Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Tibor Machan--Column on Obesity Study

The Coming Assault on Food Firms!
Freedom News Wire

Tibor R. Machan

Reuters reported on its Web Site on December 7th
( that a study from
the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University states that
"With current trends of increasing overweight and obesity afflicting all
age groups, urgent preventive measures are required not only to lessen the
burden of disease and disability associated with excess weight but also to
contain future health care costs incurred by the aging population."
According to the report, recent Â?annual average Medicare charges for
severely obese men were $6,192 more than for non-overweight menÂ?84 percent
higher.Â? Routers reported that Â?For severely obese women, annual average
charges were $5,618 more, or 88 percent higher than for women not
overweightÂ? and that Â?For men the total average annual Medicare charges
for those not overweight were $7,205, for the overweight $8,390, for the
obese $10,128 and for the severely obese $13,674.Â?

Now this report is important for a variety of reasons. For one, the
data do bode ill for the obese among usÂ?we are not only likely to die
sooner than the fit but if we live on, we will be doing so badly and itÂ?ll
cost a lot to treat us. Another important and alarming aspect of the
report is that it treats obesity as if it were some kind of act of nature,
something with which one is afflicted, like a viral disease, not as a
self-inflicted condition for which those who are suffering from it are
responsible. Once again, people are denied their fundamental human
capacity to make choices in life and instead seen a zombies or non-human
animals doing what they are forced to do by factors outside their own
What other health related issue recently came to light in this fashion
and what were the results? Remember tobacco and the humongous sums with
which tobacco firms were fined? They, too, rested on the contention that
tobacco smoking caused not only serious health problems for smokers but
also major economic burdens for the Â?heath care system.Â?
In light of all the government propaganda about what ails America and the
worldÂ?the global warming scam being just one of themÂ?I must say I donÂ?t
trust the latest study as far as I can through an obese person! This is
because of the way the study conclusions are worded, namely, omitting very
assiduously any mention that obese folksÂ?of whom I am a member, judging by
my scores (I should lose quite a bunch of weight)Â?are responsible for
getting that way. But since costs need to be borne by some, who do you
think is the next best candidate for bearing them?

Yes, it will be various major corporations that are in the business
of selling the goods and services that can make customers fat. McDonald
comes to mind, as do the rest of the fast food firms, as well as all those
that produce beef, pork, and the rest of fatty foods.
A countryÂ?s financial burdens arise from mismanagementÂ?government is
subject to the dynamics of always spending more than it has on hand to
cover its expenses. This is one of the symptoms of the tragedy of the
commons, in this case of the treasure which everyone wants to use via the
political process. It is also predicted by public choice theory. So the
result is literal bankruptcy.

Taxation, that vicious extortionist scheme, is being widely resisted
by citizens these days, so the new tactic is to go after the big bad
corporations that Ralph Nader uses on each presidential run lately for his
demagogic purposes.

The study at the Feinberg School is, I am willing to bet, the most
recent move in the direction of suing all those American companies the
products and service of which can be used to get obese.

One public policy disaster begets another and anotherÂ?but
governments never go out of business because of their mismanagement and
the malpractice of their administrators. Instead, they dump the results of
these on us all, even if we had nothing to do with the matter. My obesity
ought to be my problem, not that of my neighbors. But that ideal of
individual responsibility is now nearly dead among public policy
expertsÂ?there isnÂ?t any money in it for them.

Tibor Machan holds the R.C. Hoiles Chair in business ethics and free
enterprise at Chapman University in Orange, Calif., and is author of
"Putting Humans First" (Rowman & Littlefield). He advises Freedom
Communications, parent company of this newspaper. E-mail him at

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