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Blameless

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I am finding much in the news today discouraging and even disparaging the idea of personal responsibility and self ownership. Here are but three examples:

First, if you have a fat kid, or if you are a fat kid, it is not your fault. The blame lies with television advertising that encourages unhealthy eating choices. A report issued yesterday by the government-chartered Institute of Medicine called for a greater emphasis on more healthful products in advertising on the part of food and beverage manufacturers and restaurants, adding that if they don't, Congress should intervene with advertising regulations (in addition to the current level of regulations already in place). 

Second, if you are suffering due to Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, and if you are also a member of a racial minority, it is not your fault. The blame lies with America's omnipresent racism. According to congressional testimony yesterday before the House Select Bipartisan Committee to Investigate the Preparation for and Response to Hurricane Katrina, victims of the hurricane in New Orleans are similar to Holocaust victims in Europe. Deaths in both circumstances resulted from abject neglect, noted New Orleans community activist Leah Hodges.

And third, if you feel guilty about not saving as much as your parents did, well, it's not your fault. The blame lies with the fact that saving is less fun today than it used to be. According to the reliably-sound economics blogger Jane Galt, saving was much easier back when life involved "one television, no stereo, no VCR, no cable, one (used) car, six rooms for four people, no eating out, no cell phones, no vacations other than visiting relatives, stretching meat out with egg and bread and noodle rings, jello as a salad...."

Question: In what ways have government programs encouraged childhood obesity, a lack of preparedness following national disasters, and a decline in savings rates? Feel free to discuss in the comments section. (Extra points given for answers involving moral hazard.)

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