Monday, November 07, 2016

How Soda Taxes Crush Freedom and Enrich Government

by Daren Bakst 

Next week, four cities are holding ballot measures on soda taxes (i.e. taxes on many sugar-sweetened beverages).

Not surprisingly, the four cities are far-left havens, including the California cities of Albany, Oakland, and San Francisco, as well as Boulder, Colorado. In 2014, voters in Berkeley, California, passed a soda tax, and this past June, the Philadelphia City Council (not voters) passed a similar measure.

Soda taxes are a dangerous idea that demonstrate the willingness of some people to trample on individual freedom. These taxes, first and foremost, are efforts to limit our ability to make our own personal dietary decisions.

Sugar-sweetened beverages, from sodas to juice drinks, are legal products that aren’t unsafe and, for that matter, aren’t necessarily going to lead to negative health outcomes. Dietary decisions are very complex, and individuals who enjoy sodas can have much healthier diets overall than people who don’t drink sodas.

Ironically, if people are incentivized to drink less soda, they may make up for the sugar intake through other sources, which could be even higher in sugar or calories, or harmful in other ways to their health.

Even if soda consumption does decline, this doesn’t mean that overall sugar consumption will decline or that there will be reductions in obesity. It simply means that soda or other sugar-sweetened beverages won’t be consumed as much as before the tax.

To even try to socially engineer diets is chilling due to its intrusion on personal choices. To think that the government (or anyone) has the knowledge or ability to develop the right dietary choices for individuals is arrogant and completely ignorant of the complexity of diets.

Also, quite simply and most importantly, if individuals want to drink sodas and consume a lot of sugar and calories, this is their informed and voluntary choice. It isn’t the government’s business to interfere with such choices.


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