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Self Image and Economic Propaganda

Some people will go to great lengths to justify their lifestyle. An example is Michael S. Rosenwald who writes for the Washington Post. In his recent article "Why America Has to Be Fat" he writes:

"Being fat makes me a lot of things -- a top contender for type II diabetes, for instance, or a heart attack, or stroke, maybe even a replacement knee or hip...But in many ways, my being fat also makes me pretty good for the economy. ... An efficient economy produces sluggish, inefficient bodies."

I find it a bit odd that he is claiming both that his being fat is both good for the economy and at the same time is produced by the economy. A virtuous circle if ever there was one. This clever piece of rationalization relies on some "science" from Tomas J. Philipson who studies obesity at Univ. of Chicago and who states:

"The obesity problem is really a side effect of things that are good for the economy. But we would rather take improvements in technology and agriculture than go back to the way we lived in the 1950s when everyone was thin. Nobody wants to sweat at work for 10 hours a day and be poor. Yes, you're obese, but you have a life that is much more comfortable."

To begin with, the correspondence between being poor and thin bears some investigation. In fact it contradicts evidence which shows that poorer people in the US are not necessarily thinner, and this is due to their diets which are heavy with fats and carbohydrates. Indeed "fat" food is cheap food and a strong economy and wealthy citizens allow the choice of healthier (and sometimes more expensive) foods rather than the reverse.

It seems odd to me that what might be reasonably considered a drain on the economy (currently $124.7 billion for medical treatments related to obesity) is being extolled as a virtue. In a world where writers like this have no notion of cause and effect and are incapable of what seem to me to be the basics of logical thinking I despair about the future. One wonders if the next article will be one extolling the glorious economic value of cancer to our medical industries.



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