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A Tax to Internalize a Nasty Negative Externality

Here’s a letter that I just sent to USA Today:

Asserting that “something must be done” to reduce obesity in America, David Zinczenko proposes a “calorie-added tax” (“Fight obesity by taxing calories,” Oct. 14).

Nonsense.  Nothing must be done (beyond eliminating government subsidies to sugar and corn farmers) to ‘fight’ obesity.  Obesity is the result of individual choices.  If my neighbor prefers the enjoyment he gets from eating lots of fatty and sugary foods to the satisfaction that he would get if he were thinner, who am I to second-guess his preference?  Who is Mr. Zinczenko to do so?  My neighbor’s eating habits are my neighbor’s business and his alone.

The real and truly harmful epidemic in America is not obesity, but meddlesomeness.  I dislike taxes, but if government is destined to create yet another ‘sin tax,’ I propose that it be, not a calorie-added tax, but a meddlesomeness-added tax.  It’s time that Mr. Zinczenko and other busybodies pay for the harm that they impose on others.

Donald J. Boudreaux