Wednesday, May 27, 2009


"Empathy" is much in the news these days. Trouble is that it only embellishes the sanctimony of politicians bearing gifts.

The June 8 Forbes includes "Wal-Mart's Weight Effect. Surprisingly, discount retailers make people healthier." The piece cites research that highlights how the income effect of low prices can trump the substitition effect. Lower prices have the effect of higher income and encourage the purchase of fewer junk food items.

The piece by Art Carden concludes, "Do you want to make the poor healthier? Then restricting the growth of discount chains is the last thing you should do. Instead repeal programs that distort incentives -- like agricultural subsidies that make junk food made from corn and soybean derivatives artificially cheap. Next, cut payroll taxes. With more take-home pay in their pockets, lower-income workers can afford to buy foods that are better for their health."

But do any of these policies lend themselves to empathy posturing?