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Too fat to work

The incapacity benefit system in the UK is intended to provide an income support for those unable to work.  Like any government program, many of the beneficiaries are in dire need of the money and are truly unable to work, but many other individuals who are able–but not inclined–to work have taken advantage of government largesse.  Liberals will highlight the fact that these programs help the needy while conservatives will generally retort with numerous examples of how individuals are able to take advantage of ‘the system.’

Last week, The Times of London reported (‘Too fat to work‘) that “Almost two thousand people who are too fat to work have been paid a total of £4.4 million in benefit.”  Should obese individuals receive a disability benefit?  If obesity is truly a disease, than one may say yes.  On the other hand, there is a seemingly simple cure for obesity–eat less and exercise more.  For those who are obese, however, accomplishing this physiological feat is not as simple as it sounds.  It is possible that the incapacity benefit may actually make the obese worse off.  Allowing the obese to collect an incapacity benefit may reduce an overweight individual’s incentive to lose weight in order to be able to work.

Any input on this subject would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks to my colleague Mike Ewens for the referral to the Times article.