Thursday, January 24, 2008

If Sack And Sugar Be A Fault, God Help The Wicked!

If sack and sugar be a fault, God help the wicked!
If to be old and merry be a sin, then many an old host that I know is damned:
if to be fat be to be hated, then Pharaoh's lean kine are to be loved.
...banish plump Jack, and banish all the world!

On the very day when the Commissars announce their latest bonkers scheme to tackle the plumpness epidemic, Mrs T and I are off to see Sir Jack at Stratford.

Paying people to lose weight is a Commissariat classic. All their previous half-baked interventions having cost taxpayers at least £1bn and been completely useless (eg see this blog), they now reckon that £130 in KFC gift vouchers will incentivise Sir Jack to lose weight.

Of course, when it comes to half baking, this week's directive from podgy Commissar Balls takes some beating: that compulsory "healthy living" cookery lessons are to be imposed on all state schools. No matter that head teachers say they don't have the staff or facilities to do it. ORDERS MUST BE OBEYED!
HJ highlights another aspect to this: the Tories actually launched the first anti-obesity programme in 1992 (see here). But when Labour came in they abolished it, on the grounds that... well, the Tories are evilNHScrushingboomandbustTories. Sure enough, years later they decided to reintroduce virtually the same programme, no doubt taken down from the same Department of Health shelf.

Things were somewhat different in Sir John's day. There was no NHS forcing taxpayers to treat those expensive bolting-hutches of beastliness, swollen parcels of dropsies, and huge bombards of sack. If you wanted to stuff yourself to death, nobody cared.

As we've blogged before, once we ditch the NHS and implement our social insurance system, we'd see some much more powerful incentives to healthy living- cheaper premiums for those who live healthily:

"By using ongoing premium rates to influence behaviour, the incentives are applied in real time when they can have the gretest effect- while the punters are actually smoking all those fags or eating all those Mackies- and not rolled up into some far distant Final Day of Reckoning.

And if it turns out the punters would actually prefer to carry on stuffing their faces and pay the higher premia, hey presto, the healthcare suppliers have the additional funding they need. Suddenly we are no longer dependent on the commissars to decide and decree how much healthcare we can have. We can decide for ourselves.

What's that? Cream skimming? Cherry picking? Insurance companies stacking their premium rates so as avoid insuring people with expensive conditions?

Clearly, under compulsory social insurance schemes, suppliers cannot be allowed to avoid customers with expensive pre-existing conditions. So they must not be allowed to select on the basis of medical conditions.

But incentivising healthy behaviour is not the same as penalising medical history. Yes, there would need to be guidelines (insurers would be prohibited from penalising limbless ex-servicemen for not running 6 miles a day etc), but there's no reason why that lifestyle scourge of fags, booze, and obesity should not attract higher premia."

So, now we've got that sorted, we can poodle off to Stratford with a clear conscience. The couple we're going with know the actor playing Hal, so we're looking forward to rubbing up against the actual greasepaint. What care we that the production has had mixed reviews, and that Falstaff is bizarrely miscast (the lean and hungry David Warner)?

PS Yes, once again we're guzzling those middle class arts subsidies: the RSC gets £22m pa which effectively halves the price of tickets (see this blog). We're not proud.