IN THE SOUTHERN English town of High Wycombe, the MP, mayor and councillors are publicly weighed every year in the town centre, in a self-described attempt to deter them from “gaining weight at taxpayers’ expense”. Cheers erupt if a lawmaker has shed a few pounds; boos await those who have put any on. The centuries-old tradition is conducted largely in jest, but the townsfolk might be on to something.
The more overweight the government, the more corrupt the country, according to a new study of 15 post-Soviet states. The study’s author, Pavlo Blavatskyy of Montpellier Business School in France, used an algorithm to analyse photographs of almost 300 cabinet ministers and estimate their body-mass index (BMI), a measure of obesity. He found that the median BMI of a country’s cabinet is highly correlated with its level of corruption, as measured by indices compiled by the World Bank and Transparency International (see chart).
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