Anxiety and weight
09/07/2012 § 6 Comments
As much as economic activity is assumed to produce utility, which is described as satisfaction or happiness, it also seems to generate a lot of anxiety. Preference-function-based utility doesn’t have to deal with this. People buy things because they prefer them, and we know they prefer them because they buy them. Utility is simply the result of a preference function, about which we can say nothing (de gustibus non est disputandum).
Economists leave it to the sociologists, psychologists, and psychoanalysts to discuss whether what people prefer is ‘good’. One person tackling this question is Andrew Dickson, a lecturer at Massey University whom I know through the Centre for Lacanian Analysis. He has a blog called Other Side of Weight Loss. He is getting a bit of press at the moment for his thesis research on anxiety and the weight loss industry (or is that the weight anxiety industry?):
He argues that because obesity is not a top-line health risk, the disadvantages for society from weight anxiety outweigh any benefits.
“The types of neurotic behaviour we get as a result of many of the messages of the weight-loss industry, the yo-yo dieting, the incredibly disordered eating, the addiction to exercise – all these [are] painful effects – and probably the most common would be self-loathing, hating being in your own body, which is just a crap way of living.”
A preference function leads to ‘a crap way of living’. Hmm. Definitely an area for more research.