Obesity

If You Liked China's Population Control Program, You'll Love Its Weight Control Program

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The New York Times

What is it about New York Times columnists and Chinese autocrats? Several years ago, you may recall, Thomas Friedman was expressing admiration for the "reasonably enlightened group of people" running the show in Beijing. Among other things, Friedman praised their brutally invasive restrictions on reproduction, which he said "probably saved China from a population calamity." Now one of Friedman's colleagues at the Times, Mark Bittman, is placing his hopes for fighting obesity in the same totalitarian system that engineered China's current imbalance between young and old, and between men and women, by inserting itself into deeply personal decisions. "Without limits," Bittman warns, "the consumption of unhealthy foods will result in higher rates of obesity." He thinks China's dictators, unencumbered by democracy, the rule of law, or civil liberties, are well positioned to take on "the scourge of junk food and liquid candy [a.k.a. soda]": 

Say what you will about the Chinese, but they know how to make wholesale changes, and sometimes those changes are inarguably for the good….

Because things are moving so fast in China, and because that country can learn from the example of the United States and others, perhaps it can pull off a public-health leapfrog and avoid the West's fate of a rapid and tragic increase in obesity levels and the diseases with which they're associated.

And there's hope: The authors [of an editorial in The Lancet] wrote that Li Bin, China's new minister of health and family planning, "has the political will, together with the support of international colleagues, to meet the urgent challenge" of these noncommunicable diseases and the problems they pose for China's future.

Not that Bittman's hopes are necessarily misplaced. Trying to control people's diets is inherently tyrannical, and China's leaders have proven that they are very good at tyranny.

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  1. What is it about New York Times columnists and Chinese autocrats?

    One group is totalitarian scum, and the other is wanna-be totalitarian scum?

    1. If I ever feel my commitment to anarchism waning, all I have to do is to pick up a NYT.

      Problem solved. Fucking goosesteppers.

    2. You’re calling the CCP wannabes?

    3. I could not hate this type of fucking filth any more.

  2. You know a society is rich when poor people are fat.

    1. First World problems.

    2. Actually, fattening foods tend to be lower in cost and less difficult to fix. I can grab a couple of donuts for a little over a buck and eat them in my car on the way to work. A spinach omelet with egg whites costs about $5 and is a real mess to eat in rush hour traffic on I-25.

      1. Nonetheless you can’t buy a $1 double cheeseburger in the Congo. And if you’re lucky enough to find one at that bargain rate, rest assured that $1 is about half your pay check. Fact remains, fat poor people are a first world problem.

  3. You would think that these young men – apparently Jewish if their names are indicators – would have learned about tyranny from the fate of their ancestors in Europe.

    1. Few ever learn the lessons of history. Incidentally, that is why it is doomed to repeat itself.

    2. You know who else learned about tyranny from the fate of their ancestors in Europe…

      1. Anybody who wasn’t part of the ruling class?

  4. Ahh, c’mon. Bittman is simply contemplating the Jewish Food Question.

    1. do you not mean the Fatties Question? And he is offering a Final Solution?

  5. If you click a link to Mark Bittman’s NYT page, you can watch a video in which Mr. Bittman will teach you how to make “No-Knead Bread.”

    Soda is verboten but bread is just great. Got it.

    1. It’s very good bread. I ignore Bittman’s politics as best I can, because his cookbooks are awesome.

      1. This was a fascinating interview with a former F1 doctor, Gary Hartstien. Wonderfully detailed and a keen insight behind the curtain of F1. Interesting and very bright guy, who can tell great stories.

        You can imagine my horror when he praised David Brooks in a blog article.

  6. Trying to control people’s diets is inherently tyrannical, and China’s leaders have proven that they are very good at tyranny.

    But they mean well!

  7. “Say what you will about the Chinese, but they know how to make wholesale changes,”

    Uh, yeah. The Great Leap Forward was a resounding success in reducing the population count.

    1. Pol Pot was also very effective at bringing new diets to his people.

      1. Diets of lead.

  8. Comrade, your province missed it’s weight loss goal by 100,000 kilograms. No problem, I’ll just round up 30,000 people and chop their heads off. Both chuckle. Then he does it.

