The Economist's Apprentice

In which a little girl confronts the world and battles the anti-humans.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Fat Cats

Paul Krugman thinks that the government should do something about obesity. He draws a comparison to how much good the government has done by reducing smoking. Given that a hunger for fat and sugar is part of people's physiological makeup, it is likely that any strong attempt to reduce excessive eating would amount to a human rights abuse. For people with particularly strong hunger, being overweight is completely rational. There is a tradeoff between quality of life and longevity.

However, people have self-control problems, which raises the question "how much would people weigh, if they could commit to a certain lifestyle in advance?" If tomorrow the typical American was being shipwrecked on an island, would he want the boat full of broccoli or potato chips? It is difficult to know if there is too much obesity in America, because introspection doesn't give much guidance for what would be best for other people.

I think the way people treat their cats shed light on this. People love their cats. They have almost complete control over what their cats eat. If they think that it is best for the cat to go hungry between meals to live longer lives, they can easily impose this regime. My guess is that people make the decisions for their cats that they would make for themselves if they didn't have any self-control problems. Given the number of fat cats I've seen, the government shouldn't leave it up to Paul Krugman to decide how much people should weigh.


At 3:29 PM, Blogger C R Mountjoy - GDF said...

Did you hear about this new study that siad calorie restriction leads to longer life? Who cares. Pass the Twinkeys - I'm starved! Great Post!


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