Obesity and Dominance Reconsidered
By Bryan Caplan
Yet it is completely crazy to imagine that fat folks have not yet heard
that fat might be unhealthy or unattractive. Believe me, they’ve
heard! If they are choosing to be fat, they are doing so reasonably
informed of the consequences. Our constant anti-fat “public health”
messages are not at all kind – such messages just serve to put fat
folks down, and lift the rest of us up. If anyone is so clueless as to
need constant reminders, it is those who can’t see their own
over-bearing domination, such as putting down fat folks to lift
When people put down overweight strangers, I think Robin’s dead on. Almost no one genuinely cares about the health of people they don’t even know. But when the overweight person is a spouse, relative, or friend, Robin’s missing an important part of the story: Severe obesity, like other high-risk lifestyles, is inconsiderate to the people who personally know and care about you. Yes, you’ve got a right to eat whatever you please, but it’s often wrong to do what you have a right to do. And in the case of a spouse, gaining a lot of weight is emotionally abusive and perhaps contrary to the spirit of the marriage contract.
Still, Robin’s largely right about the dominance motive behind the war on fat. At least in my experience, 90% of complaints about obesity are directed at generic “obese people.” Most of the remaining complaints happen behind the target’s back. What Robin seems to forget: When adults personally know and care about a person with a weight problem, they’re usually afraid to broach the subject with him. On reflection, though, this is yet another dominance game. People can raise their status by living a risky lifestyle – and taking great offense if the people who care about them object.