Saturday 30 January 2010

Tails Wagging Dogs

The Fink carried a gem of insight yesterday.

If there is an obesity epidemic what might spread it? The idea that obesity is normal. You get that idea by knowing obese people (as the recent book Connected argued). But you can also get it from hearing people talk about what a big obesity problem we have.

In other words the very act of talking about the obesity problem makes it worse.

You would make it better by suggesting obesity is not the norm.

But politicians can't build support for policies dealing with a problem that isn't that big. And they can't take credit for solving problems that weren't a big deal in the first place.

So there is a perverse incentive leading politicians away from sensible use of behavioural science.


For the purposes of political expediency, minor problems are routinely exaggerated out of all proportion to the everyday life experiences of those of us who live in the real world. All of which plays nicely into the hands of a small clique of single interest nutters and fake charities.

Little wonder, then, that the subsequent solutions our currently health-obsessed government vainly cling to, are rooted in fantasy, and regularly doomed to failure.

Contrary to the backward logic employed at Westminster, enjoyment of products which are deemed 'unhealthy' is perfectly normal. What is not normal is the unhealthy obsession politicians of all stripes have with wishing to dictate the way their citizens should live their lives.

It is for government to assess how we choose to live and then govern accordingly, not to govern as they choose and coerce us to change our way of life to order.

1 comment:

Cate Munro said...

Well said Dick. However, I think in this day and age it goes even beyond government. Just look at the headline news on Wednesday: Apples new iPad. I'm an Apple geek and even I thought it was OTT. But just from 'talking about it' incessantly, Apple has wriggled it's way firmly into our culture (for better or worse) and made itself clearly more important than it actually is.
The world's going crazy - hurrah for those of us who still manage to live in the real part!