Flyers feeling violated by airport x-ray scanners or TSA pat-downs may find a new proposal just too heavy an intrusion. A professor wants to add scales to airports for carriers to weigh passengers. The pounds on the scale would determine the price of the ticket.
“Is a person’s weight his or her own business?” Peter Singer asks in a Project Syndicate article. “Should we simply become more accepting of diverse body shapes? I don’t think so. Obesity is an ethical issue, because an increase in weight by some imposes costs on others.” The Princeton bioethicist notes that a plane’s load factors into the fuel it consumes.
But some 747s weigh 1,000,000 pounds. Does the 230-pound woman sitting in 11C really make such a big difference?
Singer tacitly admits it doesn’t by shifting the discussion away from the ostensible subject of the piece, fat passengers weighing us down with heavy fuel costs, to eclectic matters more germane to his interests. The bioethicist argues that the increased fuels burned to propel large people to their destinations emit a spare tire of greenhouse gases around the earth, which contributes to global warming. He further justifies elephantine ticket prices for rotund travelers by noting the corpulent health-care costs of obesity. Singer reasons, “These facts are enough to justify public policies that discourage weight gain.”
The unfocused reasoning is a staple of the Australian’s argumentation. He finds no “ethical distinction between a Brazilian who sells a homeless child to organ peddlers and an American who already has a TV and upgrades to a better one” since the money for the better television could have been used to help homeless Brazilian children. He argues for a $30,000 cap on income to pay for life’s necessities but not its luxuries. He wants to take away the right to bear arms, to smoke tobacco, and even the right to life for babies. In Rethinking Life and Death, he writes that “in the case of infanticide, it is our culture that has something to learn from others, especially now that we, like them, are in a situation where we must limit family size.” While he advocates legalizing the murder of newborns, Singer condemns eating hamburgers, imprisoning whales at Sea World, and what he describes as the Auschwitz-like conditions of chicken coops.
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