Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

A Calorie Emissions Trading Program?

People who follow this stuff know that the hottest idea for fighting greenhouse gas emissions is an emissions-trading program, which has worked reasonably well (though for reasons most people don’t understand that make it not comparable to greenhouse gases) for sulfur dioxide. In today’s Washington Post, a cardiologist proposes that we use the same idea to fight obesity. People would have to buy calorie credits for high-calorie foods. In other words, what we have here is another do-gooder who wants to make my cheeseburger more expensive. Would someone earn credits for exercise, or will this just be another tax-raising scheme in disguise?

All I can say is, the old Schramm would have been in big trouble under this scheme. And is shows the mischief that can be made under such so-called "market-based" policies to achieve good ends.

Discussions - 7 Comments

Dr. Hayward,


I didn’t get from the article that this would be a consumer-based exchange; no credits for the aerobically-inclinded of the world.

A food-producing company that introduces an exercise regime amonst their employees might be afforded such a credit, however.

I haven’t figured out if you object to "market-based" polcies in general, or just this proposal. Ultimately, the good doctor is correct. Obesity is an economic externality, and as long as the taxpayer has to help fund healthcare, market-based solutions are the best approach to help ease the pain of that subsidy.

The author’s approach is novel, and while some additional cost may be passed onto the consumer (as it should) - I find this method to be much more, ahem, palateable than using the tax and spend policy of the Federal/State governments, much as they’ve done to cigarettes.

Having a sin tax on high calorie foods would be more (or just as) market based than this proposal. Depending on how expensive credits will be, this will end up creating shortages and surpluses. Products like butter may get too expensive....various vegetables might even be dumped on the market for free. There is no such thing as a market based policy that has as its central premise the belief that environment dictates choice. "We are not optimized to eat prudently in an environment of cheap and easy calories."

A tax on foods containing dangerous stuff is the simplest to manage.

If organisations want to promote and market stuff that is dangerous, that adults choose to use, then I say go for it.

However they should be taxed commensurate with the impact of their dangerous products in society.

Another compelling argument I might add, for legalising drugs.

A tax on foods containing dangerous stuff is the simplest to manage. Comment 3 by Brian Coughlan

Hey Brian, nice to hear from you. Haven’t heard from you in a while

Taxing high calorie foods would be anything but simple. We’ve already tried it with tobacco and it’s been a disaster. There is a multi-billion dollar industry in black market tobacco and another one in forging tobacco tax stamps.

And here’s a little kicker:

I was recently involved in an investigation of individuals who allegedly sent proceeds of black market sales of tobacco to terrorists in the middle east.

Taxing high calorie foods would be...are you ready for it?...a recipe for disaster.

Hey Brian, nice to hear from you. Haven’t heard from you in a while


I’ve been busy. Helping these guys : http://www.e-parl.net/eparliament/welcome.do collating contact details for all elected officials world wide.


Ever tried to get a hold of every email address, phone and fax number for every elected politician on the planet? Time consuming:-)


As regards the discussion, everything that is legislated against in some way gets smuggled. Comes with the terroritory.


However, when it’s illegal almost all the proceeds go to organised crime. By legalising it, you take the worst of the sting out of the problem, diverting the bulk of the funds into the treasury. The trick is to strike the correct balance, and not distort supply/demand so badly that crime becomes massively profitable.


People should be allowed to buy whatever they want, as long as :


a) They understand the risks to themselves.
b) It doesn’t hurt or effect anyone else.


Even moderate consumption of fatty foods is dangerous in the long term. Who is paying for that cost? Currently it isn’t the people selling these products, and that seems wrong to me.


With rfid, and the massive computing capacity coming on stream, it has become increasingly possible to manage tasks considered impossible in the past, and I don’t even think this one qualifies as terribly complex. Should be a cinch.

I clicked on your website Brian. Quite an undertaking! I don’t want to rain on you parade...well, actually I do, ’cuz I like to tease you... but I clicked on Crime, terrorism and justice and then on browse and found this: "No ideas found." Ouch!

I clicked on your website Brian. Quite an undertaking! I don’t want to rain on you parade...well, actually I do, ’cuz I like to tease you... but I clicked on Crime, terrorism and justice and then on browse and found this: "No ideas found." Ouch!

Meanie.

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