Don’t Let the Nanny Staters Scare You (or Tax You) By Calling You Obese

December 26, 2007

An excellent Washington Post oped by Sally Pipes (“Brave New Diet“) warns the public against scaremongering about our weight. She shines a light on the faults of the government’s BMI Index by pointing out that Kobe Bryant, Tom Brady and other superfit athletes are overweight according to their BMIs. Oh, to be overweight like Kobe!!

And even if the BMI Index (ratio of height to weight) were an accurate measure of healthy weight, what was the validity of the 1998 government decision to lower the definition of overweight from a BMI of 27 to 25, making 25 million Americans suddenly “overweight”?

It might be partly to justify new taxes. Proposals for so-called fat taxes on soda and snacks are all the rage now, and the higher those obesity numbers are, the more likely we might be to relent and start letting legislators count our calories. We’ve written about such proposals in New Mexico and Colorado and more generally nationwide. Here was a fat tax lesson from Australia, and here’s a humorous commentary from England.

Pipes is worried about the “nanny state” in general, that is, a government that conceives of its role as telling everyone what to do, supposedly for their own good. That’s something Harvard scholar Kip Viscusi is also concerned with.


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