Free Markets, Free People

intrusion

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.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

The Greek tragedy (or socialism runs out of other people’s money)

And, of course, Greece isn’t the only country going through this at the moment, it is only the worst off of the bunch.   In fact, it is a case study in the end result of socialist programs (although you’d think, given its fairly recent collapse, that much could have been learned from the Soviet Union).   Greece has, for decades, piled up more and more debt than the other European socialist countries and, with the global economic downturn, was the first of the Euro zone to hit the shoals of bankruptcy – although Europe is doing everything it can to forestall that.

The problem is that socialism and its benefits (whether they’re affordable or not) are like being hooked on heroin.  Even if you know you have too, you just can’t seem to get off the stuff.   Addicts deny reality, fight the cure because it is horribly painful and thus somehow come to believe they can continue to survive on the drug as they have before.   And it slowly and inexorably kills them.

Greece, if it isn’t able to kick the habit, is on its economic death bed.  Europe understands this and also sees the possibility that Greece’s inability to break this habit, i.e. pass and impose austerity measure – draconian austerity measures – might also mean the death of Europe’s currency, the Euro and conceivably the break up of the European union.

That’s how serious it is.

But the addict continues to fight the cure.  Led by the two major unions, Greece has been shut down for 2 days as protesters vent their spleen about the unacceptability of these austerity measures.   The irony, of course, is the measures are being imposed by a socialist government which has been given no choice but to impose such measures.

However, that government is seen as week and socialist members who supported the measures at first are now opposing them.

But the austerity program has met with resistance from within the ranks of Mr. Papandreou’s own party, especially over the privatization of state companies whose workers have traditionally been at the heart of the Socialists’ constituency.

As many as four Socialists in Parliament have said they will consider opposing the measures, including one who opposes the planned privatization of the water utility of Thessaloniki, in her district.

Another Socialist, Alexandros Athanasiadis, said he would vote against the plan to reduce the state’s stake in the Public Power Company to 34 percent from 51 percent. Some of the company’s coal-burning plants are in his district in northeastern Greece.

Naturally the socialists oppose privatization because, you know, the government has done such a bang up job to this point of running businesses it has no business being involved in.  Why?  Because the government, and therefore the parliamentary members, control the jobs, pay and pensions.   More heroin.  As government gets more involved in areas it has no business and it (those who run it) begin to understand the power such intrusion brings them, they’re loathe to give it up, even when they’re doing a horrible, inefficient and costly job that could be better and more cheaply done by private industry.

The symbiotic relationship between the unions and the MPs is mutually beneficial and ensures an incumbent who properly plays the game (support union demands) remains in power (see public sector unions and Democrats here).  That, of course, has led to unaffordable pensions, wages which aren’t competitive and a public stuck with the ever increasing bill.

Well, the bill has come due.

On Monday, Mr. Venizelos, a Socialist veteran known for his ability to rally his troops, told lawmakers that the measures might be “tough and even unfair” but that they were unavoidable. “We have to finally come to our senses and get serious,” he said.

With 2 days of protests, one has to wonder whether indeed the Greeks are going to actually come to their senses and get serious”, because if they don’t the repercussions could be devastating.

And knowing all of that, and looking at our debt problems, one also has to wonder why we seem bent on creating an addiction of our own, given the real world examples of where that must eventually lead.

It makes absolutely no sense, does it?

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

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