Friday, February 03, 2006

Take a Hike, Nick Kristof

Post lifted from The Locker Room

Adding to my annoyances this morning is Nick Kristof's column in today's NYTimes. It's behind the wall of sleep, but I was able to read it here (no guarantees how long it will be available).

Kristof thinks we're all too fat and that this is a public health crisis. He says higher cigarette taxes and mandatory seatbelt laws have done more to improve the health of Americans in the last decade than anything doctors or pharmaceutical companies have done.

He then suggests such prescriptions as:

  • Ban soda, potato chips and other unhealthy snacks from American schools, and discourage them in the workplace.

  • Sell cigarettes only in pharmacies and raise cigarette taxes.

  • Tax junk foods.

  • Promote jogging and biking. Since we pay for all the consequences of
    inactivity (like those heart bypasses), we should encourage exercise.
    We should build more bicycle paths and turn more streets over to
    bikers, skaters and pedestrians - starting with Sixth Avenue in

  • Distribute fruits and veggies to certain low-income people, as Maine does in FarmShare, a potent antipoverty program.

  • Expand P.E.

  • Design better stairways.

Only the better stairways idea is free of government involvement. Expanded P.E. is one of twenty programs NYTimes columnists have suggested for schools in the past year (together with showing BMI on report cards, encouraging girls to go into math and science, helping boys behave better in class, etc.). The others go back to the moral free-riding of paternalistic liberalism.

If obesity is so bad (and in most cases it isn't), allow health insurance companies to charge bigger people more money.
If physical activity is good, allow health insurance companies to provide different and cheaper policies for more active people. The president's likely call tonight for large Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) might be a first step, so too might John Shadegg's proposal for a national health insurance market.

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