Freedom makes you fit


Remember when a spokesperson for the United Nations’ World Health Organisation proclaimed that there was no sign of obesity in the famine‑stricken, socialist train wreck of North Korea?

This created much mirth around the rest of the world, as the irony of the proclamation was seemingly lost on the Geneva‑based body.

It seems our favourite dim-witted globetrotting Nanny Statists are at it again, with a new study stating that “market deregulation policies may contribute to the obesity epidemic by facilitating the spread of fast food” in the OECD.

Using the Heritage Foundation economic freedom index as a proxy for market deregulation, the study authors concluded that an increase in freedom was associated with a rise in the average per capita number of transactions at fast food outlets.

Accepting the study methodology and empirical results at face value, I see the correlation between economic freedom and fast food consumption as no bad thing.

After all, in economically freer environments producers can more readily strive to accommodate consumer demands for hamburgers, fries, pizzas, sweets and snacks.

What the study authors won’t tell you is that economic freedom is also likely to be associated with a greater private sector role in offering healthy food and exercise options.

Indeed, the market for organic foods, gyms, fitness and sporting equipment, bicycles, and other activities promoting good health is very extensive in market‑oriented economies.

Another oversight from these types of studies is that they don’t sufficiently recognise the contribution to obesity prevalence arising from a lack of economic freedom in health care.

If people faced the full costs of their health care treatments, rather than health being subsidised through big‑government health financing schemes, the ‘moral hazard’ of poor health choices could be ameliorated.

Let’s face it, busybody Nanny State paternalists will always rail against economic freedom, because they resent lots of people freely choosing a mouth‑watering hamburger over boring, soggy tofu.


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