Friday, March 23, 2012

Body Image and the Labor Market

Israel is moving forward with plans to regulate the fashion industry, specifically, setting minimum weight restrictions on models. Instead of the typical hand-wringing over fashion models being role models for young girls, this intervention seems predicated on the health of the models themselves.

Those of you who know me in person know that one of my chief complaints about bad reasoning lies in the improper invocation of selection effects. If I've learned anything by studying economics it's that people have choices and they act to, well, to get the most out of life, I suppose. Interventions by third parties can be justifiable under conditions of coercion, but not when exchange is euvoluntary. This story begs the question: is there something about being a runway model that makes your labor contribution non-euvoluntary? Will a ban on skinny models improve the health of these women?

I propose to you that if these women self-select into an industry famous for hiring waifs, then they do so knowingly and because their private benefit to doing so outweigh the costs. Furthermore, the authors of this intervention cannot simply wish a BATNA into existence with the stroke of a pen. I think the assumption is that these young ladies will sit down for a nice nosh, maybe have some kugel or some latkes and all will be well with the world. I don't know for sure, but I reckon this to be a common pattern for all the white knights out there: if I ban transactions X and Y, then all those poor oppressed people will straighten out, fly right and just stop being poor (or uneducated on on drugs or whatever the case may be). This is the triumph of hope over reason, people.

1 comment:

Do you have suggestions on where we could find more examples of this phenomenon?