Self-regulation can work, if you want it to

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I thought I’d discuss self-regulation in a different context than in my last post, which was titled, “‘Self-regulation?’ That’s like ‘no regulation,’ right?” Then I was referring to Big Food, which argues that it can police itself and therefore deserves no interference from public-health meddlers.

This time, I thought I’d talk about self-regulation in terms of self. After all, I depend on self-regulation for almost every facet of my health, and it does work. It’s what Big Food’s dishonest flacks refer to as “personal responsibility.”

They pound on the platform of p.r. as the only remedy necessary — and certainly, vastly more preferable to *their* responsibility — in a nation where 2 out of 3 adults, and 1 our of 3 children, are obese or overweight.

I agree with them on the principle of taking responsibility for one’s own actions, to every extent possible. And so, I also agree that in this context, self-regulation is fat more than “no regulation.”

The obvious flaw is that as an individual, I am motivated to do what is best for me, and after a few decades of grossly misunderstanding what “best for me” meant, I’ve been doing that, if not perfectly, then a lot better than I had been.

But a corporation is also motivated to do what is best for it, too, and in our culture, a corporation’s “best” is typically defined by short-term profits, and practically never by public interest. Repeatedly, since commerce began, corporations have poured poisons into the air, the water, the ground, until representatives of the common weal — most often government or courts — made them want to stop by imposing fines or damages. And imagine how much more foul the natural world would look like had those external curbs not been instituted.

Big Food, meanwhile, is still pouring crap into our bodies, by all persuasive means available. I see no reason why it will ever stop, unless we make them want to. They’re not going to get there by themselves.