Should Government Impose Morality?
Seattle, like Philadelphia, has put a high tax on sugary drinks sold within the city limits. The reasoning for doing so, it is said, is that sugary drinks are not healthy and their consumption should be discouraged. The same “reasoning” was used to raise taxes on tobacco products and alcohol products. Al Gore wants high taxes on carbon.
Many of the people who jumped for joy when tobacco taxes were raised sky high, are screaming bloody murder at the high taxes on sugar in Philly and Seattle. Go figure. Would it have made a difference if the tax were only a penny a bottle, instead of 1.75 cents an ounce? Sure. The real issue is that the tax appears outrageous. Sticker shock.
Forget any thoughts that the increased taxes are used to balance budgets. History has shown that governments usually spend any money raised from new taxes on new programs, not on balancing budgets.
They used to be called “sin taxes”, which gives you an idea what their purpose was. They are an attempt to impose a morality, or conduct, on the population. Governments want to discourage certain types of behavior by using the taxes to punish those who choose the types of behavior government finds offensive or detrimental.
California has high gasoline taxes, which they imposed, in part, it is said, to discourage driving. Driving pollutes the air, through the emissions from the exhaust. Other States also have high gasoline taxes. Have those high taxes really reduced driving? At what cost to society? At what cost to the independence of drivers?
The issue is really one of: Should governments legislate morality? If so, to what extent? Most people would agree that laws prohibiting murder, theft, rape, extortion, and the like are moral restrictions, but are there limits to the moral restrictions government can, or should, place on the people? When is enough, enough? Or put another way, when is it too much?
What about individual freedom to make choices?
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates all drugs, of any type, and the sale and safety of the food supply. Why is it that they are discouraging the use of medicinal herbs that have been used for centuries? Why can’t those of us who would like to buy raw milk prevented from doing so? Why can’t we, the people, grow industrial hemp? George Washington and Thomas Jefferson did. It is the power of “regulating behavior” disguised as a “concern for the public health”, that is at play here. The FDA is “owned” by the powerful drug companies and the powerful agricultural companies. It is the attempt by government to legislate morality. Is there any limit to this?
Is there a place for individual choice? Are we merely a cog in the wheels of the machinery of government? When is enough, enough?