Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Have Another Doughnut America, Uncle Sam Wants You To Be Fat

The other day I was searching through the videos at Kahn Academy and I came across a series on the French Revolution. Intrigued, I decided to watch them.

As the chronology of events was laid out, the narrator kept coming back to the same point. In his opinion, one of the principle drivers of the revolution was that the people were starving, and this was the fuel that fired the revolutionary zeal.

Sometime later, I came across an article about the two French economists, Thomas Picketty and Emmanuel Saez, who have researched and written extensively on long-term income inequality in the US. The popular 99% vs. the 1% slogan used in the Occupy Wall Street movement can be attributed to their work.

In the article, the two influential economists raised the question, how is it that Americans put up with such high levels of income inequality, levels reminiscent of the Gilded Age?

Connecting the dots, I realized that the lack of a meaningful response from the masses can be attributed to the fact that in America the masses have become massive. Obesity rates have sky-rocketed. Depending on how obesity is measured, it now appears that as high as 60% of the popultion is obese.

The other thing to keep in mind is that there is social gradient to obesity, the poorer you are the more likely you will be obese in America. In other words, unlike the starving masses around the rest of the world and throughout history, poor people in America are much more likely to be obese.

That's a complete reversal of the social conditions at the time of the French Revolution and during the Great Depression in the United States. In short, in both instances food shortages were the drivers of social change.

Not so in today's America. Food is plentiful, cheap, and its production heavily subsidized by the US government. Unfortunately, if you eat a lot of the cheap processed food that is available in the US, you'll fall into the fat trap, and once you're in, it's extremely difficult to find your way out. Our bodies are genetically programmed to retain fat.

The other thing to keep in mind is that, as could be expected, obese people are less likely to be politically active: less likely to vote, and even less likely to show up for a political protest.

As a result, I think one of the major reasons why Americans put up with such high levels of income inequality is that in order to change this growing tendency in the US, a critical mass would need to mobilize. Unfortunately, those who would benefit most by reversing this trend are unable to get off their fat asses to even vote, never mind engaging in more meaningful political activity.

Looking at this phenomenon from a distance, it is utterly brilliant.

Turn the nation into one big fucking fat farm and you can rob the people of their collective wealth while they are sitting down in front of their big-screen, high-definition televisions, chowing down on an unlimited supply of Krispy Kreme Doughnuts.

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