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Polity: Fizzy drinks: Tax or no tax?

Written By: - Date published: 2:48 pm, February 18th, 2014 - 80 comments
Categories: food, health, tax - Tags:

The original of this post is here at Polity.

There has been some discussion recently about whether we should tax fizzy drinks as a threat to public health. Otago University public health people say yes. Various anti-tax groups say no. Here’s my 2c:

1. The principle is sound

If people are going to make choices that end up costing the public money – in this case healthcare money as a result of severe disease or earlier onset chronic disease – then the community can and should take steps to discourage those choices. That is what we already do with tobacco and alcohol, and for the same reason.

Study after study has shown that price signals (e.g. taxing a product) are more effective than public education campaigns at discouraging consumption.

The reason to restrict this particular choice is to save the government money, thereby keeping other taxes lower than they otherwise would be. That allows people keep more of their money, which they can then use to make more choices.

2. The devil is in the detail

As with all behaviour-based taxes, the difference between success and failure lies in how you design and implement the program. Without seeing a particular proposal, it is hard to come down firmly in support or against just yet.

So I am interested-but-undecided at this stage.

3. The Danish example is a red herring (Ha – herring!)

Denmark was the first country ever to try a tax targeted at unhealthy food. It had real problems, didn’t last long, and they withdrew it in 2012. Many opponents of a fizzy drink tax say Denmark’s failure shows these things simply can’t work. It shows no such thing:

  • The biggest problem with Denmark’s regime was that people would just drive over the border to Germany and buy their fatty foods there. For obvious reasons, that is not a big problem in New Zealand.
  • The Danish tax was very broadly targeted (anything with high saturated fat), so it caught la-de-da Danish bleu cheese as well as kegs of Coke. New Zealand’s proposal, however, could more narrowly target some of the foods most commonly consumed by children (see below).

4. Answers to oft-asked-yet-silly questions

How dare you plot to remove a person’s right to make choices about their own bodies?
First, these choices have externalities that the whole community has to cover with tax dollars. They are not purely individual choices. Second, the program is aimed at products disproportionately consumed by children, who even libertarians agree are not capable of making fully rational choices.

Isn’t this just a halfway house towards your goal of banning booze, smokes, Coke, and anything fun?
Do you think a caucus containing Trevor Mallard, Shane Jones, and Grant Robertson will ever ban any part of a rum and Coke? No. Speaking of banning fun, though, I think we should hear more about National’s plan to liberalise weed. What, there isn’t one? Because the MPs are all conservative and judgy about that kind of fun? Huh.

Aren’t you just punishing the poor?
No. We would be encouraging heavy consumers of very high sugar drinks – whether rich or poor – to choose something else at least part of the time, in the interests of saving public health money. And we would be rewarding them with a lower relative price when they do. Unless you believe the poor are incapable of responding to price signals or of changing their beverage choices, there is no punishment involved.

80 comments on “Polity: Fizzy drinks: Tax or no tax?”

  1. just saying 1

    Actually, you are mainly punishing the poor. There is a reason the poor consume a lot of cheap crap – not having enough money doesn’t allow for much choice.
    Only one group suffers when cheap stuff is made expensive in the absence of healthier stuff becoming cheaper. The middle class isn’t going to care if their mixers cost a bit more. I doubt they will even notice.

    How about dealing with the real problem for a change? If poverty is eliminated I’ll support this new tax 100%. But I suspect there will be much less need for it.

    • Naki Man 1.1

      ” Punishing the poor” bullshit, the so called poor don’t have to give there kids this crap. Empty calories, there is no food value at all in this stuff. Water is better for you and its free. Anyone that compares this crap with milk is an idiot, of course a healthy food will be more expensive to produce than some concoction of sugar and water mixed together.

      • just saying 1.1.1

        Kids usually don’t like water.
        There is little food value in lots of stuff we eat and drink. It’s about pleasure. For the poor that has to be cheap pleasure.
        Juice is expensive. So is milk.

        • Bill 1.1.1.1

          Juice is expensive. So is milk.

          Last time I looked, so was a bottle of water when compared to coke. And with the quality of tap water going down the tubes in so many places…..

          Seeing as how most ‘juice’ is just reconstituted shite (mostly apple base) it…anyway, true that juice is expensive, so is the faux shite that’s passed off as juice.

          Where is it in S.America that kids are brought up drinking coke because the tap supply is undrinkable and the bottled water too expensive?

        • Draco T Bastard 1.1.1.2

          Kids usually don’t like water.

          BS. They like water just fine – unless the tap water has excess impurities in it making it taste foul.