    1. Few egg need be broken, take 5 minute.

  9. I propose a more direct approach. After all, lots of skinny people eat junk food, and lots of fat people don’t. So let’s just tax obesity. Everybody goes to their local post office in the week of their birthday, takes off their shoes, and stands on a scale to measure their height and weight, and gets spotted five pounds for clothes. Then they pay a tax based on their BMI.

    OK, I know BMI doesn’t work too well with very muscled people, so maybe some sort of extra test in which they have to pass through sized metal hoops….

    1. As a thin privileged individual with a great metabolism, I am fully in favour of this. Suck it, fatties!

      Djambi, the chocolate icing!

    2. +1 Bethselamin

    3. I’m on board, but only if this replaces all other taxes.

      Please don’t hate me, Warty.

      1. Come on! Being hated by Warty is a badge of honor!

  10. I do not this idea one bit. And I certainly have no admiration for Chinese forced abortions and sterilizations. (Ironically, Hobby Lobby objects to providing insurance policies that includes certain birth control methods it considers to be like abortion, but seems to have no trouble doing business with companies in China where there are forced abortions.)

    Re obesity, it’s not just autocrats — Japan has had obesity laws since at least 2008.

    1. Do they have height laws too?

    2. “(Ironically, Hobby Lobby objects to providing insurance policies that includes certain birth control methods it considers to be like abortion, but seems to have no trouble doing business with companies in China where there are forced abortions.)”

      Uh, what?!

      1. Indeed.

        Is Hobby Lobby dealing directly with the ChiComGov and its state-owned firms or with private firms in China who try do business under the ChiCom Gov; many of whose CEOs possibly hate the ChiComGov’s guts and its policies. Hell some of said CEOs might be Christians themselves, wanting to do business with Hobby Lobby because of HL’s beliefs.

        If I buy a tomato from an Amish dude at a roadside stand, I must want to give up using the internet?

        1. There is a low-watt bulb over in the Inversion thread who finds it “ironic” that people here oppose the death tax and socialism, ’cause Paris Hilton!
          Oooooooooooooo-K.

          1. That’s funny. I mean, Paris Hilton doesn’t ‘deserve’ jack shit, *but*, if her parents choose to leave her their fortune, it’s their decision. More power to them. It is theirs to give.

            1. “I mean, Paris Hilton doesn’t ‘deserve’ jack shit”

              I’m not as sure as I once was. She’s turned an ability to smile for a camera and whatever she does to keep in shape into a career.
              None of my business, but I’d be curious to see if she’s just running the inheritance down or whether she’s adding to it.

              1. I’ll concede she may be adding to it because she can get a job because “ZOMG, PARIS HILTON!”. For instance, the BK commercial and her appearance in The Cat in the Hat (and other cameo’s ‘n such). Though, I doubt she will ever be in charge of, say, a successful hotel chain.

            2. It is theirs to give.

              Dead people don’t have property rights.

    3. Re obesity, it’s not just autocrats — Japan has had obesity laws since at least 2008.

      And you don’t think Japan’s government is ‘autocratic’? I’ve lived there, its *barely* a democracy

  11. Not the most punchable face, but his has got to be in the top 25.

  12. They can’t seem to keep pollution under control.

    It’s not like pollution controls are new, the Western world has spent decades and billions of dollars improving them.

    Too bad the Chinese just can’t seem to get a handle on it and have pollution in some areas worse than any area at any known time in the world.

    1. Don’t worry; they can put all that money they’re gonna save on liquid candy towards pollution controls.

    2. They can’t seem to keep pollution under control

      Or mostly unpopulated cities from being built.

      1. Or mostly unpopulated cities from being built.

        Well, yea. There is an ever-present ‘broken window’ to fix.

  13. “Say what you will about the Chinese, but their government subsidized organ black market has done wonders for obesity! This guy lost a couple pounds in a hour, and now he’s got this cool scar!”

