This is something new for me

Sure, and I occasionally get to write for the Times. And they’ve even, once or twice, rung up for a bit of advice – rare earths I recall one time. But this is the first time I know of that a piece elsewhere has been used by them as a source – a proof perhaps – for a contention being made by someone else.

The state should leave obese people alone as their early deaths would save the NHS money in the long run, the BBC presenter Michael Buerk has said.

He said overweight people should be allowed to indulge if they wished, and that they were “weak, not ill”.

Well, quite so. The end of the piece?

Tim Worstall, of the Adam Smith Institute, has called warnings that obesity poses an NHS funding crisis “nonsense on stilts”. He wrote: “When you add in the costs of the state pensions that those who die young don’t get, smoking and gorging save the government vast sums of money. Having us all slim . . . would cost the NHS very much more money than the current level of topers, smokers and lardbuckets does.”

24 thoughts on “This is something new for me”

  1. Tim,

    Your comments were true when you wrote them and are still true today.

    A quick fact check:
    A = revenue collected from tobacco taxes.
    B = cost to NHS for treating smokers

    if A > B the government scores.

    Last time I checked A = 18 Billion
    B = 1.8 billion.

    So they are making a killing but are strong on virtue signalling.

    If they were serious about cost savings, cigarettes would be duty free to pensioners!

  2. HMRC’s annual report and accounts tell me that for the year ended 31 / 3 / 2019 revenue was raised as follows:

    Cigarettes £7.7 bn
    Hand rolling tobacco £1.4 bn
    Cigars £0.1 bn
    Total tobacco duties £9.2 bn

    Wine, cider and perry £4.7 bn
    Spirits £3.8 bn
    Beer £3.6 bn
    Total alcohol duties £12.1 bn

  3. Lardbuckets? I see your tolerance is limited.

    ‘The state should leave obese people alone’

    NO! They should pick on them and ruin their lives just like everybody else.

    I agree that the state should leave them alone, but not because it would save them money. It should leave them alone because people’s weight is none of the damn government’s business. If government can fashion some sort of benefit for interfering in people’s lives, they still don’t have the authority to do it. Unless you live in a fascist state.

  4. Patrick

    These are excise duty amounts only. There is also the VAT charged on the cost of the products including the excise duty charges.

    In fact even adding VAT understates the direct and indirect costs that govt extracts in taxes from smoking and drinking.

    For just smokers:

    Cigarette papers, pipes, lighters, matches, extra washing, cleaning, dry cleaning and decorating. Ashtray purchases. Extra clothes purchases when you burn a hole in a shirt. Costs of driving to an all night garage when you run out of fags unexpectedly. Etc etc

    The vampire squid of govt has its blood funnels rammed down the throats and up the arses of smokers and drinkers.

  5. I keep banging on about this to anyone who will listen – the social insurance model for healthcare/pensions/old age care cannot work if we all live too long. Far from trying to increase life expectancy the State should be at worst neutral, and in the current situation actively encouraging people to do things that will accelerate their demise.

    In 1970 the average life expectancy was just over 70 for men and women combined. So a man who worked 50 years down t’pit or in t’factory would get a pension for few years and pop his clogs with a massive coronary. Social insurance worked. Lots of payers in, few takers out. The odd freak who lived to 90+ got lucky. Most paid in more than they got out.

    Now life expectancy is nearly 80 for men, so even someone who works right up to the statutory 67 will still be getting 13 years pension, 2 and a half times what he got 50 years ago. And will undoubtedly soak up more old age and health care in getting to 80 as well.

    This cannot continue, something has to give. We either encourage people to eat smoke and drink themselves to death (and legalise and tax drugs too, that’ll help), in order to reduce life expectancy by voluntary means, or we will have to ration pensions and health and old age care by either upping the retirement age again significantly, or rationing it at the end of life instead – refusing life saving care for people over a certain age for example. Have a heart attack over 80, you either pay for your care yourself, or die. The NHS won’t cover you.

    Its harsh, but reality is harsh. And the one thing thats certain is the current system is not sustainable and hard decisions will have to be made about it fairly soon.