          • MaxFletcher 1.1.1.2.1

            Besides which you can add things like a few drops of lemon juice or cucumber to make water tastier/more refreshing without resorting to fizzy drinks

  2. shorts 2

    I’m not opposed to a tax on fizzy drinks… and other “junk” foods if coupled with Labour’s now abandoned GST off fresh fruit and veges policy

    Punitive measures are not enough, positive solutions or options should I believe be part of the overall policy and desired behaviour changes

  3. SHG (not Colonial Viper) 3

    Fizzy drinks?

    Beer? Champagne? Moscato? RTD spirit/soda mixes? Wine cooler? Soda water? Carbonated mineral water?

    • SHG (not Colonial Viper) 3.1

      Very high sugar drinks?

      Flavoured milk? Ribena? Fresh-Up?

      • Lanthanide 3.1.1

        Yes, there is some discussion as to whether fruit juice would be included, as a lot of orange juice has as much or more sugar as coke does.

  4. Puckish Rogue 4

    Fizzy drinks: Tax or no tax?

    No

  5. Bill 5

    Just reinstate the ‘healthy food in schools’ programme that National scrapped and start allowing for the real world of food (the shoddy production – mechanically recovered sludge etc) to be shown. Actually, why not legislate so that every minute of a fantasy advert has to be balanced by the same advertiser making a real world ad that must create an overall balance in the mind of a reasonable viewer? That could be fun. Meanwhile, fuck this endless taxing of the poor bullshit! Besides, you think coke and others would just stand back – or you think there would be a WTO case in the wings? Plus they can afford to drop prices to counter any tax and keep sales up and even steal market share from those companies less able to cut prices.

    edit – not made by the same advertiser…funded by them but made by a group opposed to their product and bound by the same ‘fairness in advertising’ rules.

    • Draco T Bastard 5.1

      I think just banning advertising would make much more sense. That way the artificial desire created by advertising would be removed.

  6. It’s useful that Rob Salmond mentions tobacco and alcohol. In those instances, we know that the substances are harmful, we know what level of consumption results in harm, we know exactly what ‘negative externalities’ result from that consumption, and we have clear evidence of causality.

    In the case of the fizzy drinks propaganda from publicly-funded professional lobbyists working for the University of Otago, none of those apply. Anyone pushing to tax these drinks is indulging themselves in a moral panic, not offering practical, evidence-based policy advice.

    • bad12 6.1

      Please!!! mentioning rack raising of tobacco tax raises my blood pressure above a level that is good for my health,

      The politicians weak at the knees excuse to gather a billion dollars a year in taxation over and above the cost to the health system to treat those who’s diseases are ‘Supposedly’ the direct result of using tobacco products,

      Ooooh lets have plain packaging that will deter the kids from gaining an addiction, shit legislation from a bunch of weaklings to scared to offend the Massah Bosses of the tobacco industry, when all that was needed was to register all those addicted with their doctors, make tobacco products a registered poison only able to be obtained by doctors prescription and the industry would have been made a ‘sunset’ one…

  7. Tracey 7

    Children do not read labels telling them that a bottle of coke has 50 teaspoons of sugar. They dont care if they might get diabetes. That’s why we do crazy things like remove products from their range of choices.

    I understand there is evidence that if the price is moved the consume4rs will shift products.

    kids can have sugar if they are REALLY active.

    have you looked at PE in primary schools recently? If your teacher doesnt know much about it, you get bugger all.

    physical activity is crucial…

    “Alot of children dont like water” … gee could it be cos it’s not sweet enough.

    There’s something to be said for keeping fizzy drinks as a reserved treat for birthday parties.

  8. Pete 8

    I’ve lost 60 kg since January last year through diet and exercise. Mainly diet(pic for the curious – I still have a wee way to go) And one of the first things I did was eliminate my consumption of soft drinks – I substituted sparkling water instead. I am convinced that soft drinks do contribute to this country’s obesity problem.

    I think one thing that can be done is change the serving size. Why have 600 ml servings of Coca Cola in a sitting? Why not 350 mls? People might say that no one is forcing consumers to finish their bottle, but the fact is people suck at portion control.

  9. Colonial Viper 9

    Geezus. Let’s make fizzy drink tax a big election topic this year. Because it’s the kind of brave leadership that traditional left voters are looking for in this time of real economic distress and mega trends going the wrong way.

    Especially when the real problems in ill-health and poor health behaviours come primarily from (as has already been pointed out above) poverty, whether poverty of beneficiaries or the working poor.

    • Tracey 9.1

      with a median hourly wage of just over 21 bucks and a median paid week of just under 36 hours…. there’s certainly more to discuss. 50% of our fellow working kiwis are in this block…

      • Colonial Viper 9.1.1

        What I really want to see now is the Left leading a fierce debate on whether or not there should be maximum sugar levels set in these soft drinks, with a higher tax rate applying to the ones which don’t comply. Maybe 12g per 100mL might be a good level to go with.

