Folks that have never watched Alex Jones will nevertheless be aware of the oft-memed cry “they are putting chemicals in the water! They are turning the freaking frogs gay!” Even if you have not seen this meme, you will at least be aware that there exists, somewhere out there, crazy people who think that the government is putting chemicals (fluoride perhaps) in the water system to dumb us down. Behind all of this is some truth: there are a lot of chemicals put into our food that are known to make us fat and dumb. Maybe it is to weaken the population, maybe it is corporations putting the bottom line above human life, but regardless of the motive, the fact is that corn syrup, seed oils, and artificial sweeteners are making us fat and dumbing us down.
So, here is a problem. There are many problems besides this one, but I think we can use the obesity epidemic (no, it is not just America…I know about your “munchie boxies” Brits) as a test case for a much larger problem-solving frame. My friends have used the imagery of water spigots. What plants in your garden grow depends on what plants get the water spigot pointed at them, which means you can shape your garden by pointing the water spigot at the plants you desire and pointing it away from those you don’t. Applied to the economy, we can say that what businesses strive are those that receive the spigot (subsidies and tax cuts) and those that fail get no spigot love (no subsidies and a raise in taxes). Furthermore, we can tear weeds out instead of just turning spigots off. Economically, this looks like seizing assets. Society is a garden, and we can decide what grows in the garden. Ecology, not politics, is our model.
Back to obesity. Obesity grows in our garden because weeds (corn syrup, seed oils, artificial sweeteners) are watered, while fruits wither from lack of water. To fix our garden we need to tear up the weeds and water the fruit. Ripping out the weeds will entail implementing a federal ban on corn syrup, seed oil, and artificial sweeteners, with the added penalty that those companies found still producing these items, or using them in their products, will have their assets seized and bank accounts frozen. Watering the fruit (or flowers if you like to envision that kind of garden) looks like giving subsidies to organic and non-GMO food producers, coupled with significant tax cuts. These subsidies might even be made contingent on organic and non-GMO food producers lowering their prices so that their products become more affordable to the working class. Weeds are banned and heavily penalized, while fruits (or flowers) are encouraged and supported, this is treating politics like ecology.
This program is not a guarantee fix to obesity, but it will take away some of the causes of obesity and make healthy food more abundant and more affordable. Unless I become a hard economic determinist, this is probably the most we can do with economics. At the end of the day people make their own choices regardless of incentives…or sometimes in spite of incentives.
Some may look on my program and call it “socialist” or “communist”, maybe even “eugenicist.” Instead of arguing over labels, which is rarely productive, we can simply step over these distractions. Step over “capitalism”, “socialism”, “communism”, “eugenics”, or whatever “ist” or “ism” might crop up. We have been given a garden, and now it is time to garden. It does not make any sense to not mow your lawn because you believe in the free market and non-intervention, any more than it makes sense to call planting tomatoes a planned economy. If you have a garden, you have to plant. If you have to plant, you want to plant good food, nice flowers, and pull up the weeds. Beyond politics is ecology, and in ecology is the hope to eliminate obesity.