Whenever you see a group of people persistently behaving in irrational behavior, Milton Friedman used to say, you can be pretty sure a government program is involved.
Which brings me to Americans' expanding waistlines. According to the Economist, one-third of Americans are obese while another one-third are overweight. We're so overweight that we're about to reverse one of the most remarkable achievements in human history, our extended lifespans, with the rising generation now projected to die younger than did their parents--entirely because of diabetes, heart disease, and other ailments related to obesity.
What's to blame? In very large part, conservatives will not be at all surprised to learn, the federal government:
To support farmers, the government used to pay them not to grow crops when there was an abundance and prices too low to earn a living. Then, in the 1970s, agricultural subsidies switched to encourage farmers to grow as much as they could. Meanwhile, the green revolution, along with technological improvements to farm equipment, made agribusiness more productive than ever. Inevitably, food prices plummeted.
Lower prices meant people started eating out more often. Portions increased in size as the proliferation of pizza parlours, quick-food joints and family restaurants vied for customers. “The number of calories available to the average American grew by about 1,000 a day,” Dr Chow told the New York Times recently.
On top of that, food itself has become more calorific. One particular effect of the subsidy regime was to make high-fructose corn syrup, a sweetener manufactured from maize, much cheaper. Corn syrup is used as a substitute for table sugar (sucrose), and is equally rich in calories. The result has been that the American food industry has added it to a wider selection of products than ever before. Moreover, Richard Wrangham, a researcher at Harvard, has built up a body of evidence that the way modern food is processed (heavily cooked, and often made from finely ground ingredients) makes more of its calories available for digestion, so even those who are not consuming more by weight are actually consuming more by calorific value.
First the federal government taxes and regulates us to ensure the overproduction of food. Then it gives us ObamaCare, socializing our entire medical system to cure us from the ills of overeating--and Michelle Obama, hectoring us all to eat more tomatoes.
Honestly, there are moments these days when I find myself wondering whether the Tea Party is angry enough.
ObamaCare delenda est.