Taxes

You Can Have My Twinkie When You Pry It From My Cold Dead Hands…

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…or Bacon-Wrapped Hot Dog. Or can of soda pop.

Earlier this week, I editorialized in favor of legalizing and taxing various "vices."

Writing at The American's blog, Nick Schulz observes and reports:

There's a sin tax movement underway for legal activities, too. Rev. Robert Sirico ("Hate the Sin, Tax the Sinner?") looks at the recent proposals to find revenues through federal taxes on sodas and fatty foods, finding this not just economically objectionable but morally suspect as well.

Whatever economic or social benefits one can dream up from the sin tax, we must also realize that the decision to tax must be weighed against the social benefits for reducing the behavior by slow and deliberate persuasion and voluntary action. When it comes to public policy, the preferred method of discouraging sin should fall under the category of alternative, mediating institutions, notably family, church, and school.

Amen to moral suasion, whether we're talking about "sin" or any other sort of behavior. More here.

NEXT: Maybe He Meant Antipathy

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  1. Great. Wonderful. Now can we get a moral ruling on the bad science governing our education, public health, and energy policies?

  2. You Can Have My Twinkie When You Pry It From My Cold Dead Hands…

    Quoth San Francisco Supervisor Dan White.

  3. Better idea: How about we legalize vices…and DON’T tax them ?

    (I’m curious about why someone writing in Reason would ever advocate taxation in ANY form)

  4. Tom G,

    I think you have to draw a distinction between “accepting” and “advocating”.

  5. whos morals, mine yours, thiers. morals are not laws and laws are not morals.

  6. From Nick’s NYT Times Op-Ed…..

    “Here’s a better idea – and one that will help the federal and state governments fill their coffers: Legalize drugs and then tax sales of them.”

    “More taxed vices would certainly lead to significant new revenue streams at every level.”

    Sure sounds like ADVOCATING new taxes to me.
    Again, why are Reason’s writers recommending MORE MONEY for the government ?

  7. What about the cost of these vices on society? We all pay for each others health care thru insurance and taxes, shouldn’t we have some say on everyones health decisions? It is only fair to tax things that aren’t good for us in order to discourage them and help offset their costs to society.

  8. John – If the government would get entirely OUT of regulating and taxing healthcare, there would be no vague “cost of these vices on society”.

  9. Tom G

    Legal and no tax > legal and tax >illegal and no tax. Not taxed and legal is not going to happen, so Nick is arguing for making things better than they are now, not perfection. The tax is a bribe to the politicians.

  10. I meant to add – I am sure that there are many older issues of Reason with articles discussing just how that would be beneficial. Don’t have the time right now to look them all up, but I know there are a few.

  11. stuartl –
    You’re kidding right? a bribe to the politicians? Why do we need to do them any favors? Part of the motto of Reason is/was “free markets”…not “semi-free markets plus taxes”
    If you don’t TRY to get “legal but not taxed” you’ll never get them.

  12. The way I read Nick’s op-ed, he writes “tax sales… ” no different from any other item sold. AFAIK, being a libertarian doesn’t mean rooting for no taxes at all.

    John, you are fishing for flame, right? Ok, I bite.
    You seriously want some say over my health? Wait, why don’t you send me your medical history, let me come make sure your abode is up to good health standards. Any bad stuff in the fridge? Let’s see, how about getting your shopping history from your grocer’s bonus card data. And yeah, too much sex is bad too, so let’s agree on some monitoring here. After all it’s for the children, er, no children, what with the human carbon footprint.
    Think I’m making this thinking up? Not hardly!

  13. Feh, this only covers gluttony. Let me know when they start taxing sloth or jealousy. (Not that I’m trying to give them ideas!)

  14. We have got to move beyond this ‘personal responsibility’ nonsense.

    The justification for such measures is rooted in public health expenditures. Unhealthy diets contribute to obesity, and obesity imposes higher medical costs on everyone.

  15. What about the cost of these vices on society? We all pay for each others health care thru insurance and taxes, shouldn’t we have some say on everyones health decisions? It is only fair to tax things that aren’t good for us in order to discourage them and help offset their costs to society.

    And there you have the essence of Obama’s health plan.

    OK, done feeding the troll.

  16. It’s a fair point: how can organized religions continue if the government monopolizes moral scolding?

  17. “AFAIK, being a libertarian doesn’t mean rooting for no taxes at all.”

    As far as I’m concerned…it DOES. Or is that too radical for you?
    I can get along fine with people who consider themselves classical liberals. But just remember, the minute you “accept” a level of taxation, politicians will find a way to increase it.

  18. (I’m curious about why someone writing in Reason would ever advocate taxation in ANY form)

    Note that nobody is arguing in favor of new taxes on currently legal activities.

    Note also that, of the two alternative on offer for marijuana policy (prohibition, and legal but taxed), the latter is definitely the more libertarian of the two.

    Incremental progress toward liberty (legal but taxed) is preferable to no progress toward liberty (continued prohibition because legal and untaxed will never happen).

  19. As far as I’m concerned…it DOES. Or is that too radical for you?

    Anarchism, whatever its merits, is not libertarianism.

  20. Wow, Tom G is trolling you guys with purity arguments. Have fun!

  21. What I find humorous is that the christian right supports building our nation with money generated by sinful acts. If they have a problem with sin, then money generated by sin should be viewed as dirty money.

  22. The justification for such measures is rooted in public health expenditures. Unhealthy diets contribute to obesity, and obesity imposes higher medical costs on everyone.

    If governments would allow risk based health insurance (like they do for life and auto) we wouldn’t need to impose our will on others for the reasons you suggest.

