U.N. Report Scathing on Growing Height Inequality

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by Gene Callahan and Stu Morgenstern

Geneva – Nutritional advances may be improving life for many people around the world, but they are also widening the gap between tall and short, according to a U.N. report released today. An international effort is needed to meet the growing needs of short people in the areas of reaching things on tall shelves, getting some booty, and finding their friends at crowded parties, according to the 2000 Human Development Report. Researchers with the U.N. Development Program conducted a thorough examination that accounted for, among other things, heel size, the “big hair factor,” and slouching in assessing the average height in 174 countries.

Among their findings were that access to high-paying jobs in the NBA and fashion modeling were reserved almost exclusively for a “tall elite.” Many other indicators illustrate that the trend is international in scope and concern, including an increasing gap between the tallest and the shortest countries. In the principality of Monaco in 1996 there were 99 “big and tall” men’s shops per 10,000 people, while in Cambodia the figure was one. In tallish Switzerland people spend an average of six hours of bending over per year, but in Pakistan the average is twenty minutes. The problem is apparently at its worst amongst a group known as “babies,” of whom virtually all the members have severe difficulty in reaching any object not placed literally on the ground.

Globalization did not necessarily make the situation worse, but the report’s author Richard Holly-Jolly told reporters that governments should take into account more than just trade issues when they consider international policy. The report says international policy making must balance a concern for profits with a concern for the upward growth of people who have been affected by turmoil in the global marketplace.

“Height is a two-edged sword – while it’s smashing to be vertically gifted, it’s a real downer to be a perpendicularly challenged,”‘ Holly-Jolly pointed out. He added that tall people are increasingly consuming the world’s dwindling resources, “what with their enormous bellies and all.”

Holly-Jolly continued: “The upper shelves of supermarkets, where many of the best bargains are hidden, have increasingly become the domain of an elite few. Many of the short suffer from frequently blocked views at sporting events and in theaters, denying them access to adequate levels of diversion, even in places as devoted to diversion as Los Angeles.”

The top 20 percent of the world’s population is an average of 1’3″ taller than the bottom 20 percent. In 1960 it was only 9.” “The 200 tallest people in the world have more dunk shots than the combined total of the lowest 40 percent of the world’s population,” said Holly-Jolly. “A member of the tall elite is over 80 times as likely to have dated Madonna as is a short person.”

Holly-Jolly added: “It is important that we unite in a centrally-coordinated, comprehensive approach to global threats such as disparate muscle mass figures, gaps in dancing ability, and the fact that those Negro fellows are so much quicker than us, and the Orientals so darned clever.” These glaring disparities are moving a network of investors to sponsor efforts to tie CEO height to the size of a company’s shortest laborer. The group, called ‘Responsible Height,’ is backing proposals to be voted on in coming months by shareholders of seven major U.S. companies. If successful, the resolutions would set a maximum ratio between the tallest and shortest person at each company. UMI (United Midgets International), which assembled the ‘Responsible Height’ investors’ group, wants Congress to pass a proposed ‘Height Equity Act’ capping the height of the tallest worker at 1.5 times the height of the shortest in any given firm.

Ralph Nader joined the campaign, saying in an open letter to Shaquille O’Neal: “We are increasingly becoming a nation, and even a world, of ‘reach’ and ‘reach-not,’ of ‘dunk’ and ‘dunk-not.’ What will you and your fellow Brobdingnagians do to help lessen the growing height gap in modern society?”

Gene Callahan is a regular contributor to mises.org, and Stu Morgenstern is contributing editor at The Frumious Bandersnatch.

2001, Gene Callahan and Stu Morgenstern

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