The diet industry feeds on the hopes and the fears of those who need-or think that they need-to lose weight. Since the publication of the first known diet book in 1864, a host of sanctimonious preachers and self-proclaimed experts-often overweight themselves-have stoked fears of obesity effectively for both profit and political power, none more so than former surgeon general C. Everett Koop. In Public Health Profiteering, James T. Bennett and Thomas J. DiLorenzo offer a scathing and irreverent assessment of Koop's public and private career showing how a brilliant pediatric surgeon has evolved into a self-seeking and hypocritical public scold.During his term as Surgeon General under the Bush administration, Koop, enamored of the military trappings of title and uniform, saw himself as leading an army of public health administrators against an enemy. As often as not, the enemy took on the disquieting countenance of the American people. In Koop's view they were stupid, improvident, feckless, unable to make the simplest decisions about their lives. As Bennett and DiLorenzo show, he used his position as a bully pulpit for intemperate attacks on the tobacco and alcohol industries and to irresponsibly exaggerate the dangers of obesity. While taking a prohibitionist line, Koop himself smoked a pipe, drank martinis, and weighed in at a hefty 210 pounds. Although Koop claimed that he would never cash in on his office, his subsequent career tells a far different story. He has lobbied, hawked, and endorsed products for a host of firms: Wyeth Ayerst (makers of the dubious diet drug Fen-Phen), Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, Intel, Neurocrine, Kelloggs, BioPure, and many others.Lively in style and carefully researched, Public Health Profiteering will be of interest to health policy specialists, political scientists, economists, and media analysts.James T. Bennett is professor of economics at George Mason University. He is founder and editor of the Journal of Labor Research and has authored many books and articles, including Health Research Charities: Image and Reality and Official Lies: How Washington Misleads Us, co-authored with Thomas DiLorenzo.Thomas DiLorenzo is professor of economics at the Sellinger School of Business and Management at Loyola College in Baltimore. He has co-authored many books and is widely published in academic journals as well as the popular press, including the Wall Street Journal and USA Today.
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