  23. You know, I love that organic cooking;
    I always ask for more,
    And they call me Mr. Natural
    On down to the health food store.
    I only eat good sea salt;
    White sugar don’t touch my lips,
    And my friends is always begging me
    To take them on macrobiotic trips.
    Yes, they are…

    Oh, but at night I take out my strong box
    That I keep under lock and key,
    And I take it off to my closet
    Where nobody else can see.
    I open that door so slowly,
    Take a peek up north and south,
    Then I pull out a Hostess Twinkie
    And I pop it in my mouth!

    Yeah, in the daytime I’m Mr. Natural,
    Just as healthy as I can be,
    But at night I’m a junk food junkie;
    Good Lord have pity on me!

    Well, at lunchtime you can always find me
    At the Whole Earth Vitamin Bar,
    Just sucking on my plain white yogurt
    From my hand-thrown pottery jar,
    And sippin’ a little hand pressed cider
    With a carrot stick for dessert,
    And wiping my face in a natural way
    On the sleeve of my peasant shirt.
    Oh, yeah…

    Aw, but when that clock strikes midnight
    And I’m all by myself,
    I work that combination on my secret hideaway shelf,
    And I pull out some Fritos corn chips,
    Dr. Pepper, and a whole Moon Pie.
    Then I sit back in glorious expectation
    Of a genuine junk food high!

    In the daytime, I’m Mr. Natural…

    Oh yeah, in the daytime I’m Mr. Natural
    Just as healthy as I can be,
    Oh, but at night I’m a junk food junkie;
    Good Lord have pity on me!
    All right…

    My friends down at the commune,
    They think I’m pretty neat.
    Oh, I don’t know nothing about arts and crafts,
    But I give ’em all something to eat.
    I’m a friend to old Euell Gibbons,
    And I only eat home grown spice.
    I got a John Keats autographed Grecian urn
    Filled up with my brown rice!
    Yes, I do…

    Oh, folks, but lately I have been spotted
    With a Big Mac on my breath,
    Stumbling into a Colonel Sanders
    With a face as white as death.
    I’m afraid someday they’ll find me
    Just stretched out on my bed
    With a handful of Pringles potato chips,
    And a Ding Dong by my head!

    In the daytime I’m Mr. Natural,
    Just as healthy as I can be.
    Aw, but at night I’m a junk food junkie;
    Good Lord have pity on me!

  24. I’m actually not trolling, I was being serious.
    And since when is it “anarchism” to suggest no new taxes??
    I guess no-one here considers that they have a RIGHT to enjoy their vices, so long as no unwilling third party is harmed ?

  25. What I find humorous is that the christian right supports building our nation with money generated by sinful acts. If they have a problem with sin, then money generated by sin should be viewed as dirty money.

    And, Jesus criticized the hypocrites most of all. I knew I liked that guy for a reason.

  26. I say we ban liberals and Leftists from the internet and from all forms of public discourse.

    Those idiots raise my blood-pressure with their idiocy. Raising my blood-pressure is bad for my health, thus anyone who objects is against healthcare.

  27. And since when is it “anarchism” to suggest no new taxes??

    Its not anarchism to oppose new taxes. You, however, were opposing any taxes at all. Practically speaking, no taxes = no government = anarchism.

  28. Yeah, that’s true. I was opposing all taxes. I left in the “new” by mistake.
    Taxation is theft. Maybe the Articles of Confederation wasn’t the best model for government, but at least they got that part correct.

  29. The Articles of Confederation had no taxes?

    Haven’t read it in a while, and I’m not going to take the time now, but I think that money the Federal Government was going to get from the states was supposed to come from taxes.

  30. Taxes collected by the states, I mean.

  31. You may be right, I didn’t look up the Articles, I was remembering something about how they didn’t have provision for taxation. Might well be a inaccurate memory.

  32. [rant]

    Look, taxation and conscription were both accepted as perfectly proper in Revolutionary times. As was (ahem) slavery.

    Now, to be sure, both the Articles and the CotUS both severely limited the FeGov’s ability to tax (the AoC more so, as noted) but libertarians’ tendency to try to stretch the CotUSA to fit around every libertarian idea is frankly every bit as ridiculous as Blackmun finding rights hidden in its shadows or anything the Warren court ever came up with.

    [/rant]

  33. I should have said “some libertarians” above.

    I realize that most libertarians are perfectly aware of how far short the CotUS falls short of perfect libertarian principle.

  34. The new libertarianism: Legalize the Twinkies, but tax the shit out of them!

  35. I saw we legalize the vices and let them tax them. Get a buzz on, chow on some twinkies and red soda pop and then start a tax revolt.

    We’re going to need to get a tax on Natural Light, big truck tires, bullets, and mullets. The rednecks will have to be sufficiently pissed off to ensure a successful revolt, a bunch of fat stoned guys aren’t gonna cut it.

  36. The new libertarianism: Legalize the Twinkies, but tax the shit out of them!

    If Twinkies were illegal, that would be the way to go.

    Since they aren’t, you’re babbling.

  37. Sorry R C Dean, I meant “marijuana”. Legalize marijuana but tax the shit out of it.

    Very very very different from Twinkies. Not the same at all. No siree, nothing similar. Libertarian want to tax illegal stuff, not legal stuff.

  38. Brandybuck, a perfect world would be…well…perfect, but failing that, I, for one, wil settle for an improved world.

    And a world with a regulated, taxed market for marijuana, where people are not imprisoned for its possession (or worse, victimised in no-knock raids by violent paramilitary police) would be a vast improvement over the status quo.

  39. If you go over to the other Nick Gillespie threads, he is advocating legalization of pot ESPRESSLY for the purpose of taxing it. I am amazed at the cognitive dissonance necessary to be simultaneously in favor of taxing pot and opposed to taxing twinkies.

    No, we don’t have a perfect world. If we legalized pot it would of course be taxed. But we should not make taxation the GOAL.

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