The Corner

An Interesting Historical Pass

One of the items in Impromptus today is about obesity in China: It is a growing (no snickering) problem, including among the young. This is bad news, of course. Yet, as I say in my column, I can’t help being a little glad and amazed. Not very long ago, the Chinese were starving, thanks to the monstrous Mao and his murderous experiments (carried out with a lot of help, of course).

In an interview a couple of years ago, Tom Sowell told me, “I grew up in an era when, if you didn’t eat your food, your mother would say, ‘There are children starving in China.’” Now, however, “something like a fourth of Chinese adults are overweight, which was utterly unthinkable at one time. So, that’s really a great humanitarian story” — no matter the other, less encouraging features of today’s China.

This morning, a reader has written to say,

My cousin, a former mechanical-engineering professor, visited China in the 1970s on some sort of official U.S. business. In those days, he was very heavy, and people everywhere literally touched his stomach — poked, probed, pinched — because they could not believe a person could eat enough to be that fat.

Do you know the old story about the guy in Calcutta? He said his lifelong dream was to visit America, “because I want to see a place where poor people are fat.”

I don’t mean to make light of the problem of obesity (again, no snickering). But we have reached an interesting pass: For thousands of years, the human animal struggled to get enough food in him to keep going for another week. And now a major problem of our poor — more than of our rich, I gather — is obesity. It is interesting, is all. An interesting historical development.


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