One of the ideas that's been bandied around plenty lately, what with all this health care talk and such, is the proposal that we help pay for health care with a tax on unhealthy things, such as pop (and yes, it's "pop", not "soda". "Soda" is an adjective, "pop" is (in this context) a noun).
Now there are plenty of y'all out there who know me, and what I'm a boutta tell ya 'ill come as no surprise, but fer them folk that don't know me so well, well, this is for their edification: Imma big pop drinker. (Oh yeah, since it's my last week in Virginia, I figer'd I'd work on my Southern Lawya drawl. How's it doin'?)
Now you might think as a pop drinker I'd be apposed to a tax on pop, and normally you'd be right. But them Duke boys had something else up their sleeve all tagether. [Sorry. Slipped too far into the voice...]
Seriously though, I've done some real thinking about this. I drink a lot of pop. It's one of my vices. It helps me relax, it can help me focus, it can help me stay alert. So yeah, I end up drinking plenty of pop, and a tax on pop would certainly hit me. And part of me thinks "well that's unfair, why not tax some one else's unhealthy food? I don't eat foie gras. Let's tax that instead." After all, a calorie is a calorie, no matter where it comes from, right? Why tax some, and not others?
Well, that's wrong of course. There are better and worse calories. But setting that aside, and getting down to an honest assessment of myself, I know that I drink too much pop. It's bad for me. I'm not an entirely unhealthy person, but drinking less pop would improve my physical condition. And of course there's my teeth to think of... pop has not done me any favors there.
So a tax on pop... what's the end result? First, it's probably going to mean I'm paying more. But I've only got so much money, and each can of pop gives me marginally less utility, right? So an increase in price is going to, at some point, reduce the amount of pop I'm drinking. And I know it will, because as pop prices have risen over the past decade or so, I've certainly decreased my pop drinking from it's peak in college. Sure, there are weeks when I might have more, but overall the increase in price has helped me decrease my consumption (and there have even been periods when I've essentially cut pop out almost entirely). And a further increase from taxes will give me more incentive to avoid this unhealthy lifestyle.
And that's a good thing. In fact, it's exactly the kind of thing that government should be doing. I would be a better, healthier person if the government were to increase taxes on pop. Long time readers of this blog will of course know that I subscribe to the Aristotelian view that the role of government is to make good citizens (and that obviously includes health), and so on both a personal and philosophical level, I think this is a great way for government to further its ends.
[And disincentivizing bad behavior is, in this case, superior to outlawing it. There are those who frequently criticize government bans and then extend criticism of ineffective bans into criticism of government itself. This is a prime example of the why conflating those two criticism is problematic; government has many different tools, and when it uses the right ones government itself is one of the greatest tools for improving our lives.]
Of course, I'd still feel better about it if they also taxed some of the unhealthy vices that rich people more frequently consume.
Senora's dance has no title
You jump in the saddle
Hold on to de bridle!