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'The United States of Excess'

Gluttony and the dark side of American exceptionalism

Oxford University Press USA

Is it possible that America is hard-wired to consume too much food and fuel? Unfortunately, yes, writes Robert Paarlberg in THE UNITED STATES OF EXCESS: Gluttony and the Dark Side of American Exceptionalism. Paarlberg argues that America's excess is driven in each case by its distinct endowment of material and demographic resources, its unusually weak national political institutions, and a unique political culture that celebrates both individual freedoms over social responsibility, and free markets over governmental authority.

Topics for discussion include:

  • How does technology affect excess in food consumption?

  • Why does the United States consume so much fossil fuel?

  • What changes should American policy make to address overconsumption?

  • Varying levels of consumption in America, Europe and the rest of the world.

  • Our country's need for self-discipline to battle overconsumption.

Ultimately, Paarlberg concludes that America must adapt to climate change and obesity, rather than mitigate it. Adaptation, however, will cause serious equity problems. Responding to obesity with medical interventions will fall short for those in America most prone to obesity - racial minorities and the poor - since these groups have never enjoyed adequate access to quality health care. Responding to climate change by building more resilient infrastructures at home, while allowing atmospheric concentrations of CO2 to continue their increase, will impose greater climate disruption on poor tropical countries, which are far less capable of self-protection. Awareness of these inequities must be the starting point toward altering America's current path.


About the Author

Robert Paarlberg is a Professor of Political Science at Wellesley College and Adjunct Professor of Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. He has been a member of the Board of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the National Research Council and a consultant to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the United States Agency for International Development, the International Food Policy Research Institute, and the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations. Author Location: Watertown, MA

THE UNITED STATES OF EXCESS: Gluttony and the Dark Side of American Exceptionalism
by Robert Paarlberg will be published in hardcover by Oxford on April 1, 2015
(264 pages | $21.95 | Hardcover | ISBN: 9780199922628)

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