Fat tax: Do the ends justify the means?
Or are they just another example of unjustified government overreach and a loss of freedom?
The question – who should decide what you eat? You or the government?
In Denmark, it appears the government will decide:
Denmark has introduced what’s believed to be the world’s first fat food tax, applying a surcharge to foods with more than 2.3 percent saturated fats, in an effort to combat obesity and heart disease.
Danes accordingly hoarded the foods which will see increased taxes, buying out stores which carried them.
Who should decide your diet?
The new tax of 16 kroner ($2.90) per kilogram (2.2 pounds) of saturated fat in a product will be levied on foods like butter, milk, cheese, pizza, oils and meat.
Obviously the Danish government isn’t saying you can’t eat these things, but it is saying it will make it markedly more expensive to do so. And, of course, those it hits hardest with this sort of tax are those who can least afford it.
“We get the taxes, but never a reduction on anything to complement the increases, such as on healthy foods,” said Clausen.
End result – those with less income will be able to afford less meat, oil, milk etc.
But that’s not the main point, of course. It is government deciding something as basic as what you’ll be able to put in your mouth. And it all derives from one thing – the fact that in the case of health care, the Danish government, via intrusion in that area long ago, now justifies its further intrusion in the name of “public health”. Once a people allow that, all sorts of intrusion is then “justified” under the guise of “public health” or driving the cost of health care down.
“Denmark finds every sort of way to increase our taxes,” said Alisa Clausen, a South Jutland resident. “Why should the government decide how much fat we eat? They also want to increase the tobacco price very significantly. In theory this is good — it makes unhealthy items expensive so that we do not consume as much or any and that way the health system doesn’t use a lot of money on patients who become sick from overuse of fat and tobacco. However, these taxes take on a big brother feeling. We should not be punished by taxes on items the government decides we should not use.”
But that right – the right to decide what they eat – was given up by Dane’s decades ago when they voluntarily gave up the right to decide their means of health care for the convenience of a government single payer system.
Liberty traded for convenience and security. The problem, as always, is the trade is never complete with the first installment. Give up the right to your health care options and you’ll eventually give up your right to decide on what you eat. Etc.
What Ms. Clausen points out is a dawning awareness that Danes have done exactly that. Taxes, instead of being a means of raising revenue to fund government, have become a tool of social engineering. And while she acknowledges the supposed good intentions involved she seems to have recognized what she’s traded for them. And I think she’s beginning to realize how much worse it can (and most likely will) get.
If you think Denmark is an isolated example of this pernicious threat to liberty, think again:
Speaking on the government’s role in diet and health last week, Bloomberg told the UN General Assembly, “There are powers only governments can exercise, policies only governments can mandate and enforce and results only governments can achieve. To halt the worldwide epidemic of non-communicable diseases, governments at all levels must make healthy solutions the default social option. That is ultimately government’s highest duty.”
Earlier in his address Bloomberg lauded the past dietary efforts of NYC, “In 2009 we enacted the first restriction on cholesterol-free artificial trans fat in the city’s food service establishments. Our licensing of street green card producer/vendors has greatly increased the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables in neighborhoods with high rates of diet related diseases. And we’ve led a national salt reduction initiative and engaged 28 food manufacturers, supermarkets and restaurant chains to voluntarily commit to reducing excessive amounts of sodium in their products. ”
In the end, the only guardian of your liberty is you. And it is the nature of government to pursue power. The two must clash. Sometimes a loss of liberty may seem to be a good thing initially, such as when Danes traded their liberty to make their own health care decisions for the security of the government doing so. But, as mentioned, it never stops there, does it? Once you begin trading liberty for security, government decides when that trading stops, not you.
Denmark is just the first. Michael Bloomberg describes the future as we’re allowing it to be set – trading liberty for security, and in the end, getting neither.