Governments feel the need to intervene when it comes to increasing obesity rates, shown by the attempt to ban the sale of large soft drinks in New York, or the proposal for a penny-per-ounce excise tax on sweetened beverages in California.
But economist Michael Marlow sees two issues with these ‘paternalistic public-health initiatives’:
- They aren’t grounded in data or compelling economic models
- They might ‘catalyse a dismal chain reaction, with escalating government intrusions on personal freedom’
Marlow critically examines 2 studies from 2010 and 2012 which endorse a tax on soft drinks, and highlights why these studies are not enough to prove a tax would be effective. Regarding consumer behaviour, Marlow is skeptical. People who crave sweet food will find a way to circumvent the tax, simply opt for fruit juice, or if the tax is low enough, just pay the price. In fact, he argues that ‘when new taxes are imposed and escalated with no measurable impact or end in sight, consumers know that the tax is nonsense’.
The idea of a ‘nanny-state’ falls short in Marlow’s eyes, as governments have no business in trying to alter behaviour for people’s own good. If authorities are so adamant about battling obesity, they should be encouraging private initiatives around exercise and dieting, concludes Marlow.
The whole article is available here.