Walter E. Williams

During winter months, I work out 10 minutes on the treadmill and lift weights at seven stations four mornings a week. Over the years, during the spring through fall months, I racked up about 2,000 miles on my road bike. This level of exercise helps account for why, at 73 years, I'm in such good health and physical fitness. So my question to you is whether you think regular exercise is a good idea. I think the answer is definitely yes, if nothing other than its beneficial effects on health care costs. Since exercise is a good idea, would you support a congressional mandate that all Americans engage in regular exercise?

Instead of simply saying, "Williams, you're a lunatic!" and rejecting such a congressional mandate out of hand, let's ask why it should be rejected. We should keep in mind that there's precedent for congressionally mandated measures to protect our health and safety. Seatbelt and helmet laws are examples. If you're in an accident and wind up a vegetable, you will be a burden on taxpayers; therefore, it's argued, Congress has a right to mandate seatbelt and helmet usage. Wouldn't the same reasoning apply to people who might burden our health care system because of obesity or sedentary lifestyles? If it is a good idea for Congress to force us to buckle up and wear a helmet on a motorcycle, isn't it also a good idea to force us to regularly exercise?

There is only one question to ask were there to be a debate whether Congress should mandate regular exercise. Whether regular exercise is a good idea or a bad idea is entirely irrelevant. The only relevant question is: Is it permissible under the Constitution? That means we must examine the Constitution to see whether it authorizes Congress to mandate exercise. From my reading, the Constitution grants no such authority.


Walter E. Williams

Dr. Williams serves on the faculty of George Mason University as John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics and is the author of 'Race and Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed on Discrimination?' and 'Up from the Projects: An Autobiography.'
 
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