Marc Ambinder and Megan McArdle are arguing over obesity, genetics, environment, and government intervention. Ezra Klein and Jim Fallows have also weighed in. But the reason I bring it up here is that Ambinder accuses McArdle of the following:
McArdle approaches obesity as if it were a Foucauldian construct: a category invented by the government to justify an exercise of power.
Paul: OK, the CDC honchos and the authors of this study you referenced are in hysterics because the obesity rate, so-called, has roughly doubled in the last 30 years. But let’s consider what that actually means.
Obesity is defined completely arbitrarily as a body mass index of 30 or higher (175 pounds for an average height woman). Now body mass follows more or less a normal distribution, whiich means if the the mean body weight is in the mid to high 20s, which it has been for many decades now, then tens of millions of people will have BMIs just below and just above the magic 30 line. So if the average weight of the population goes up by ten pounds, tens of millions of people who were just under the line will now be just over it.
Meanwhile, I think Fallows provides another reason to at least consider the merits of an argument about discourse. I won’t reproduce the photos here, but he embeds a few images of stars from the 1950s-60s who were known for being “heavy” who would probably seem average now.
At least a couple of people who read this blog know at least as much Foucualt as I do, and who routinely think about social “facts” as discursively constructed. Any thoughts?