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QUALITY/POLICY: Paying people to stay thin? by Anonymous

Earlier this week THCB discussed the obesity problem in relation to personal health ecologies. It as pretty sobering stuff, but one anonymous correspondent has an out-of-left field suggestion:

Your mention of pay-for-performance in relation to obesity management just gave me an idea that’s probably silly, but I’m going to toss it to you anyway. My assumptions are that obesity costs all of society money, that businesses have a vested interest in access to a healthy flexible labor pool, and that a major cause of obesity is the stress caused by our change-oriented, scarcity-driven quasi-capitalist system.

What if society offered guaranteed minimum financial support to people who stayed within target personally-controllable health criteria and remained on-call for work? This is not to say support should be withheld from people who can’t stay within the target range or who for other reasons might fall outside that system: I’d just suggest the form of support be different. For example, disabled people get disability support, people who are unemployable for various reasons (language problems, obsolete skills, etc.) get eligibility help, and people who are simply non-conformists (including the person who objects to health regimens) should still be considered part of society, as well. I’m not sure what sort of provision should be made for the last case, but I bet paying people off to remain productive potential for the workforce would be cheaper than where we’re going now.

Unfortunately, even if this actually makes financial sense, people would probably reject this approach for ideological reasons. I have several disabled friends, and they’ve all pointed out the numerous ways society could save money, but would rather pay triple than give direct payments to the disabled. The same has been said about the cost of the prison system. As far as I can see, this means people will pay anything to prevent direct payments to people outside their immediate tribe, however that’s defined. However, maybe if it’s conceptualized as paying for a reserve, flexible workforce to make the country more competitive, people might reconsider.

If you think about it, right now obesity is the ultimate revenge against untenable social processes. Self-destruction reduces the extent to which cruel and amoral forces can use you.

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