    1. It’s her turn, man.

  14. I have to admit, the Chicoms do have a pretty good track record of helping their people lose weight.

    1. They’ve got nothing on North Korea though.

      1. It’s working for all the Norks except for dear leader.

        1. From Wikipedia:

          After a visit to North Korea in April 2010,[WHO Director-General Margaret] Chan said malnutrition was a problem in the country but that North Korea’s health system would be the envy of many developing countries because of the abundance of medical staff. She also noted there were no signs of obesity in the country, which is a newly emerging problem in other parts of Asia.

          Say what you will about Hitler, but the incidence of deaths due to cardiovascular disease and cancer fell remarkably among Jews in Germany in the late ’30’s and early ’40’s.

        2. The sacrifices he makes for his people…

  15. Everyone gets one of these.

    http://www.latimes.com/food/da…..story.html

    1. Anyone dumb enough to buy one of those deserves to have their tongue shocked a few hundred times a day.

      1. They’ll make a masochist fat pretty quick.

  16. “Say what you will about the Chinese…”

    OK.

    China’s elite is and has always been incompetent, corrupt, murderous, and xenophobic. Fuck them and anyone who likes them in the ass, mouth, and eye.

  17. In other news

    Officials in the Xinjiang region of western China are offering cash and other incentives to encourage marriages between minorities and Han, the country’s dominant ethnic group, in an effort to soothe growing ethnic violence in the region.

    The incentives are part of a new policy in Cherchen County in southern Xinjiang, where violence between ethnic Uighurs ? a Turkic-speaking, mostly Muslim people ? and Han has flared in recent years.

    Last week, officials in Cherchen County, known as Qiemo in Mandarin, began offering payments of 10,000 renminbi a year, or $1,600, for five years to newly married couples in which one member is Han and the other is from one of China’s 55 ethnic minorities. Official Chinese news reports this week said the payments were intended to help the couples invest in small businesses and start families.

    The couples will also get priority consideration for housing or government jobs, as well as other benefits.

    How enlightened!

    1. You gotta Han it to the Chinese, they’re bunch of crazy Uighurs!

    2. “Everybody just gotta keep fuckin everybody till we’re all the same color.”

  18. I love it how China, one big historic, epic disaster of human management, keeps it’s population at almost pre-industrial levels for most of the 20th century. Then, it takes some steps towards capitalism, resulting in a dramatic increase in the average person’s wealth, income, and overall production, creating wealth and profit.

    And the socialist takeaway form this? See? Totalitarianism can be awesome. Maybe we should try it here!

    1. I laugh at people who try to scare me with ‘China’s economy is overtaking the US” bullshit.

      I point out that China’s rapid economic growth is because they are finally *modernizing* their economy and are reaping the efficiency gains that the west has already pioneered.

      Our economy is growing slower because we’re at the bleeding edge of economic research and their growth will slow as they reach parity with us.

      And without serious changes in government policy (either they liberalize or we do the opposite) they will never catch up to us – because their government elite will not willingly give up power.

  19. Sullum didn’t quote the entirety of the article’s opening.

    Say what you will about the Chinese, but they know how to make wholesale changes, and sometimes those changes are inarguably for the good. As noted in an editorial in The Lancet last week, the life span of the average person in China in 1950 was 40 years; by 2011 it was around 76. (The average life span in the United States in 2011 was 79.)

    The causes of this near doubling of life span are no secret: China has developed public health programs that have reduced communicable diseases to a manageable level.

    Bittman believes that a 36-year lifespan improvement from the period where Mao was fighting the Korean war and starving people to death under a form of communism even more brutal than the USSR’s to the period of vast liberalization of the Chinese economy is due to “public health programs.”

    China’s per capita income in 1950 was $614, or about 3/4 of what Italy’s was at the time of the birth of Jeshua the son of the carpenter. Per capita income in 2010 China was about $7300, roughly where the US was after World War 2.

    Bittman attributes the increase not to 2000 years’ worth of wealth gains in 20 years’ time, but to central planning on the part of Chinese authorities who were using that same central planning to starve millions to death fifty years ago.

    To call Bittman irresponsible and idiotic would be an insult to irresponsible idiots. He should lose his job over this article.

