Dim-Post on Obesity

May 28th, 2009 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Danyl cracks up and talks to himself:

Left Wing Danyl: Corporations that sell high-fat and high sugar products are getting rich by selling people slow acting poisons. And they’re deliberately marketing these toxic food substitutes at children! Shouldn’t we at least pass laws to protect minors from these products? After all, we don’t let them buy cigerettes or alcohol.

Libertarian Danyl: Well that’s your answer to everything isn’t it? Just pass another law, take away a little bit more of our freedom, expand the power of the state. Charge people more taxes so you can furthur limit their choices. People should be free to eat whatever kind of food they want. We have enough problems with the nanny state in this country without politicians telling us what we can and can’t eat for dinner.

Economist Danyl: Hang on a minute there – I agree that people should be allowed to choose what foods to eat – but you have to admit that products like soft drinks and potato chips have massive negative externalities. They contribute to chronic illness like diabetes and heart disease and those have a cost to the public health system that other people end up paying for through their taxes.

Libertarian Danyl: Tax is theft!

Left Wing Danyl: Tax is the price you pay for living in a civilised society.

Libertarian Danyl: Civilised? Ha! To quote Ron Paul . . .

Moderate Danyl: Oh shut up, idiot. So Economist Danyl, are you saying there should be an excise on junk food?

Economist Danyl: Why not? That’s what we do with other products that have negative externalities, like tobacco and alcohol.

Left Wing Danyl: The problem there is that is closely correlated with poverty. A tax on junk food would be a highly regressive tax.

Economist Danyl: Then poor people will act like rational maximisers and respond to the changing conditions of the market by switching to cheaper, healthier options.

Sarcastic Danyl: Right, the way they have with tobacco?

A really good post.

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19 Responses to “Dim-Post on Obesity”

  1. Ryan Sproull (7,360 comments) says:

    There’s a fairly obvious response to the last point, though I’m not sure which Danyl would make it.

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  2. virtualmark (1,305 comments) says:

    Realistic Danyl: Well, some people just continue to make bad choices no matter what incentives you try to introduce, so why should the rest of us rational maximisers lose out just because some people can’t get out of their own way no matter what you try to do for them? Those people making the bad choices are the real negative externality.

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  3. village idiot (748 comments) says:

    Tip the scales in favour of the fatties, I say!

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  4. Ratbiter (1,265 comments) says:

    A lesson for the zealot in each of us!

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  5. Patrick Starr (3,674 comments) says:

    He missed Green Danyl. “Is it an American owned Corporation?”

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  6. peteremcc (316 comments) says:

    The trick is to shift the externalities into higher health insurance premiums rather than higher taxes.

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  7. Auberon (779 comments) says:

    I wish I was that bright.

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  8. unaha-closp (1,067 comments) says:

    And…

    Apathetic Danyl: Fat people get Fat. Is there a solution – maybe? Should I (or is it we) care? No. Wonder what’s for dinner.

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  9. goodgod (1,317 comments) says:

    The answer to obesity is less cake. No taxes required.

    Damn it people can’t you see what DPF is doing?

    He’s throwing us puff-piece posts to chew over because we can’t shut up while waiting for the budget release… like throwing peanuts to impatient monkeys!

    ITS DEGRADING!

    (mmmmmmmmmpeanuts.)

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  10. ben (2,279 comments) says:

    Economist Danyl: Hang on a minute there – I agree that people should be allowed to choose what foods to eat – but you have to admit that products like soft drinks and potato chips have massive negative externalities. They contribute to chronic illness like diabetes and heart disease and those have a cost to the public health system that other people end up paying for through their taxes.

    Um, no. Even ignoring the fact that obesity does not impose much in the way of extra costs on the health system, its not a true externality – its simply a by-product of government choosing to subsidise health care.

    But if you insist on these fiscal externalities as valid for policy, fine: smoking kills enough people to save the health system from more expensive treatments later in smokers’ lives. Smoking, in other words, lowers health costs. Logical policy response to this positive fiscal externality: subsidise smoking.

    Still want to argue for fiscal externality?

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  11. Patrick Starr (3,674 comments) says:

    or Parekura Danyl “No. Fuck off – I’m full……burrrrp”

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  12. stephen (3,981 comments) says:

    Smoking, in other words, lowers health costs.

    If you only get one of the millions of diseases associated with smoking and it knocks you out straight away, rather than faffing about trying to get ‘treated’ for several years.

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  13. Luke H (73 comments) says:

    I agree that people should be allowed to choose ____(fill in fun yet socially disapproved-of activity here)____ – BUT _____(fill in reasoning of why you aren’t actually going to let people choose)_____

    I think we’re seeing far too much of this recently. Just leave people alone to live their lives in peace.

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  14. unaha-closp (1,067 comments) says:

    Smoking, in other words, lowers health costs.

    Technically smoking benefits us all by lowering pension costs. On the basis of these external costs the perfect outcome would be to hire ninja to kill everybody on the eve of their 65th birthday.

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  15. Bevan (3,232 comments) says:

    or Parekura Danyl “No. Fuck off – I’m full……burrrrp

    Bullshit – Parekura is never full!

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  16. ben (2,279 comments) says:

    If you only get one of the millions of diseases associated with smoking and it knocks you out straight away, rather than faffing about trying to get ‘treated’ for several years.

    Overall, that’s what smoking does. Turns out smoking gives smokers diseases that are relatively cheap to treat. Non-smokers live longer but end up with a more expensive array of medical problems.

    Point is: the fiscal externalities argument, applied consistently, takes you to some places that I find quite disturbing. Its a bad argument, in other words.

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  17. KiwiGreg (3,278 comments) says:

    I think smokers are cheaper only once you factor in what is “saved” (relative to non-smokers) in pension costs. At least that’s what I recall from the study done on this (funded by tobacco companies).

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  18. stephen (3,981 comments) says:

    That’s surprising KiwiGreg, one operation can easily cost tens of thousands of dollars, and the pension is only mid 20k a year? Pretty funny (morbidly) that the tobacco companies did that.

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  19. Jeff83 (747 comments) says:

    So I had a laugh at my own expense.

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