        The left leaning audacity of this alone should win over hoardes of non-voters and convince them to turn out in November.

      • lurgee 9.1.2

        I think some on the left would prefer NOT to discuss it, because they know the correct answer is not the easy one. So people try to duck it. But there is plenty of time to talk about this and poverty as well.

        Of course, if we do, it might lead to awkward questions about why the fruit and veg policy was ditched in favour of a baby bonus to be spent on soft drinks.

    • Let’s make fizzy drink tax a big election topic this year. Because it’s the kind of brave leadership that traditional left voters are looking for in this time of real economic distress and mega trends going the wrong way.

      You bet. Wouldn’t it be a real public-relations windfall to declare a policy of taxing very popular products on the basis that some policy academics hold strong opinions against them? Why, the right would find that tactic absolutely unassailable…

      • lurgee 9.2.1

        It isn’t like Labour could get much LESS popular, is it? Still, fear of de-railing the gravy train is probably why the Fearless Champions of the Proles here are pooh-poohing the idea and have suddenly turned into staunch little libertarians. They think it would be a vote loser. They have the backbone and principles of a … a … National Party MP. They’ll do anything to scrabble their way into power (on a third of the vote).

    • lurgee 9.3

      Health spending and health issues are worth talking about, and linked to this topic. And there is strong class correlation. So it is worth talking about.

      I know children who were having their teeth pulled by their fifth birthday because their parents were feeding them soft drinks. Caffeinated soft drinks from the get go. I watch students – 13-14 years old – having cans of Mother for breakfast when their fingers can’t even fit around the can. Schools can’t effectively ban it because they pick it up from the dairy on the way. Nice to see people coming down on the side of the capitalists at the expense of the future health and teeth of proletarian children.

      Fruit juice is not really that expensive if you buy it in 3 litre bottles, and you can water it down to reduce the sugar content. Ditto any soft drinks you do give kids. That’s what living in poverty entails – and being responsible for your children’s health. If people are being irresponsible, we should not be justifying it by facile blather about poverty – which smacks of effete over educated middle class valorisation of the Noble Proles – but criticising it.

      • Psycho Milt 9.3.1

        When my kids were small one of our neighbours had a three-year-old with completely wrecked teeth. She wouldn’t have dreamed of giving him fizzy drinks, but had been giving him fruit juice since he was a baby – because fruit is ‘healthy’, right? Everyone says so. So the kid’s teeth have spent half the day swimming in fruit juice since he grew them and are rotted away to stumps. I have to say that my first thought wasn’t “You know, we could do with a tax on fruit juice.”

        If the idiots proposing this were the policy experts their qualifications declare them to be, they’d have thought about this a bit more. Instead they’ve come up with the kind of knee-jerk response you’d expect from someone you pulled in off the street. Imposing excise duty is a serious business and will be opposed, not only by the ‘capitalists’ selling the product in question, but also by the product’s customers. So you need very clear, strong arguments why excise duty is required, and why on this particular product.

        So, what’s the argument for excise duty on sugary fizzy drinks? Well, lots of people are getting Type 2 Diabetes and these drinks have lots of sugar in them. Excise duty will both reduce sugar consumption and help fund treatment of the resulting diabetes. OK, that’s an argument.

        So, what counter-argument can the people who don’t want an excise duty bring to bear? Well, first up, what’s the causal link between sugar consumption and diabetes? It’s that sugar causes your blood glucose level to rise quickly, which causes a lot of insulin to be released. There are two effects of interest:
        1. When insulin finds there’s way more blood glucose around than you need for what you’re doing right now, it stores it as fat.
        2. Over the long term, continually making your pancreas work flat out releasing insulin makes your system resistant to the insulin, and your pancreas less able to keep up, which manifests itself as Type 2 Diabetes.

        So, yes, there’s a causal link between sugar consumption and diabetes. Thing is, all carbohydrates cause a rapid increase in blood glucose levels – there’s this thing called the Glycaemic Index that rates carbs according to how fast they act, and sucrose (table sugar) isn’t anywhere near the top.

        Which makes the drinks’ manufacturers’ first question “Why us? Why not these ‘capitalists’ selling rice cakes, crackers, white bread, fruit juice, breakfast cereals, anything with flour, rice or potatoes in it?” To which the University of Otago’s health policy experts would have no useful answer. That’s before we even get to any ‘libertarian’ issues.

        • Draco T Bastard 9.3.1.1

          She wouldn’t have dreamed of giving him fizzy drinks, but had been giving him fruit juice since he was a baby – because fruit is ‘healthy’, right?

