Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Fat freedom 

In a world where both a president and a past (and future?) presidential candidate bemoan obesity, one person at least has a grip on its significance:
The current obesity �crisis� represents a significant triumph for private enterprise and freedom. For the first time in human history, people in most of the world are more worried about the risks of gaining weight than about the risks of starving. But this triumph is being discussed as a crisis which demands government to take action, and that action invariably involves more government restrictions over private enterprise and our freedoms. Unfortunately, the obesity �crisis� is but one of many examples of the successes of our economic system�a system based primarily on private property and voluntary exchange�being treated as failures. Such �failures� are then used to justify government actions that reduce both our prosperity and our freedom.
That's Dwight Lee in the upcoming issue of Intercollegiate Review, which is available for a sneak peak. (If, by the way, you're itching to read some good economic principles and have not read Lee before, this search should bring up all the "Economic Notions" columns Dwight did for The Freeman about 7-10 years ago. (They ran for about four years.) Students in my lower-division classes frequently get one of these two-pagers; FEE should make a book of them.)

Lee is of course right: Julian Simon observed that Malthusian starvation is no longer a fact of this planet. It's worth noting that less than a year ago some Nobel prizewinners were whinging about high food prices and possibility of starvation again; most recent long-term and short-term estimates are for lower prices.

Ob: Medicare and obesity, see this from William Niskanen, and on whether they are actually a crisis, well, it looks like the numbers don't support this.