  6. in the current situation actively encouraging people to do things that will accelerate their demise

    Well, it is forcing up energy prices for no good reason so that pensioners die of hypothermia.

  7. I suspect that the welfare state (= the taxpayer) could cope with the ancients if it weren’t also supplying doles to vast numbers of unancients, and if more people did actually pay their taxes.

    Are there are any govt stats that are secure enough to make a useful test of this proposition? After all, how can you possibly know the cost to the Exchequer of tax-evading? Hell, I don’t suppose the government even has good figures for the number of people in the country, or the number who bludge on the NHS while having no right to do so.

  8. Jim, Whilst I am sympathetic to the views expressed, I doubt anyone proposing such a line would win a general election. Higher taxes are far more likely, not least because an increasing percentage of our population – not least the low-pay poor-health demographic – are unlikely to be paying much in the way of tax.

  9. “weak, not ill”

    A common contention. According to wikipedia, in 2014 62% of adults in England were classified as overweight or obese (a body mass index of 25 or above), compared to 53% 20 years earlier.

    So several million people became ‘weak’ over a 20 year period?

    If nearly 2/3 of the adult population is ‘X’, I’d suspect there to be a cause for X, rather than ‘moral failing’.

    The language used sounds very much like that of Victorian moralists, Puritans and eco-fascists. Same cunts, different clothes.

    Plus, what Gamecock said.

  10. Have a heart attack over 80, you either pay for your care yourself, or die

    Before we get there I reckon we could abolish foreign aid (aka the Indian Space Program) and just about all Arts funding. Must be £20bn there alone.

    Seeing grandad die because he’s 81, while another African despot buys another trinket for one of his hundred concubines with the cash that would have treated him MIGHT be a bit unpopular.

    I’m sure May would have gone for it, though

  11. ” Higher taxes are far more likely, not least because an increasing percentage of our population – not least the low-pay poor-health demographic – are unlikely to be paying much in the way of tax.”

    Which is why you can’t tax your way out of the problem. Its only if the taxes are increased on everybody that the circle can be squared. Increasing taxes on a few and expecting them to carry the burden of everyone else is not going to work, we already see that the tax take is stubbornly resistant to ‘progressive’ tax increases, trying to get even more out of the goose is only going to result in more geese flying the coop.

    Social insurance systems will soon have to face the unpalatable truth that everyone cannot live for free at someone else’s expense. How that circle gets squared remains to be seen, but none of the solutions are likely to win any elections. No one likes to be told the good times are over and its time to get their wallets out.

  12. Bloke in North Dorset

    Jim,

    +1. That’s the demographic time-bomb that was raised in the ‘70s and ‘80s and studiously ignored by politicians.

    They’ve even made it worse. Then most of us left school at 15 or 16. Now thanks to Major and Blair’s idiocy the school leaving age has been raise to 18 for all but a few, and then something like 40% going off to university, most to do unproductive degrees.

    The average working life has dropped from 50 years to something 45 or 46, if we’re lucky, instead of rising t match the increase in longevity. They’re even doing office jobs and not hard manual labour, which probably is time limited to 40 or so years.

  13. “Seeing grandad die because he’s 81, while another African despot buys another trinket for one of his hundred concubines with the cash that would have treated him MIGHT be a bit unpopular.”

    Thats happening now (people dying because the NHS is shit) and I don’t see a massive rush to cut foreign aid, or any other of the virtue signalling crap that infests government.

    Face it, there’s far too many vested interests within government to ever take a knife to the pointless parts and redirect the resources to other more popular sectors. The people making the decisions will be the same people who are trying to keep us in the EU – they are not even attempting to hide their contempt for democracy any more, so the chances they’ll take a knife to things they hold dear just because some voters want it is pretty slim.

  14. Dear Mr Worstall

    Perhaps there is scope for a new ‘charity’ funded by the Department for Work and Pensions and a bit of surreptitious funding from the NHS, encouraging people to eat, drink, smoke and be merry.

