Should Obesity be a Government-Protected Disability?

Dan Mitchell from the Cato Institute shows yet another example of over-reaching government intervention.  According to a BBC report, European leaders are debating the merits of classifying obesity as a protected disability.

“The EU’s top court is considering a test case which could oblige employers to treat obesity as a disability.  Denmark has asked the European Court of Justice to rule on the case of a male childminder who says he was sacked for being too fat….The court’s final ruling will be binding across the EU….Audrey Williams, an employment discrimination expert at Eversheds law firm, said the judges would have to decide ‘whether obesity itself should trigger preferential rights, or should only impact where an individual, due to obesity, has other recognised medical issues’.  If the judges decide it is a disability then employers could face new obligations, she told the BBC.  Employers might in future have a duty to create reserved car parking spaces for obese staff, or adjust the office furniture for them, she said.

The issue at hand here is choice. Do I have the choice to eat anything I want and as much as I want?  Sure, but does my choice place an obligation on employers to treat me as a part of a “preferential” class?  Absolutely not!  If the EU rules in favor of this approach to obesity, many employers will incur greater costs.  This is yet another step away from freedom toward the bureaucratization of our generation.

The obesity issue is not confined to Europe.  Rates in the U.S. have never been higher than they are today.  According to a nice graphic published by the Wall Street Journal, Americans are leading the way with 1 out of 3 classified as obese.  Consequently, Americans are familiar with politicians legislating lifestyle choices.  President Obama campaigned his health care reform partly on rising obesity rates contributing to higher health costs.  New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s attempted ban on giant size sodas is another example.  

What should one take from this?  According to those in Washington and some municipal governments, rising obesity rates justify the use of prescriptive behavioral controls.  Broken down a bit further, lifestyle choices made by free individuals, if deemed undesirable by some, justify the use of force.  Once our government classifies a condition as a “disability,” it will likely grant itself de facto powers to legislate.

 

 

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