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Paternalistic or Educational?
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Japan has launched an ambitious national weight loss program.

Japanese companies are required to measure the waists of all employees ages 40 to 74 annually. Anyone whose waist exceeds the government guidelines--33.5 inches for men, 35.4 inches for women--is deemed to be at risk for health issues such as diabetes. Full disclosure: my waistline just fits the guideline.

They will receive mandatory dieting guidance and, if necessary, re-education on proper food intake. Employers that fail to meet the targets set by the government face financial penalties, in the form of higher payments into the national insurance program.

Our country would certainly benefit from some such comprehensive aproach to health and diet. But when employees in my office requested an exercise machine to be installed (which they would pay for out of their own pockets if necessary) and used on their own time, they were told there was a legal liability problem and that was the end of that.

They offered to write and sign "hold harmless" statements. No go. They were told that their health and safety were their own issues, to be dealt with off-site, never mind the argument that a healthy employee is a more productive employee.

Yet as obesity, diebetes and coronary problems loom larger, and fast food and sugary snacks continue to be the national norm, hasn't poor diet become a national problem? Japanese see the western influence becoming a threat and are taking action in a proactive strategy.

We, rugged individualists that we are, with our resistance to authority, instinctively rebel whenever government intervenes for our own good. Do we just have a displaced parent problem? And labor under it, to the detriment of improved health, failing infrastructure and a myriad of other national problems?

Are we so afraid of the danger of becoming subservient to a paternalistic big-brother government that we cannot bear to have our "freedoms" restricted, so we continue to smoke, eat, drink, speed down the road of destruction? "Freedom ain't worth nothin' but it's free." No one can tell us what to do.

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