground, even if it is only an inch. Labour MP Tom Watson once told me that reading blogs had led him to change his mind on ID cards; he was once in favour of them, but blogs like this one gave him a fresh perspective on what he previously thought to be an open-and-shut case, and his opinion changed. I did not need to hear this to know that persuasive writing – in this case, in the context of a blog – can actually persuade. But in order for people to be won over, some of us have to be bothered to fight the fight in the first place.
And in case anyone’s thinking that there is nothing that lefties like Harry Hatchet could ever change our minds about, I confess: I used to think that the output of British rapper Mike Skinner, aka The Streets, was not that bad, but thanks to Harry’s quoting of some choice lyrics, I now know otherwise.