Once upon a time there a country who thought that having a well fed population was a sign of prosperity and a well run economy. The Prime Minister was heard to boast on many occasions on the success of his government’s policies particularly as it related to the consumption of fat foods. The more fat consumed the greater the measure of prosperity that his economists called the GFP (Gross Fat Product). His treasurer was particularly proud because he collected taxes on the fat production and the more taxes the greater the budget surplus.
The country started to perform spectacularly as a highly populated country to its north found that its people also loved fat and could not buy enough of it. They started to import fat in such large quantities that the world wide prices increased and the budget surplus of the lucky country increased even more. This delighted the PM because he knew he would be able to spend much of the surplus advertising his achievements before the next election.
There were a few people who raised warning bells about the effect of the consumption of fat and said that if too much was consumed then the population would start to die prematurely because of overheating. However, the PM remained a fat sceptic.
Not withstanding the PM’s sceptism a world wide movement of people arose who believed that the effects of too much fat were bad and they became known as the Lean Movement or as some called them the Leanies. They invented a way of measuring the bad effect of fat and they called it the BMI for individuals. To measure the effect globally they came up with the term Global Accretions which was derived from the aggregation of all the BMI’s. They were able to convince enough countries that the global community needed to limit Global Accretions and they even managed to get most countries to agree to what become known as the Fato Protocol so named because it was signed in Fato.
The protocol required all countries to limit their BMI’s so that the total Global Accretions were limited. There were exceptions and even though an exception was made for the PM’s country he would not sign it because his best mate would not sign it either and as he said one in all in. The exception was interesting because it allowed the country to count the BMI’s of all animals – not just humans. Even though the people grew fatter and the protocol was not signed the PM was able to boast that they were meeting their Fato targets because his farmers were unable to grow sheep because of a drought and the country was able to support more kangaroos which were leaner than sheep.
All went well until suddenly the population realised that Global Accretions were starting to cause consequences that if left unchecked would cause most of the people in the world to overheat due to the layers of fat.
The PM remained a skeptic but the population become convinced that there was a problem and so the PM became a Fat Realist and finally a Fat Pragmatist.
To solve the problem he formed a task force of all the fattest people in the country and asked them to come up with a scheme to solve the problem. They devised a scheme called Fat Trading. A cap on the amount of fat to be consumed was set and people were given fat permits which permitted them to eat fat. That is, unless you had a Fat permit you were not allowed to eat fat. However people could trade Fat permits and if someone did not want eat fat they could trade their permits to someone who did want to eat fat. If you ran out of permits you could always eat other things. The PM was told by his economists that this must work because of market forces and all the PM had to do was to sit back and let the market do its magic. The Treasurer was also very pleased because he knew that if he ever needed some more money for advertising he would just sell a few more permits for “special reasons”.
The PM duly approved the scheme but he made sure that all the fattest people got free permits. He also made sure that that the total cap was set so that the price of permits would not rise too high. The economists pointed out these problems but overall they were pleased because they had a trading scheme in place. They believed that when the price of permits rose people would change their behaviour and substitute other fat free foods. They knew that it was important to have a market as markets always solved every problem.
Unfortunately it did not work very well. The price rose 100% but this only decreased the overall consumption of fat by 1%. The people with fat permits also became richer as they were able to sell some of their permits and they were able to offset their permits by grazing kangaroos in their back yards. National Accretions rose as on average people continued to get fatter because the fat people put on fat at even greater rate than the Leanies who stopped eating any fat at all. Accretions continued to go up even though the cap continued to drop and many people became both rich and fat through trading permits.
The economists were happy because they saw the market at work as predicted. Fat foods became expensive and Lean foods became cheap and the market had worked its magic. Pity about National Accretions.
Andrew Leigh’s “A Milk Story” was the model for “The Fat Story”