The pure distillation

By Eric Crampton 16/01/2014


The funniest part of this anti-sugar piece from Lustig and his UCSF team? Here:

Sugar, they argue, is far from just “empty calories” that make people fat. At the levels consumed by most Americans, sugar changes metabolism, raises blood pressure, critically alters the signaling of hormones and causes significant damage to the liver – the least understood of sugar’s damages. These health hazards largely mirror the effects of drinking too much alcohol, which they point out in their commentary is the distillation of sugar.

If you set up a still with a sugar cube on one side, you might get a bit of water vapour out the other end after trying to distil, and, if you’re lucky, caramel in the original flask. Mmmm, caramel. But to get alcohol, you’re going to have to ferment that sugar with some yeast. Distillation gets you spirits from fermented alcohol.

The less funny part? The way the whole nudge apparatus has been imported over.

Many of the interventions that have reduced alcohol and tobacco consumption can be models for addressing the sugar problem, such as levying special sales taxes, controlling access, and tightening licensing requirements on vending machines and snack bars that sell high sugar products in schools and workplaces.

“We’re not talking prohibition,” Schmidt said. “We’re not advocating a major imposition of the government into people’s lives. We’re talking about gentle ways to make sugar consumption slightly less convenient, thereby moving people away from the concentrated dose. What we want is to actually increase people’s choices by making foods that aren’t loaded with sugar comparatively easier and cheaper to get.”

No, it’s not prohibition. Not yet. This was an entirely foreseeable and foreseen consequence of Thaler’s nudge architecture, but taxes and licensing requirements on vending machines are hardly “make the tempting thing slightly less convenient” nudges.

Andrew Stuttaford at NRO also doesn’t like the idea that this somehow increases people’s range of choices.

What they “actually” mean by that is that sugar-heavy products will be made more expensive and more difficult to obtain thereby making it easier for the child-like American population to “choose” the healthier alternative.

A shove’s as good as a nudge to a blind bat….

Another for the “there’s no slippery slope” file.