Living Economics

Fat Nation
Through innocent pursuit of self-interests, Americans have grown fat with the food industry.

By some measures, the U.S. food industry has been very successful. The following indicators are most telling of this success story. Specifically, food is cheaper and the food industry is healthy. However, this success is not an unmixed blessing:

To pump that many more calories into the American body, the food industry:

As a result of more food intake and decline in physical activities to burn up the excess calories,

The obesity epidemic is like Adam Smith's famous "invisible hand" model running amuck. The invisible hand model says that the greatest good is achieved when every individual is allowed to pursue his own interest without intentionally promoting the public good. There are no real villains in the obesity epidemic. The food industry is just trying to sell what people like to eat. The consumers are just eating what are most convenient for them to eat and seemingly enjoying them. The school districts are just trying to raise some funds by selling high-calorie, high-fat, high-salt fast foods and high-calorie soft drinks at schools for worthwhile school activities. And the advertising industry is just trying to create the most convincing TV commercials to please its advertisers. But the end result is nothing like the "greatest good" that Adam Smith's "invisible hand" model promises. Instead, it produces a health epidemic of an exploding biomass index.

Now to help contain this epidemic, every party in the game is urged to consider the impact of their seemingly innocent actions on the body mass of the whole society. People are told not to always eat what they like. School districts are encouraged to reduce the accessibility of non-nutritional foods, and food vendors are urged to go easy on fat, sugar, and salt (USA Today).

  • Business Week. 10/21/2002. "Why we're so fat."
  • USA Today. 8/22/2005. "Health movement has school cafeterias in a food fight."
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