The Golden McMean
by Ari Armstrong
The following article originally appeared at Boulder Weekly on July 8, 2004.
Yes, I could finish off the bag of KitKat Bites sitting in front of me. The thought crossed my mind. I'm working. I ate a salad for lunch. Insert the rationalization of your choice here. But instead I choose to fold it up and save the rest for later.
It's called will power. It's called moderation. Aristotle called it the golden mean.
Recently I viewed Super Size Me with my wife and several friends. It was a great film, both funny and educational. But it was basically a dangerous stunt. The movie has been compared to Jackass, and not without cause.
At least Morgan Spurlock brought a message to the country through his madness: Many Americans eat too much junk -- way too much -- and they exercise too little. Spurlock takes this to the extreme by eating nothing but McDonald's for a month, doubling his daily caloric intake and exercising as little as possible. The results aren't much of a surprise: He gets fat, and his health deteriorates.
Of course, in anticipation of the film, my friends and I met at McDonald's for dinner. My wife and I decided to see if we could eat a healthy meal there. Our results were mixed. We split a chicken salad with a third of the provided dressing, a milk, an orange juice, a bottled water, and a hot and spicy chicken sandwich. Okay, the juice wasn't fresh, the milk contained antibiotics and hormones and the salad contained bacon bits and hydrogenated fat. (I never really hoped the chicken sandwich would be healthy.) Oh, and then we ordered two sundaes.
But it is possible to eat every meal at McDonald's and remain reasonably healthy, especially with exercise, though the healthy menu choices are few. It is also possible to eat every meal from a "natural" food market and end up fatter than Spurlock after his Mac Attack. It all depends on what -- and how much -- you choose to put into your body, along with how physically active you are.
I genuinely enjoyed Spurlock's movie, mostly because in the end, despite his favorable discussion of some legislative mandates, he basically endorses personal responsibility. McDonald's doesn't make people fat; people make themselves fat. Spurlock's goal (besides to have fun and make money) is to persuade people to make better choices. That's refreshing.
And yet Spurlock is at times conflicted, and at times he plays to leftist biases. Business is inherently evil. Politicians (at least left-leaning ones) are our saviors. Liberalism, at least traditionally, is supposed to be about the potential of the individual to pursue goals in voluntary cooperation with others, free from authoritarian constraints. Modern leftist "liberalism," though, sees the individual as the plaything of moneyed interests, incapable of formulating a rational thought without the help of Big Nanny. Still, though Spurlock has been compared to Michael Moore, Spurlock is more of a "free-will liberal," while Moore is more of a "Nanny-State liberal."
As Spurlock ruins his health, his doctors note his liver begins to resemble that of an alcoholic. If Spurlock had gone on a month-long drinking binge, nobody would have cared about that movie. Similarly, if some hippie sits around smoking home-grown ganja all the time, no leftist sees that as indicative of some deep-rooted cultural problem. Leftists suffer confirmation bias. They believe corporations are inherently evil, so, surprise, surprise, they always find corporations doing evil things. They tend to dismiss the good things corporations do, along with the evil things leftist-approved politicians and other parties do.
There's one simple reason why McDonald's makes so much money: People voluntary walk into those restaurants every day and plop their hard-earned cash on the counter. When leftists condemn big business, they necessarily condemn the masses who choose to support those businesses. So leftists, who supposedly champion the common man, in fact loathe the masses. The cover myth is that people lack free will and must succumb to advertising propaganda. That myth allows the left to advocate authoritarian laws. It is the left's great rationalization.
By the way, why do Michael Moore's fans never think it peculiar that their star makes a boatload of money off his corporate-distributed works, even as he vilifies the "profit motive"?
Spurlock, along with Eric Schlosser in Fast Food Nation, points to the harms of subjecting kids to countless television advertisements and government-school dietary disasters. But it's no mystery why, when parents abandon their children to the idiot box and to government educrats, their children sometimes grow up dysfunctional. The only real solution is a culture of personal responsibility. The Nanny State only further entrenches irresponsibility.
My wife and I have already decided to improve our diet and exercise more. We've also decided to severely limit the amount of sugar, processed foods, television and government institutionalization to which our future children will be subjected. It didn't take some government nanny for us to tear down the Golden Arches and replace them with responsibility and the golden mean.