Is Your Obesity My Problem?

Image Source: Entrepreneur

Another response to Peter Singer’s Ethics in the Real World: 82 Essays on Things That Matter… this time on his essay “Weigh More, Pay More.”

Singer argues in this essay that obesity affects more than just the individual; accomodating for extra weight can actually be very costly in certain situations, thereby affecting society greatly as well. Public transportation and health-care expenditures in particular are prominent ways in which accommodating obesity costs the taxpayer extra.

Singer uses airplanes as an example. Extra weight on a flight means using up extra fuel, which means that particular flight might cost a higher amount of money than usual. Using little bits of extra fuel each flight will accumulate over time, eventually costing the airline extra millions of dollars.

Singer proposes a solution to this: any passenger weighing over an average, predetermined weight must pay the airline for their extra weight. This way, you alone are responsible for your true cost of flying, rather than imposing this on the other passengers.

He also suggests we could tax foods that are “disproportionately implicated in obesity, especially foods of no nutritive value like sugary drinks” as a way to discourage weight gain, and as a result lower expenditures due to obesity.

Here are my thoughts:

I agree that taxing sugary drinks and unhealthy items at the supermarket would help save money, and just improve human health in general. The foods you choose to buy at the supermarket are a function of your free will, and thus can be disproportionately taxed because you have the choice to take a less expensive (and in this case, healthier) route.

However, I disagree with his notion that overweight people should have to pay for their extra weight. In many cases, people can’t help their obesity. Genetics can play a large role in obesity, and sometimes people just have slower metabolism and don’t have the means to go on some crazy diet and hit the gym three times a day.

Think of it like this: you wouldn’t make a handicapped student at a school pay for the costs of making the school handicap-accessible, right? Obviously that person didn’t choose to be handicapped. In a similar sense, it’s not always your choice to be overweight. Why should these people have to go through the embarrassment of being weighed and have to pay extra money that they may not be able to afford for something that might be out of their control?


Singer, Peter. Ethics in the Real World: 87 Brief Essays on Things that Matter. Text Publishing, 2017.




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Rachel Hendrix

Rachel Hendrix

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