    It would be a more cost effective way of squandering taxpayers’ money, leaving much, much more to spend on bureaucratic salaries and their best mates in the B2G sector.

    @ dearieme August 6, 2019 at 12:10 pm

    ” …supplying doles to vast numbers of unancients, “

    Does this include those millions ’employed’ in the bloated bureaucracies of our morbidly obese government, or just those paid to watch daytime TV? The latter are far cheaper because they do not need to be paid as much nor provided with expensive offices and paperclips, although a high headcount does help with the heads of departments’ take home pay and final salary pensions.

    ” …and if more people did actually pay their taxes.”

    If all tax evaders were forced to cough up, would government revenues go up or down? How many would stop working, how many would end up on the dole, and how much of the black economy revenues gets spent in the taxed economy?

    DP

  15. @MC – August 6, 2019 at 1:20 pm

    According to wikipedia, in 2014 62% of adults in England were classified as overweight or obese (a body mass index of 25 or above), compared to 53% 20 years earlier.

    So several million people became ‘weak’ over a 20 year period?

    No. The limit values for “normal”, “overweight” etc were simply modified. 20 years prior, “overweight” started at a BMI of 26 or 27, redefine it to 25 and “hey presto” millions of people become overweight overnight. “Underweight” was below 18, which has been revised upward to 20. The same has been done with blood sugar levels / diabetes and many other conditions.

    Moving goalposts is a very common trait in the nagging industries.

  16. Jollygreenman,

    It’s even better than that, because smokers pay their taxes up front but don’t fall ill until forty years later. Imagine how rich the NHS would be if the tax paid by smokers was ring-fenced and invested in the markets until such time as it was needed in the future.

  17. I did read somewhere that in 1945 there were 10 workers for every state pensioner and that if they kept the retirement ages as they were (60/65) then by 2030 it would be 2.2 workers for every state pensioner.

    It’s great we are all living longer but unsustainable financially if it becomes the norm that you work for 40 years and then retire for 25.

  18. Hang on, we are all getting fatter and we are all living longer. Summat doesn’t add up here. OK, I know that correlation isn’t causation, but if there isn’t any correlation, then there definitely isn’t any causation ….

  19. “Its harsh, but reality is harsh. And the one thing thats certain is the current system is not sustainable and hard decisions will have to be made about it fairly soon.”

    Well one thing is for sure, there will always be money to house Somalians in multi million pound houses in London…

  20. There is nothing inconsistent with the “retired to working” ratio increasing alongside improved productivity from use of machines.

    Ie, instead of us all just working far fewer hours, we partially work fewer hours (whilst young and fit) and partially retire earlier relative to our longer life span.

    Separately, Julie Burchill in the Speccy contrived to be a complete iriot and misconstrue the article – by ranting on about how awful it was that Buerck was suggesting that fat people should not be treated by the NHS.

    https://blogs.spectator.co.uk/2019/08/michael-buerk-wants-to-let-fat-people-die-thats-a-bit-rich/

  21. Bloke in North Dorset

    Excavator Man,
    Expensive drugs and treatments keeping Type 2 diabetes at bay, to name one.

  22. Andrew C

    “It’s great we are all living longer but unsustainable financially if it becomes the norm that you work for 40 years and then retire for 25.”

    Work 25 years, retire for 40, I can see those numbers are going to be ugly unless the salary was phenomenal. (People buggering round at uni til mid 20s and retiring at 50, hmm, maybe works if you get a PhD in physics and then work as an investment bank quant or similar. But hard.)

    Work 40 years, retire for 25…is that really so bad, on an average salary? Compared to “work 40, retire 10” then you’d clearly need to get used to lower consumption throughout your life and much higher savings levels while working, but if you were acclimatised to that, would it necessarily feel like a great sacrifice? Unless you’re at the bottom end of the income scale, it’s generally true that there are folk out there getting by okay and who you’d probably still class in your own social bracket with 20% less, 30% less income than you. If you were going to save that much more out of your income to compensate for your greater longevity, you’d need to adopt their kind of consumption pattern so it would obviously represent a life-changing downgrade, but it doesn’t sound radically impoverishing.

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