What a shocker! A bureaucratic government panel of “experts” proposes to make us better off by requiring us to pay more for the food we enjoy. Yes, our wise and benevolent overlords are literally supporting a dramatic increase in the cost of living for everyone in the latest effort to fight the “obesity epidemic.”
This particular article doesn’t make the leap from “public health” to “national economic interest” but trust me, that angle is coming too. As we continue down the road to socialized medicine, we will see more and more justifications for these sorts of nightmarish policies on the basis of the fact that the obese people are costing all of us more money, and action is necessary in order to help balance the budget or what have you.
As any student of Austrian Economics knows, all taxes diminish human quality of life, for the simple reason that the government is far less likely to spend money on things that satisfy your most urgent preferences than you are yourself. A tax on food; however, is especially “regressive,” and becomes even more regressive the more specific and targeted the tax becomes, as the poor are more likely to purchase unhealthy food than the wealthy. The net effect of the tax will obviously be to increase food prices. Food, being a basic necessity, is a highly inelastic item. We will continue to buy it, even as prices rise. Unfortunately, as we are forced to spend more on food, we will have less money available to purchase other items we highly desire. But suppose the tax targets unhealthy food only, and the prices of healthy food remain constant. And, for the sake of argument, suppose all poor people react the exact way the government wants them to, and immediately switch from unhealthy food to the now (relatively) cheaper healthy food. Even in this “best-case scenario,” human quality of life is diminished, because the poor are now being forced, for economic reasons, to eat food they do not enjoy as much. While this may make them healthier, the trade-off between future health benefits and current enjoyment of life’s pleasures is a personal decision, which individuals should be free to make without government coercion.
Remember, there are still people who starve to death in this country. But the bureaucrats are so wholly obsessed with the fact that some (typically lower-class) people might choose to eat at McDonalds three times a week and drink Diet Coke instead of wheat grass juice that they see no problem in a massive tax on all food. After all, it gives you “the biggest bang for your buck.” The statists are more interested in social engineering than they are in saving lives and raising the human standard of living. Perhaps some people like fast food and sugar because it tastes really good? Perhaps these people have thought the issue over, and decided they’re comfortable sacrificing a few years of their life-span in order to enjoy the foods they prefer during life. Is that not their right? Is it really our duty to punish them for making this choice? Is that really the way to serve the public good?