Free Markets, Free People

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.


Twitter: @McQandO

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28 Responses to Fat tax: Do the ends justify the means?

  • Not that it matters the least to a fascist like “Short Stack” Bloomberg, but the tendency for salt to make any difference to cardiac health is only distributed in about 40% of the population.
    As in so many other areas, the totalitarian urge finds junk science a useful tool.
    And they have no problem lying to you, for your own good…of course.

  • “Oh, but don’t worry!  The government would NEVER use their powers to force us to eat well (or eat our broccoli).”  Isn’t that what the left is saying when libertarians criticize the individual mandate on constitutional grounds?

  • What is the fat content of Soylent Green?

  • “Higher fees on sugar, fat and tobacco is an important step on the way toward a higher average life expectancy in Denmark,” health minister Jakob Axel Nielsen said when he introduced the idea in 2009, according to The Associated Press, because “saturated fats can cause cardiovascular disease and cancer.”
    Higher average life expectancy only kicks the increases in healthcare costs down the road.

    • In a welfare state, higher life expectancy greatly hurts everyone because of the costs of medical care and pensions.

  • I’m waiting to see how the law of unintended consequences throttles them.
    And then, the government in it’s wisdom will institute yet another policy to course correct, and so on, and so on, and so on.

  • On the plus side, this way Mikey Moore and Roseanne Barr will finally contribute their fair share…

  • They should look at Sweden. They started promoting LCHF (lo-carb/hi-fat) eating and are starting to get results. All this tax is going to do will be to make Danes fatter and make their government richer. They are completely wrong from their first assumption that fat is bad to how they are trying to make their population healthier.
    I’m personally scared about this tax moving here because I’ve lost almost 50lbs eating this way, and I don’t want to be forced back!

  • Forget, for a second the liberty issue,  this is just pure bogus science!  Fats do not make you fat, nor do they add to your bad cholesterol level!
    The foods that contribute most to fat, high cholesterol, and diabetes are carbohydrates, particularly those with a high glycemic index.

    • Actually, fat stores about 2.5 times the energy of carbs.
      But NOTHING MAKES you fat except…
      1. CONSUMPTION, and
      2. low energetic output
      That is thermodynamics.  NOBODY makes fat out of nothing.

      • I understand the dynamic but high glycemic carbs are what your body is fooled into storing as fat first.  Hunter gatherers, even when they have a surfeit of food, remain thin and fit. People who eat a lot of carbohydrates, particularly potatoes and white bread, and corn syrup are the populations with diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.

  • It is thermodynamics, but Ragspierre has the cause and effect mixed up: you don’t get fat because you’re eating more; you’re eating more because you’re getting fat.
    Kyle’s right: it’s more what you you eat and how your body reacts to it. Generally speaking, foods with the higher glycemic loads will make a person fat. If a body gets too much sugar in the blood stream, the body will release insulin to combat the sugar spike by putting the sugar into fat cells. When the blood sugar is lower, the sugar comes out of the fat cells to provide a body with energy. Now if this happens too often, the fat cells will become resistant to the effects of insulin, and will hold onto the sugar. This will cause the person to become obese, and will set him on his way to type II diabetes.
    In addition to the insulin resistance effects, high glycemic load foods can create a sweet tooth, and can interfere with satiety signals. Insulin, which is generated by high glycemic foods, increases appetite, while leptin, which suppresses appetite, is itself suppressed by the presence of insulin. These facts about insulin have been known since the late 1800’s but have been ignored by the government since the 1970’s with their lame dietary guidelines.
    Now when your body is burning off the energy stored in the fat cells, that process is called dietary ketosis (which is not diebetic ketoacidosis). The body creates ketones in this process, which are then used by the brain for fuel. There are all kinds of research projects going on about the benefits of a ketonic diet.
    Dietary fat is important because it increases satiety and because your body absolutely needs it to live. You cannot absorb vitamin B12 or K without fat, because they are both fat-soluable. Ask long-time vegetarians if they need to get B12 shots. Also, your brain is roughly 60% fat, and if the brain cannot replenish the cells with fat, the brain will wither or shrink.
    If you ask a registered dietitian where the original dietary guidelines promoting carbs and shunning fats came from, I bet you that they will not have a good answer. Those guidelines came from the a Senate committee in the 1970’s where every scientist there dissented.
    The obesity crisis in this country (and I dare to say around the world) is an unintended consequence of governmental action.
    If anyone wants more resources, feel free to email me 😀

  • Added: The obesity crisis in this country (and I dare to say around the world) is an unintended consequence of governmental action. Taxing food is wrong, but taxing healthy food is obviously wrong in every way, shape and form.

  • This is an excellent post.  The criticism of the government single payer no-way-out system is correct.
    I really hope this madness encourages Danes to change their system.  In the meantime I hope it encourages smuggling and black marketeering as those things will at least undermine their government to an extent.  The Danes also need to severely tighten their immigration system as even though they are a small country they have granted asylum and put on the welfare dole outrageous numbers of African & Arab rotters.
    Wow, everything I just wrote above also applies to this country. Really sad.

    • One of F. Paul Wilson’s more ferociously libertarian works is a short story called “Lipidleggin’.”  Eerily prescient, it is.

  • Of course, this is nonsense. Denmark is a dairy country. Their best local foods are butter and cheese.

    (Seriously, it’s cheese or pickled herring for local food choices)