The real clash of civilizations in the 21st century will be not over religion, but over food. As the emerging East and surging South achieve appreciable amounts of disposable income, they're increasingly taking on a Western-style diet. This bodes poorly for the world on multiple levels, with the most-alarmist Cassandras warning about imminent resource wars. But the more immediate and realistic concern is the resulting health costs, which will inevitably trigger a rule-set clash between nanny-state types hell-bent on "reining in" a number of globalized industries -- agriculture, food and beverages, restaurants, health care and pharmaceuticals -- and those preferring a more free-market/libertarian stance.
Read more:This clash won't necessarily pit East versus West or North versus South, or even democracies versus authoritarian regimes. The core of this struggle will be about sustainability versus individual freedom of choice, because, as a recent Financial Times editorial put it, "Individuals have a right to indulge in excesses, but they also have responsibility for costs."
The New Rules: Time to Worry About Over-Eating, not Over-Population
Barnett penned his column, just a few hours before Denmark became the first country in the world to pass what has been dubbed the "Fat Tax" to combat the growing obesity in Denmark, as they confront rising health care costs in a country with state provided cradle to the grave health care costs are predicted to rise faster than the kilos on millions of personal scales.
Denmark on Saturday became the first country in the world to impose a fat tax after a week in which consumers hoarded butter, pizza, meat and milk to avoid the immediate effects.
"We have had to stock up with tonnes of butter and margarine in order to be able to supply outlets," Soeren Joergensen of Arla Distribution told AFP.
Read more:The new tax, designed by Denmark’s outgoing government as a health issue to limit the population’s intake of fatty foods, will add 16 kroner ($2.87, 2.15 euros) per kilo (2.2 pounds) of saturated fats in a product.
Denmark levies worlds first fat tax
It now appears other nations with state sponsored healthcare programs are considering similar taxes. Can the US be far behind? Personally, in an age where we all end up sharing the cost of programs like Medicare, and in in the future, some form a national health care system, as well as swelling personal health insurance rates, taxes on things that contribute to obesity and in turn health issues might make sense. The common sense solution would be to charge obese people more, but that would be considered discrimenatory so we all get to pay. The bigger question as raised by Thomas Barnett is how to feed a swelling population of 7 billion and growing without being labeled a pariah for consuming geometrically more than the majority of the planet.