According to the Daily Tar Heel, it took the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health a total of 20 years and the participation of over 5,000 people to determine that there is “a correlation between the price of fast food and the amount of consumption by the public.” Might I suggest that next time UNC researchers at the School of Public Health simply walk over to the Economics Department and ask if there is any relationship between price and consumption. Anyone with half of a brain knows that higher prices discourage consumption.
State Senator Ellie Kinnaird (D-Orange), who represents the district that UNC is in, noted that it would be a good idea to levy taxes on unhealthy items such as fast food and sodas. Higher prices, as the study and basic economics contend, would result in lower consumption and a healthier population. Such a tax would resemble the sin taxes, which are designed to discourage consumption, already levied on alcohol and tobacco in North Carolina.
In the article, Kinnaird is quoted saying “it’s a matter of where the line is drawn controlling, or trying to control, what people eat.” Such a statement reveals the intentions of your legislators – to save you from yourself. These are the thoughts that fascist governments are made of. If Kinnaird had her way, big brother government would be telling you what you may eat and in what quantity. The notion that the state, through taxes, should attempt to control your eating habits is a social engineering project that is unacceptable.
Furthermore, such control would come at a price. The poor among us rely on the availability of cheap food to sustain themselves. Taxes on fast food are regressive and would disproportionately affect the poor. These are the unintended consequences of government action.
While Kinnaird notes that the motives behind her belief are positive, a quote by C.S. Lewis is applicable and sums up to flaws in her philosophy:
“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”