Drinking Down Paternalism

Government paternalism seemingly never goes out of fashion. One recent example comes in the form of a beverage tax proposed by Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter.

The tax has been dubbed as both a way to increase revenue to the city and nudge individuals into healthier beverage choices and potentially better health. Leave it to government to profit off of telling people what to drink.

The proposed tax would apply to “sugar-sweetened beverage(s),” which are defined as “any non-alcoholic beverage with added sugar, including: soda, non100%-fruit drinks, sports drinks, flavored water, energy drinks, and ready-to-drink sweetened tea and coffee.” This would exempt diet drinks without sugar added. The tax would amount to 2 cents per ounce. Quick math: That’s 64 cents added to the price of a medium drink (typically 32 ounces).

[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=soda+tax&iid=1612348″ src=”7/a/d/9/Doctors_To_Call_f5e6.jpg?adImageId=11143933&imageId=1612348″ width=”195″ height=”260″ /]Anyone for bottled water or diet? Philadelphians may not prefer those drinks, but thanks to the ever-increasing nanny state, it may become the wiser financial decision. It may also become the wiser decision for many others, given that similar taxes have been proposed elsewhere in the nation and President Obama has in the past voiced support for such measures. It is likely that the federal government’s “reform” efforts to control health-care costs will only serve as another excuse for government to regulate the drinking and eating habits of individuals.

Such government-backed economic “nudging” on the part of would-be social “reformers” in society is nothing new. Societies throughout history have never lacked in their fair share of busybodies (those who not only believe they know what’s best for other people but also are eager to use government coercion to change the personal behavior of others). With the disturbing level of paternalism such proposals exemplify, only the true busybodies among us today would feel comfortable with these type of taxes.

Christian philosopher and writer C.S. Lewis once wrote the following concerning such meddling people and their influence in government:

Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victim may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated, but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.

Many politicians who are not themselves these type of people, at least love the prevalence of meddlers in their society. Busybodies, for better or for worse, enable government and the politicians who run it to increase their power.

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5 Responses to Drinking Down Paternalism

  1. Slamdunk says:

    Good post. I had not seen the Lewis quote before. Interesting.

  2. […] proponents of healthier eating lobby government to nudge individuals into consuming healthier foods and beverages by taxing unhealthy products. These same people decry […]

  3. Sheryl Young says:

    I read about this…there are already a couple of states with taxes on soda. I forget which ones, but after a couple years, they are still the two states with the highest obesity rates. Taboo things often become more desirable!

  4. […] Drinking Down Paternalism March 15, 2010 by psgsousf Adam Fowler for Adam Fowler’s Opinion Blog: […]

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