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Over the last week or so in the news Arizona has been talking about the need for new taxes.  Taxes on food and even on cigarettes.

Now according to information I have read on the Conservatives R Us social group indicates that other states are considering doing this, some through the legislature and some through the people’s decision.  Through the vote.

Now to the big government crowd this is a win-win situation.  They are gaining revenue in a deep recession and with crushing deficits, and they are protecting people and kids from the evil effects of what they consider bad for you.

That x percent of teenagers, are smoking in school and that is bad.  That we are the government and we are here to protect you and discourage you from your vile ways!

The chosen method in this case is the sin tax.  Taxing certain products to discourage their use.

Now this brings up two issues with the sin tax.

First of all is the nature of taxation itself.

The purpose of taxation is to raise revenue for the government, nothing more, and nothing less.

It is not, nor should it be, a societal pit bull.  Nudging people to do things that they may not want to do.

That if the product is a danger then give the people warning of those dangers.

That whether you are regulating cigarettes, or food, or anything else that they think that is ‘bad’ for you and your health.  This cannot work.

Because certain people will always find other ways to obtain the product if they are really desperate for the product.  No matter the means.

Now, the radical libertarian in me thinks much along these same lines.  That just because the government is taxing these goods in this way to try to adjust my behavior I am likely to go out and do it to stick it to the man.

But, I will not do criminal actions.  I also do not like to smoke so that’s out.

But that is part of the point.  If you try to change someones behavior they will just find a way around it, and the people who will be hurt by the taxes are law-abiding citizens who like to do the legal and right thing.

Secondly, the idea of the Sin Tax is contradictory, as it relies on one rule.

That to continue the tax  you need a constant stream of the behavior and spending on those products to continue the tax and continue to gain revenue from it.

Now this would be a good policy if the tax was specifically designed for short-term benefit.  But, in the current climate we cannot trust the officials of any of our governments to get rid of the taxes at the proper time.

The only solution I can see is to tax everyone, no matter the product, equally, and to trust the people to find their own solutions.

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5 Comments

  1. agreed…..a sin tax is just another example of Big Government gone bad. I mean if they are going to tax goods based on how good or not good they are for you….does that mean I would get a tax break for buying health foods?? No? Well why not?? Really the whole thing is just to raise revenue full well knowing that the people who purchase these items will continue to purchase them. *sigh* What is next Tax on breathing air?? :S 😮

    • Great points about the tax breaks and one that I have not even considered, a brand new angle, there are very few things that Govt gives tax breaks too in such a way.

  2. I concur….:-)

  3. Though I don’t smoke or drink, the idea that the government has the final say (in that there’s financial impact) on what is healthy bothers me. This is the same government that at one point advocated having 11-12 servings of carbohydrates per day…and now people are possibly having to deal with diabetes and health problems as a result of 25 years of that kind of thinking.

    Many folks in the government regard the sin tax angle as a deterrent for what they think is unhealthy behavior. Given people’s behavior, especially with drugs, I think that a sin tax doesn’t accomplish anything. People will want to engage in foolish behavior regardless of what the government or anyone tells them.

    If the government were really being fair about it, the tax breaks that SQ suggest would be in effect, but they’re not. The end result is that no matter whether someone is living healthy or not, making a living because of high taxes is just plain difficult.

    • very good point. Also that brings up the standirdization of humanity. We have gotten so obssessed with standardization that we are making up stupid and silly things in order to control people based on those estimates, don’t they get it, they are just too stupid.


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