Nation of Beancounters

Obese people outnumber hungry people

Posted in Uncategorized by Navin Kumar on October 25, 2011

Hurray! What a wonderful world we live in! was my response. (Until they invent a slimness pill, obesity and hunger strike me as two problems locked in eternal battle with  each other, and I like the problem of obesity more than the problem of hunger).

Inequality! Shame! Market to blame! was the response of some killjoys.

“If the free interplay of market forces has produced an outcome where 15 percent of humanity are hungry while 20 percent are overweight, something has gone wrong somewhere,” secretary general Bekele Geleta said in a statement.

Now if it were true that a shift to market based models causes an increase in hunger, the Global Hunger Index (see graph) should be steadily climbing over the last 20 years (which have seen a large chunk of the world population be brought under a relatively free market in most goods and services). Instead we see a marked decline.

What really annoyed me about statements like this is the fact that people automatically blame a system they don’t like for a snapshot-variable they didn’t think was good enough, rather than looking at what the system did in real-time. They seem to think that the system is flattening the curve – increasing inequality while causing wealth to stay stagnant, causing more people to become very fat as well as very thin. Whereas the facts state that the curve is shifting to the right – increasing the number of fat people, but reducing the number of hungry people. If it were the flattening case, the GHI would be increasing. The fact that so many people are still poor and hungry is simply because because humanity has long been poor and hungry.


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