Sunday, January 29, 2012

Make fatties the new smokers?

In her Herald column today Deborah Coddington slams the growing tendency for various parties to blame obesity on the food industry. I don't disagree with her. But there is a paragraph that has an implication I don't like:

Every day, in every town and city, we all see fat people waddling along, heaving themselves into planes and cars, but are we allowed to comment on this, the way we were encouraged to shame smokers into quitting (who also cost taxpayers dearly in terms of the public health bill)?
Putting aside that smokers pay for their health needs via taxes on tobacco, and fat people who getting themselves around in planes and cars are also paying taxes, and that smokers and fatties will pop their clogs early and not draw on the largest publicly-funded transfer - Super - do we really want to see fat people 'shamed'?

Why? Does it make us feel better when we can point out someone else's very overt weakness while conveniently ignoring our own hidden ones? Is it a collective bullying impulse that needs to be satisfied at a more 'civil' level?

The thought of shaming fat people depresses the hell out of me. And I'm not fat. So how the prospect appeals to a fat person, lord only knows.  But is hardly surprising there is so much psychological ill-health associated with obesity (which by the way manifests in the taxpayer picking up a benefit tab).

There are only two healthy ways to approach the problem of overweight people. Leave them alone. They are allowed their choices too. They own their own bodies after all. And from a government point of view they probably appear in the nett contributor ledger over their lifetimes.

Or overhaul the way people fund their lifetime needs. Institute individualised savings accounts so that incurred health costs are borne by the person that caused them.

Then all the thin people can stop feeling aggrieved and resentful. Quite why they are I am still not sure. It isn't the fat people who go around saying it isn't their fault they are fat. It is the people who make their livings off studying them.

Deborah has identified the right target for our scorn.


Anonymous said...

It is unclear what DC intended with the 'allowed to comment' and 'encouraged to shame' angle. In context it does seem to play to brown-shirt tendencies in our society to control other people's behaviour and appearance on the street with aggression, and the kind of crowd mentality behind the south park inspired 'gingger' harassment.

Mark Hubbard said...

I just think it's 'another' argument for moving to privatised health: socialising the cost of obesity is simply growing it, for the same reason socialising cost always encourages the behaviour it attempts to cure: because it takes away individual responsibility.

And I say this as someone bordering on being a fatty, because, ironically, I gave up smoking. Nine stone when I smoked, to fifteen stone after stopping (but six foot two, so I just look a little more squashed than I used to, and almost get away with it :) - and getting control of it now).

Blair said...

There is no need to shame fat people - there are mirrors everywhere which do the job perfectly adequately.

I'd love to see what market healthcare would do to obesity rates, especially here in Texas, where literally the majority of people I see every day are overweight. If people had to pay higher premiums for their weight, you might see people slimming down.

Manolo said...

Long live Charles Darwin! :-)

Deborah Coddington said...

No I most definitely didn't mean we should go around shaming fat people. But the hypocrisy is rampant. We're supposed to 'pity' fat people because they can't help it (according to these academics) but if someone lights up a smoke, we kick them out of the pub (and Auckland soon) - and sneer at them. Of course it's bloody hard to lose weight, just as it's bloody hard to stop smoking, or drinking too much, but human beings possess the power of reason, that's what distinguishes them from animals. When my horses over-eat, I have to lock them in a pen to stop them. These researchers are claiming fat people have lost the power of choice and self-discipline and I find that appalling. Can we accept that? I don't think so.

baxter said...

But aren't fatties in many cases actually former smokers who have been shamed into giving up and have then traded one dependency (smoking) for another dependency (eating)

Anonymous said...

If people had to pay higher premiums for their weight, you might see people slimming down.

of course, that's illegal under Osamacare

Anonymous said...

hese researchers are claiming fat people have lost the power of choice and self-discipline

sounds like a perfect description of NZ, Deborah -

and btw the "academics" at the CIS agree with that assessment

The trajectory of a country that is slowly slipping into the danger zone of high foreign debt combined with a big, indebted government in a sluggish economy is dangerous. As Europe’s PIGS have demonstrated, once markets realise that a country is on an unsustainable path, the loss of confidence can happen almost overnight.
For the PIGS, at least, there was a safety net provided, thanks to European guarantees underwritten mainly by German taxpayers. Should New Zealand’s troubles get worse, who will Kiwis turn to?

NZ. Land of bludgers on borrowed money.