Wednesday 12 August 2009

The New Paternalism

More on healthism as the new paternalism.
The latter-day addition of food highlights the point that for most of Australian history, wowserism had been firmly buttressed by Christian morality-the demon drink, smoking, and gambling may have had health or financial consequences, but for the most part the real damage they caused was moral. Now, even when some of the key participants in the debate are religious leaders, their calls for restrictions or bans tend to use humanist, rather than religious, arguments.

Alcohol, like the new sin of eating unhealthy food, is now classed less as a public morals issue than as a ‘public health' issue, on the same par as epidemic management and public sanitation. Public health advocates believe that the government must not only override people's individual decisions about their health, but that non-contagious, unique health problems are best treated by banning entire populations from certain activities.

The bizarre consequences of this approach was recently highlighted by the chief executive of VicHealth, Todd Harper's comment that the defeat of the alcopops tax was ‘a low point for health' and his argument that for the future ‘kicking politics out of health is perhaps the best health promotion of all'.

So according to Harper, the state intervening to deliver health outcomes is ‘not political', but the state leaving individuals to make their own choices is ‘political'. This sort of whacky logic would be laughable if it were not for the success these state-funded apparatchiks are having in achieving ever greater power over the rights of citizens to make individual choices.

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