Powered by governments and self-satisfied members of the public, a trend has formed around dissuading people from unhealthy lifestyles. The strategies include gouging the public with new taxes and spending millions on advertisements to report such shocking information as “Cigarettes are bad for you!” and “Heavy heroine abuse may result in misguided priorities!” While the products and pastimes under siege tend to fall under “fun and clogging” rather than “bland and preserving” what exactly are we saving up all that health for? Without any indulgence, life is only slightly more interesting than death.
With the economy squeezing U.S. states where it hurts (legally-obligated balanced budgets) more and more are turning to “Sin” taxes—increased costs on unhealthy or immoral products and activities—in order to stay afloat. New York City is eyeing a new 18% “obesity tax” that focuses on sodas, while Washington State is moving ahead with a large sales-tax increase on explicit movies, magazines and other “sex-themed products”. Here in Ontario, Canada, such tactics are old news, as is their blatant failure to positively affect public health. Almost annually, the Ontario government has increased taxes on tobacco. As a result, 40% of the province’s smokers now buy their cigarettes tax-free from Indian reserves; not only does the province gets less revenue but people can afford to smoke more for less.
Sin-taxes are defended as saving costs in the healthcare system and improving the moral fibre of society; inflated prices supposedly discourage over-indulgence. This is a hollow argument because such taxes do not make healthy food/ habits any more affordable. Rather than creating an accessible alternative, selectively hiking prices will make everyone more irritated and even less receptive to the elitist message. The philosophy of protecting people from themselves quickly becomes wrapped up in contradictions. For example, all stores in Ontario must keep tobacco products hidden from view, to discourage purchasing. Yet tinted windows around McDonalds are not mandatory—assaulting the public with the suggestive image of citizens joyously gorging themselves.
As the proponents of these measures nudge toward complete regulation over every aspect of citizen’s lives, society has to decide where to start making examples out of people who are expensive to keep alive; most people don’t eat healthy, but what about those who are just hopelessly inactive? The only real safeguard against the millions of opportunities for unhealthy behaviour is common sense. Coincidentally, it’s the one you cannot teach, let alone legislate.
Easy to access, and satisfyingly potent, “sinful” products and pastimes represent a point of civilization that mankind has been pursuing for thousands of years. The current onslaught of bad economic news merely accentuates the special place that personal, private indulgence has in our society. Some choose to trade in their health and mental purity for fleeting moments of pleasure brought on by condensed, powerful concoctions of grease, smoke and nudity. But these products are merely efficient refinements of Mother Nature’s natural offerings; their availability demonstrates peaking levels of convenience brought about by human ingenuity. As an added bonus, the montages of overweight waists and bums in news programs about national health are becoming downright hysterical.
Around the time we master tying our shoelaces, there begins an exchange of increased responsibility for greater independence. One of the first and most important freedoms is the right to spend hard-earned money at leisure. Granted that a lot of people are blatantly irresponsible, but that’s no justification for using government influence to harm legitimate businesses.
Freedom is a messy thing; the more you take away, the cleaner things may seem, but more good will always be sacrificed than morals indoctrinated. Moreover, business-friendly strategies have greater economic benefits than trying to pile on new taxes to maintain swelling government budgets.
Booming demand for vice-industries is perpetuated by the most legitimate means possible: consumer satisfaction. If we want to eliminate the sight of an obese, chain-smoking alcoholic betting his children’s college fund on 23 black, it takes voluntary social support, not random punitive measures. We need to strive for a clear focus on individual responsibility, combined with preservation of the freedoms that make life worth living.
A recent Seattle-based poll suggests that Americans are open to the idea of increased sin taxes. Politicians are anxious to jump on any public blinking on new taxes, and expect them to take ten miles out of this inch. Yet the most logical solution to these budget woes is not to punish citizens with elitist-model taxes, but to legitimize and tap into the revenues of the biggest untapped tax market in North America—legalization of drugs would bring billions in tax revenues and saving billions more in enforcement.
Global human population growth is not slowing down in accordance with the world’s biggest economies. If we want to maintain a healthy, expanding population, it must be self-reliant. Abuseable substances and activities should be encouraged as a test of character for the next generation. If people are not forced recognize individual responsibility, civilization will crumble under the weight of all the helpless sheep expecting to be looked after.
-Christopher Taylor is a student at York University, Canada. He is a contributing writer for the Ontario Libertarian Party.
Source: AFF Doublethink Online | Joseph Hammond
Source: AFF Doublethink Online | Emma Elliott Freire