Pay the obese to exercise!
The Daily Mail reports on the new scheme implemented by the British government to be trialed in the north of England:
Fat people will be paid to walk their children to school under a controversial new Government scheme to tackle the obesity epidemic.
A new supermarket-style loyalty card will allow people to gain points if they attend a keep fit class, go running in their local park or take part in any activity which could help them to lose weight.
The points could then be used to buy healthy food, sports equipment or sessions at the gym.
The most commonly cited arguments for a system of taxing fatty foods or subsidising exercise is that the poor health of the obese will impact negatively on others, that is, we all have to pay for their treatment. This however is a sham reason, and is not a genuine “externality”. If the nationalised healthcare system currently in place in the UK were removed the “externality” disappears, along with the moral hazard.
The new scheme provides an incentive for fat people to lose weight, however few of us realise such incentives already exist in the free market. The government can only supress them.
It’s worthy to note that it was Ludwig von Mises who first realised that government interventions in the economy do not solve market distortions, but rather distort the market further. The government can either repeal its policy or try to intervene more. It most often chooses the latter.
This is no different.