Overspending and Obesity
By Arnold Kling
My post-vacation essay is somewhat wide ranging.
by far the biggest indicator that middle-class squeeze is not quite what is portrayed in the media was the volume of construction and the prices of homes. Since our first vacation there almost twenty years ago, thousands of housing units have been built in Bethany, with much of the building taking place within the past five years. This expansion in supply has done nothing to hold down prices, however. We passed a development, located across a four-lane highway from the ocean, offering “luxury townhomes from the $700,000’s.” It seemed incredible to us that you could sell a townhome in a second-rate location in a middle-class resort for that much money. Each time we passed another new home site, I would mutter “looks like more middle-class squeeze going up.”
…There is a parallel between the problems of middle-class squeeze and obesity. Self-control is required in order to live within one’s means financially and in order to maintain a low body weight.
…politicians who take on middle-class squeeze or obesity as public policy issues may be causing harm. Sending out a message that government is the solution may serve to weaken the cause-effect connections that people need to make in order to solve what are fundamentally personal problems. The damage caused by exacerbating the cause-effect disconnect that weakens personal willpower may far exceed the benefits of whatever actual remedy the government is able to deliver.
On the topic of obesity, Iain Murray writes,
Fitness, not weight, is the issue. Ironically, the surest way to make us thinner would be to enact energy-suppression measures that would make us poorer, and therefore less able to afford the high calorie meals restaurants provide. That might also drive people to tobacco, too. It wouldn’t make us any fitter, though. Overall, a fat society is healthier than a poor one.
For Discussion. Suppose you decided that middle-class squeeze is a public policy issue. What legislation would you enact, and what would you expect it to accomplish?