Imagine that universally-respected researchers had determined that most of the people in your community eat far more sugar and fat than they should, and are at serious risk of developing diabetes, hardened arteries, and other ailments associated with poor diet and inadequate exercise. If you were to live in such a community, how much sugar-filled and fat-laden goodies would you give your neighbors at Christmastime?
Much of the food we eat has negative utility — the world would be better off if it were packed into trash cans instead of our arteries and derriers. For that reason I now throw away junk food. For example, after a party, when the cake and ice cream have served their purpose (drawing people together to celebrate) I believe the best end for the remaining half of the delicious cake is to wallow in a landfill. (I suppose that it would make decent compost for a garden, but I have neither garden nor compost pile.)
We are complicit in each other’s poor eating habits; it’s not coincidental that oversized pants aren’t randomly distributed across families or across nations. It seems we must take responsibility for the ways we make our neighbors less healthy, just as we must begin to recognize the impact we have on each other’s consumption habits (excessive debt and bankruptcies aren’t randomly distributed, either, but that’s a topic for another day.)
At least this is the dilemma I’m chewing as I consider what to give to our neighbors along with copies of Mr. Krueger’s Christmas.