    1. Bittman is the poster child for the man who likes to tongue his own asshole.

      Nobody can be that arrogant and un-self aware without trying to excel.

  20. The first comment:

    Mary Ann & Ken Bergman Ashland, OR Yesterday
    One good thing about a collective dictatorship like China is that wholesale changes in transportation, housing, education, and health outcomes can be made relatively quickly and efficiently. They can pass dietary taxes and restrictions by fiat without lengthy legislative processes that run into resistance from both people who like junk food and those who purvey it. And yes, the Chinese will have their relatively minor problem of obesity under control long before we do.

    Not many Americans would be willing to give up their basic freedoms for an efficiently run but notably intolerant government, though there are times…

    Off to buy an AR-15, back in a bit.

    1. Yep. NYT/New Yorker types are the best ads for guns and ammo, ever.

      Sometimes, I wish for the Apocalypse, just so I could watch them try and trade their Peg Perego strollers and Steve Madden shoes for scraps of food.

    2. Yeah, maybe because the Chinese government *kills* those who don’t conform.

      1. That’s the meaning of leftist “efficiency.” Democratic debate is inefficient and costly. Much better just to do what we want and send the peasants back into the fields at gunpoint.

        We live in sufficiently jacobin times that not only do we have to convince people of the superiority of individualism and markets to democratic homogeneity, we have to convince the “democrats” as to the relative superiority of democracy to totalitarianism.

      2. This.

        The irony is that Bittman is exactly the kind of person who, as soon as his wish becomes true, will face the firing squad. And he’ll never see it coming.

        1. The irony is that Bittman is exactly the kind of person who, as soon as his wish becomes true, will face the firing squad

          No, Bittman is the one running the firing squad. Bittman has “loyal party member” written all over him.

          Beneath that playful, boyish exterior, beats the heart of a mass murdering cretin.

          1. Loyal party members haven’t exactly been exempt from oppression in the PRC, with all the internal political power struggles that have been accelerating as economic growth slows.

    3. So Mary Ann & Ken Bergman Ashland don’t even have separate comments? They comment as one person? I really really can’t stand couples who do that.

  21. . . . sometimes those changes are inarguably for the good

    I’m sorry, which changes were ‘inarguably good’?

    The cultural revolution?
    The Great Leap Forward?
    The forced abortions?
    The internet censor?
    The nationalization of industry?
    The jailing and murder of political dissidents?

    The only time the ruling elite of China have done anything good is in those cases where they did nothing at all and let the Chinese people get on with things.

    1. Don’t forget attempted genocide in Tibet.
      Oh, and it was the DEATH PENALTY for PLAYING GOLF until 1984. For realz.

    2. “I’m sorry, which changes were ‘inarguably good’?
      The cultural revolution?
      The Great Leap Forward?
      The forced abortions?
      The internet censor?
      The nationalization of industry?
      The jailing and murder of political dissidents?”

      If you travel there, you find quickly that most of the population is hugely pleased not to be threatened with starvation at the whim of the next bureaucrat, but they are also extremely cautious speaking about any of those issues.
      You’ll need to find a brave soul and a quiet place before you find that his parents really didn’t want to discuss the cultural revolution; some of the snitches were in the village government even afterwards.
      And some of the snitches were his parents.
      Ugly! Way worse than post WWII Europe, trying to identify ‘collaborators’. And none of the rest are discussed, either.

    3. They banned civilian ownership of guns.

  22. Frequently the shared button on articles on Reason Hit&Run; are incorrectly linked. Frequently when I hit “share” the email link comes up. Could you do some quality control and have the webmaster flogged or at least reprimanded?

  23. We should put all NYT employees in camps. Fat camps.

  24. What is it about New York Times columnists and Chinese autocrats?

    Progressives love them a dictator. This has been known for decades.

  25. Government, those things we do together.

    The dots connecting the rise in obesity, and related health issues, in America over the last 40 years to the Government’s war on dietary fat couldn’t be more clear; even the NY Times has written about it. But I guess the government of China is full of wicked smart people that wouldn’t make the same mistake, I mean, just look at the historical record.

  26. There were no fat inmates in concentration camps.

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