Skip to main content

Cookies and Privacy

We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. To find out more, read our updated Cookie policy, Privacy policy and Terms & Conditions

tb0271c.jpg42fd8d0346f86fd0197a3f18 Tim Brinton
English

Weigh More, Pay More

Obesity is an ethical issue, because an increase in weight by some imposes costs on others. That is why obese people should be subject to transport surcharges, and why foods that make people fat should be subject to higher taxes.

MELBOURNE – We are getting fatter. In Australia, the United States, and many other countries, it has become commonplace to see people so fat that they waddle rather than walk. The rise in obesity is steepest in the developed world, but it is occurring in middle-income and poor countries as well.

Is a person’s weight his or her own business? Should we simply become more accepting of diverse body shapes? I don’t think so. Obesity is an ethical issue, because an increase in weight by some imposes costs on others.

I am writing this at an airport. A slight Asian woman has checked in with, I would guess, about 40 kilograms (88 pounds) of suitcases and boxes. She pays extra for exceeding the weight allowance. A man who must weigh at least 40 kilos more than she does, but whose baggage is under the limit, pays nothing. Yet, in terms of the airplane’s fuel consumption, it is all the same whether the extra weight is baggage or body fat.

We hope you're enjoying Project Syndicate.

To continue reading, subscribe now.

Subscribe

Get unlimited access to PS premium content, including in-depth commentaries, book reviews, exclusive interviews, On Point, the Big Picture, the PS Archive, and our annual year-ahead magazine.

https://prosyn.org/q1FMUXX;
  1. bildt71_HOW HWEE YOUNGAFP via Getty Images_vonderleyenchinaarmy How Hwee Young/AFP via Getty Images

    Which Way for Europe on China?

    Carl Bildt

    Under its new leadership, the European Union has promised to step up its engagement on the world stage to ensure that it does not become a pawn in an escalating Sino-American great-power rivalry. To succeed, it will have to strike a careful balance between economic priorities and its own security.

    8
  2. wei22_FABRICE COFFRINIAFP via Getty Images_WTOredlight Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images

    How to Revive the WTO

    Shang-Jin Wei & Xinding Yu

    The World Trade Organization’s appellate body is under threat not from China, but from the United States, which is blocking the appointment of new judges to the panel. Reviving the WTO will require changes to the organization's rules – but killing its dispute-settlement system is not the solution.