A few months ago, we noted a bizarre study in the BMJ (formerly the British Medical Journal) that suggested that the famine caused by the repressive Communist Cuban Castro regime was good for people’s health. Harvard’s food-scold-in-residence, Walter Willett, commented positively on the outcome of state-sponsored famine, suggesting the study showed “powerful evidence that a reduction in overweight and obesity would have major population-wide benefits.”
Now, the study authors (and Willett, presumably) indicated that they didn’t support the dictatorial methods, just the state-controlled outcome. But now Willett has gone a step further. He recently told a Harvard conference that “children are being exploited, same as sweatshops” and declared obesity “a natural consequence of a capitalist food supply.”
Come again? Last time we checked, state-controlled food supplies have a terrible track record. For one thing, millions of Ukrainians, Chinese, and North Koreans aren’t around to tell us how awful government-dictated food supplies are because they died of government-induced starvation.
In reality, Americans enjoy food that is more plentiful, more affordable, and more varied than ever before — thanks in large part to food companies responding to consumer choices. Indeed, as consumers have demanded healthier products, the “capitalist food supply” that Willett derides has provided it to them. In fact, food companies responding to shifting demand have already cut calories from the food supply roughly equal to that that supporters think the soda tax might cut, no government regulators required.
But don’t expect successes in personal responsibility convincing companies to change their product mixes to get ideologues like Willett to give up their quest for total diet control. We’ve noted before that many food activists are motivated by anti-corporate ideology as much as (if not more than) sincere health concerns. Walter Willett has now made clear that he is one of them.