America's Overconsumption

In The United States of Excess, Robert Paarlberg examines why America's obesity rate and per capita CO2 emissions are both roughly twice as high as those of wealthy European countries.

"Professor Paarlberg provides a sobering analysis of the utter failure of America as a nation to deal with the twin challenges of climate change and epidemic obesity."
- Walter Wille, Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health, quoted by Oxford University Press.

Paarlberg attributes Americans' overconsumption to factors including individualism, aversion to taxation, and mistrust of government. He believes that rather than solving the underlying problems, Americans will opt to combat the consequences with diet drugs, bariatric surgery, development of drought resistant crops, and coastal protection systems.

Perhaps, however, America's exceptional obesity results not so much from the aspects of the nation's exceptional character Paarlberg cites as from the fact that its exceptional richness has enabled it to travel further along the path to decadence. It is more profitable to provide perpetual treatment for a problem than to cure it, and it is easier for weak-willed people to suppose some means will be found to solve problems caused by excessive consumption than to overcome their self-indulgence.

Other fast-food brands aimed for the broadest appeal, sometimes losing focus, but Mr. Puzder concentrated on one market: young men delighted to pay $6 for calorie-laden burgers dripping with sauce. In television ads that were somewhere between racy and pornographic, bikini-clad models suggestively crunched and licked their way through burgers. (A “bacon lover’s fantasy” featured three models and a “bacon three-way burger.”)

- JODI KANTOR and JENNIFER MEDINAJAN, Workers Say Andrew Puzder Is ‘Not the One to Protect’ Them, but He’s Been Chosen To, NYT, Jan. 15, 2017

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