The War On Ugliness

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Economists across the political spectrum agree that in instances of market failure, the government should step in to optimize when the market could not. One generalized instance of these market failures has been dubbed the “externality”, which is where the full social cost of an action is not paid by the agent who takes the action.

An example would be instructive. Let’s say I own a factory, and pollutants billow out of my smokestacks. Wind picks them up and carries the pollution into a nearby town, creating smog. The townspeople are experiencing the cost of the smog, but that cost is not factored into my decision of how much to produce at my factory. After all, I don’t have to suffer the consequences, so I will produce until my marginal product equals marginal cost.

Here, it is the role of the government to step in and “internalize” the externality, say, by imposing a tax on the amount of pollution I produce. Now that I have to pay the cost, I will decrease production and pollution will be reduced, maximizing the social welfare.

This is all well and good. The government has stepped in and helped to internalize some externalities, but there are some that have gone completely ignored, with disastrous consequences. There is one externality I have in mind that touches our lives every single day. Everybody knows about it, but our politicians are silent, despite the fact that it quite literally causes outright revulsion and disgust among most Americans today.

I’m talking about all the ugly people. Nobody wants to look at someone who is ugly, and yet that ugly person need not bear this cost. Conversely, beautiful people provide a positive externality, and yet they don’t get to reap the rewards! Why is Washington not doing whatever it can to maximize social welfare by discouraging ugliness and rewarding beauty in line with their appropriate social costs and benefits? Why is this issue not a matter of public discussion?

Call me a “conspiracy theorist” if you will, but I’ll bet it has something to do with the fact that most politicians are old and ugly themselves. Have you seen Hillary? Politicians balk at the idea, because they know that they will be on the hook themselves.

That is why I’m reaching out to You, the American People. I can’t solve this critical social justice issue on my own, but with enough of us together, we can get Washington to listen.

Perhaps you don’t think this is that big of an issue, or that things are okay the way they are. This is only because you don’t know what is possible.

Imagine living in a world where everywhere you turn, there are gorgeous people abound. Where most people look like supermodels, so supermodels look like….super-supermodels.

Imagine living in a world where the greatest dread of any air traveler, sitting next to a fat person, is no longer a concern.

Imagine living in a world where being the wingman doesn’t mean jumping on a grenade, where the song “Hot for teacher” has lost all meaning, and where every dining experience is like going to Hooters.

It may take 100 years, but yes, this vision is possible. Like preventing global warming, often those most worthwhile of pursuits may require a long time before we see the benefits.

“Even so,” you say, “but things aren’t that bad the way they are now.”

Oh really? Consider this:

  • According to the Journal of American Medical Association, over one third of all U.S. adults are obese, and 17% of children are as well1.
  • The estimated annual medical cost due to obesity is $147 billion dollars2. As wonderful as our more socialized medical system is, you, the skinny and attractive taxpayer, must foot the medical bill for your obese neighbors. Is this fair?
  • According to research done by OkCupid, attractive men get 11 times more messages than ugly men do, and attractive women get 28 times as many messages as ugly women. How inegalitarian! No wonder so many people whine about dating. Yet nobody considers the solution: remove ugly people from the equation, and human shallowness becomes a non-issue!
  • According to the National Bureau of Economics Research, ugly people commit more crimes3. Yes, it’s true. So the next time you walk past someone revolting looking, you are right to get as far away from them as possible.
  • Good looking people earn more money. The penalty for “plainness” can be as high as 5 to 10% of wages4! By improving our looks overall, we can increase wages, stimulate aggregate demand, and lift ourselves out of this economic slump.

Because we deal with peoples’ looks any time we find ourselves dealing with people in general, it is particularly important and warrants closer study and attention. And it requires action, and meaningful public policies aimed at decreasing ugliness and maximizing beauty.

 

My 9-Point Plan

davidwainsillyface

Luckily, there is a way forward. There are many ways the government can help internalize this externality. I’ve included here my plan, but I’m sure that individuals more clever than I can come up with more ideas. These are just a few suggestions, but I’m hoping this article can start a discussion about how we can right this wrong.

  1. First, we need to allocate more federal funds to the study of beauty. Science can show us more clearly what the American people find attractive and unattractive. Only through understanding this can we figure out what the “neutral” attractiveness is so that we can penalize those who are uglier, and reward those who are more beautiful.
  2. We also need more grant money going to the study of relevant psychological principles. We need answers to many questions. What will most entice people to go to the gym? At what point do people decide to get plastic surgery? What makes people eat fatty foods?
  3. Take a yearly survey of preferences for physical attractiveness in order to establish a baseline. Use this survey to figure out which traits are most and least attractive in the general population, and then mandate that those features be prioritized. Let’s say large breasts create the greatest positive externality. Then, at a woman’s mandatory yearly physical, she will receive a check from the government if she has large breasts, and will pay a fine if she has small breasts (after factoring in an age adjustment, of course).
  4. Nationalize the plastic surgery and health and fitness industries. Greedy plastic surgeons charge exorbitant rates for facelifts, breast implants, and hormone therapy. There are people who want to do their share for the community by getting implants or taking steroids (which should be legalized), but cannot do so because of their financial situation (getting paid 10% less than their more beautiful peers surely plays a role here). Similarly, few can afford good personal trainers. These services are a right, and it is a travesty of social justice that people be excluded just because of life circumstances.
  5. Levy a tax on all food items. A panel of experts will determine what is healthy and unhealthy, and the tax will be proportionate. Calories in general should be discouraged, because obesity is the leading cause of ugliness in this country. Reducing America’s aggregate weight will do wonders to increase our attractiveness (so called “chubby chasers” are a small enough percentage of the population that their effect is statistically insignificant).
  6. Expand the legal, medicinal use of certain drugs. All men age 16 and older who are in the bottom quartile of lean body mass will be prescribed steroids (under careful doctor supervision). Cocaine and methamphetamine should be prescribed to the obese of both genders (along with a responsible dose of cigarettes) to aid in weight loss. In order to ensure compliance, we will institute mandatory school and workplace drug testing. Anyone not taking their medication will be fined. Similarly, there should be harsher penalties for marijuana possession in order to reduce incidences of “the munchies”.
  7. Isolate the ugliest members of society. Some people are so hideous that normal people should not have to see them. There can be special jails for ugly people, or some type of house arrest. Conversely, there should be state sponsored cocktail parties for the most beautiful. Attractive people don’t spend enough time in public, so they are not producing the optimal amount of this positive externality.
  8. Implement strategic mating policies designed to increase the beauty of our next generation. More research will be needed to determine what characteristics of parents lead to the best looking children. As we learn more about this, we should nudge peoples’ decisions on who to have a child with toward more beautifying choices.
  9. Arrest parents who have obese children. Raising an obese child is just a subtle form of child abuse. Authorities have already begun to do this in the UK, and we need to start doing it here. Having an obese child is not only abusive to the child, but damaging to the rest of society.

It will take a concerted effort to end this epidemic of ugliness. But we must do it, for the good of humanity. It will not be easy, but the War on Ugliness will be won!

 

Footnotes:

  1. http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1832542
  2. http://content.healthaffairs.org/content/28/5/w822.full.pdf+html
  3. http://www.nber.org/papers/w12019
  4. http://www.nber.org/papers/w4518

 

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