The New England Journal of Medicine tells us both that there are more fat people around and also that this is leading to a rise in certain diseases. To which our response is, ain't that great?
The prevalence of overweight and obesity is increasing worldwide.
That's their opening line and we can't see anything to argue with there. They also tell us that the more developed a place the more likely it is to have a lot of fat people:
In 2015, at all SDI levels and for all age groups, the prevalence of obesity was generally higher for women than for men, with the highest prevalence among women between the ages of 60 to 64 years living in countries with a high SDI (Figure 1). In general, the prevalence of obesity among both women and men increased with the increase in the SDI across all age groups.
That SDI is the sociodemographic index and yes, it reads that a higher number means a more economically developed nation.
All of which we would say is greatly cheering. Certainly, there are aesthetic reasons for not desiring too many fat people around but the basic underlying story here is that we've solved the great and original human problem. How do we produce enough food to keep everyone alive?
For we note that before about 1820, just as the Rev Malthus sat down to write it all out, the major limitation upon population size (in both senses, number of people and size of people) was the ability to produce enough food. People really did drop dead from lack of it. As Amartya Sen has pointed out modern famines are more about politics and inadequate - even purposefully so - reactions to dearth but there were millennia upon millennia where people really did starve down to skeletons then die through no one's fault nor intention.
That the world is now roamed by those too large for yoga pants might indeed be a problem of sorts but it's a very different one, it's one that stems from our having solved the basic and long running human problem of what's for lunch. The solution brought to you, of course, by private property, trade, free markets and capitalism.
This also illustrates a core contention of economics, that there are no complete solutions, only a series of trade offs. We are where we might have to worry about the prevalence of diabetes, rather than which one of our children, or even all of them, will starve in the next couple of years. We can't help thinking that this is an advance in the human condition.
At which point of course The Happy Dance even if the size and weight of us all makes it an unedifying sight.