Dr Robert Lustig, an American paediatric endocrinologist, believes that the epidemic started when President Nixon, acting on the best medical advice at the time, exhorted the food industry to reduce the amount of fat in its products. The industry complied, but, unfortunately, prepared foods denuded of fat are unappetising, so it replaced fat with fructose, the principal dietary cause – according to Dr Lustig – of obesity.
This is another example of the dangers of technocracy. Expert opinion one day is sheer lunacy the day after. Yet it is the tendency of the modern world to defer increasingly to credentialed geniuses who fail to grasp the law of unintended consequences. People are too stupid to eat right? Fine. We'll just manipulate the food market so that less fat gets into people's diet. But people eat fatty food because it tastes good, not because it's fatty. So businesses, wanting to stay in business, switched to fructose. An understanding of human nature - most people have very poor impulse control - would lead one to believe that the problem is the people, not the food.
Paternalism insists that you can manipulate people to follow their own best interests. Except it is the paternalist who defines what is in the best interests of their wards. Those interests, by the strangest coincidence, almost always entail behaviour which corresponds with the world view and interests of the paternalist. This is the oldest of conceits: The world would be perfect if everyone were like me.
The destruction of the working class family, including the black and Hispanic family in America, was the product of decades of government policies. Fashionable ideology dictated that it was wrong to tell people, despite millennia of contrary evidence, that fatherless homes breed social dysfunction. That idleness was morally equivalent to industrious. That being spendthrift was no different from being thrifty. The highest ideal was to do your own thing, while being bailed out by the taxpayers.
It was upper class moral relativism that was imposed on the lower class through the welfare state. The result, as the good doctor has shown through out his works, is an obese, violent and disintegrated lower class. While the problem is worse in Britain, there are similarities. The former working class is largely unemployable, requiring large scale immigration simply to prevent the lower end of the labour market from collapsing. Their main social function, so far as they are still mobile, are as voting banks for left-wing political parties. They are the children of the indulgent paternalists. Ironically many of these paternalist are, in their personal affairs, rather traditional.
Economically viable skill sets, prudent marriage and engaged child rearing are OK for the elite. But should a right leaning politician suggest that these values might be imparted, though not imposed, on the lower class and he is immediately branded as a religious busybody. The paternalistic elite projects their vision of a consequence free world onto those least capable of resisting their designs. Yet this elite is self-interested enough to practice what works in their own family life, not what they wished would work.
There is a stark difference between the vision of the anointed, to borrow Thomas Sowell's phrase, and the reality on the ground. A world freed of consequences and ethical restraints was suppose to be liberating. Instead it has confined millions of the poorest to an existence more miserable that Dickens could have imagined.