Governance of Choice - Part 1
Fat Food is Bad?
The Ontario Medical Association has put out a set of public health recommendations accompanied by a campaign to fight childhood obesity. Amongst the recommendations there included a suggestion for a “Junk Food Tax” where fatty foods would be taxed more and would balance with a reduction of taxes on healthier options.
The issue in particular is that an un-healthy diet is considered to be a preventable disease and this issue has virtually unanimous agreement of all qualified medical professionals where the association between obesity and Type 2 Diabetes, Cardiovascular diseases (stroke, hypertension, heart disease), and other non-fatal conditions (gout, osteoarthritis, and infertility) is virtually undeniable.
Yet, Lobbyists Disagree…?
It wasn’t long before industry lobbyists were quick to make their voices heard as they challenged that there is no proof that additional taxes would reduce obesity, and that there would serve detrimental to the economy as jobs (not profit) would be at risk. Also Freedom.
Aren’t we are already taxed anyways!?
However, the economy already suffers from obesity as a disease. As costs as a result of obesity are estimated at 2 to 2.5 billion dollars a year in the province of Ontario alone. That cost translates to nearly $200 of your taxes a year paid toward fat people every year. And if you are not obese, you live longer, so you get to pay it longer.
Wait a minute sir… A Fat Food tax sounds a whole lot like a dang Carbon Tax.
I would not disagree with that heading at all (well at least I would hope so, seeing that I just wrote it). A fat food tax is essentially a carbon tax; Where the general intention is that the tax remain “Revenue Neutral”, there is near unanimous support by qualified professionals (scientists) that carbon emissions are detrimental to the environment, and taxation lowers emissions without preventing a society from their ability to emit carbon or eat unhealthy.
Then, Why the mixed feelings over taxes?
Typically, right of center folks outline that the government has no position to regulate choice, suggesting that the government should only regulate based on restrictions rather than recommendations. Such as pouring oil in the lake: restricted. Arsenic in food: restricted. But everything else should be determined by individuals through the freedoms they are empowered with #RonPaulForPresident. The issue with the libertarian view and complete freedom of such regard is that the “free” individual requires knowledge and information that only scientists, doctors and industry professionals who spend years and years in study best understand.
Furthermore the view of taxation as a punishment of such freedom where ‘if I choose to buy a Baconator from Wendies, I would have to pay more than a salad’ is a unpleasant experience for me exercising my rights to choose.
So, Why should we say “Yes” to taxes?!??
A tax imbalance does not restrict freedom (as we can still choose to buy the baconator) but they do influence choice, therefore, if the government can maintain bodies of experts with the intention to improve quality of life (such as the Ontario Medical Association) and as they announce a set of recommendations, it’s the responsibility of the government to “govern” according to those recommendations.
For example, cigarette taxes were once bitterly contested, as the recommendations were made by the Medical Associations years before they were implemented. But now, in retrospect, most people are curious to why they weren’t implemented sooner as they are credited to have worked significantly in reducing smoking even though most people still don’t fully understand the reason why smoking is bad.
The result is we alleviate the strain on our tax system paying for healthcare, we improve our living environment, and the up front costs become minor in comparison to the down-the-line costs of smoking, eating fatty foods, and polluting the environment.
MORE ON THIS SUBJECT IN A FUTURE BLOG POST…
I have an interesting theory on governing choice through taxation that I’ve been sitting on for a couple of years. And would love to share it!
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Comments are welcome!
US Library of Medicine: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1790820/
Ontario Medical Association: https://www.oma.org/Mediaroom/PressReleases/Pages/ActiontoCombatObesityEpidemic.aspx
International Institute for Sustainable Development: http://www.iisd.org/media/press.aspx?id=227
Nutrition of a Baconator: http://caloriecount.about.com/calories-wendys-baconator-i128257