Get Fit

Demolition Man continues to be the only plausible dystopian vision for our time:

Likewise, U.A.W. members, assured of health care benefits that were the envy of the labor movement, had little incentive to take better care of their health, since their generous coverage would pay for most any ailment.

By contrast, Toyota, which pays premiums only for workers, not their families, has fitness centers at its factories and requires newly hired workers to exercise two hours a day during their training period.

The idea that people with generous health insurance have "little incentive to take better care of their health" seems ridiculous. One problem with getting cancer is that even people with excellent health insurance coverage often die. And even people who survive tend to find it an unpleasant experience. Similarly, I'd really, really, really prefer not to have a heart attack for tons of reasons unrelated to the financial cost of obtaining treatment for it.

Which isn't to say that the non-menacing element of what Toyota's doing here -- making exercise facilities more widely available -- couldn't do a lot to improve people's health. Most all of us don't really exercise as much as we should, and I at least am really good at coming up with excuses as to why today's a good day to skip the gym. Anything that's done to make it more convenient to get in a healthy amount of vigorous activity is good. And, indeed, finding policies to encourage healthy lifestyles is probably more effective than finding policies to deliver more medical care. Nevertheless, it's very hard to imagine that requiring "newly hired workers to exercise two hours a day during their training period" is going to accomplish very much except make your company look bizarre.

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Matthew Yglesias is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.

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