          I suspect that the problem wasn’t so much the fruit juice but that she was giving the child the drinks all the time which points to a need for better education of mothers.

          If the idiots proposing this were the policy experts their qualifications declare them to be, they’d have thought about this a bit more. Instead they’ve come up with the kind of knee-jerk response you’d expect from someone you pulled in off the street.

          Actually, they’ve come up with a response you’d expect of a culture of freedom of choice and deregulation and financial incentives as the way to get people to change their attitudes.

          To which the University of Otago’s health policy experts would have no useful answer.

          But they do have an answer as pointed out by you. It just needs to be articulated.

          • Psycho Milt 9.3.1.1.1

            They don’t have an answer, they have a policy they’d like to see implemented. It’s at the point where someone asks them to provide a compelling justification for their policy that they’re short of answers. The answer “Because fat people. And Diabetes.” doesn’t fall into the category of ‘compelling,’ if anything it falls into the category of ‘simple-minded.’

        • weka 9.3.1.2

          “So, yes, there’s a causal link between sugar consumption and diabetes. Thing is, all carbohydrates cause a rapid increase in blood glucose levels – there’s this thing called the Glycaemic Index that rates carbs according to how fast they act, and sucrose (table sugar) isn’t anywhere near the top.”

          Meanwhile, back in the real world, the people managing insulin resistance with diet and exercise will tell you that there is no one size fits all (so the glycemic index is of broad but limited use. Lots of people ignore it, and just work out what works for themselves). People need to figure out what they need to eat on an individual basis, not some by some chart. Insulin resistance and why some people are more affected than others is complex.

          The reason for targeting fizzy drinks instead of all refined carbs (I’ll call bullshit that ALL carbs are a problem for all people), is that they’re over represented on children’s diets because of their accessability and cheapness and (this is important) they are empty calories. At least with fruit juice* you are getting some vitamins. With bread you get some marmite or jam or something. Coke, you get nothing but the high and the fast track to syndrome x.

          *I don’t think commercial fruit juice is healthy for kids, esp very young ones, and shouldn’t be used as a substitute for fizzy. I don’t know who your friend was listening to, but the idea that fruit juice rots teeth is not new. You have to ask why people want to give something very sweet to young children and that brings in issues beyond sugar. If someone is thirsty, drink water. If they are hungry give them food with a range of nutrients that aren’t going to spike blood sugar. If they are tired, that’s another whole set of problems that can be addressed without giving them a short term energy boost. If they are behaving in ways one can’t cope with, then that’s another set of problems.

  10. Debbie Brown 10

    What about diet soft drinks – most of which contain less sugar than milk? Will they be exempt?

    If so, I’d support. Otherwise not in a million years.

  11. bad12 11

    More consumer taxes,NO f**king way, all’s such taxes do is promote nazism in the form of demonizing one section of society against another,

    It’s pretty blindingly obvious, instead of penalizing financially, (usually), those with the least means to pay, it would seem a more direct route to getting the ‘huge sugar’ rush out of much of the foods being sold loaded with the f**king stuff to simply legislate away the right of those putting it in the food in the first place to do so,

    Aim Legislation at those who knowing the damage still load their products with sugar instead of taxing the poor schmucks sucked into buying it,

    Taxation is a slow means of trying to achieve this objective, direct legislation requiring fizzy drinks and other products to only contain X amount of sugar means the results of what is trying to be achieved are immediate and of a blanket nature…

  12. Descendant Of Sssmith 12

    The suggestion that alcohol has been restricted in some way through taxation to minimise harm is nonsense. The opening up of the sale of alcohol and the reduction in age has more than offset any price increase to the point it could be said that the taxation revenue is purely a reward from the liquor barons to the government as a thank-you.

    Sugar in the same way has been liberalised and had it’s access opened up.

    Until restrictions are made on sugar content in food you’ll never make a real difference.

    The sugar industry is a most effective lobby group across the world and opposes any restrictions on sugar / carbohydrate content.

    I recall a NZ scientist being involved in a World Health Organisation investigation that included the consideration of sugar / carbohydrate in food. The draft report recommended a maximum level which when the final report came out had that recommendation missing. It turned out that the sugar industry was involved in organising the research to be done and had it removed.

    The WHO report was intended to be used in part to assist governments with guidelines for setting food manufacturing standards.

    A quick google search gives an update as to where things are with this report:

    http://blogs.crikey.com.au/croakey/2014/01/06/the-world-health-organisation-takes-a-tough-stand-on-sugar-it%E2%80%99s-about-time-we-listened/

    Governmental implementation of these guidelines, with the maximum recommendation in place, would be the best place to start.

    • @ descendant..

      ..+ 1..

      ..just looking/aiming at drinks..and not at food..

      ..is only doing half the job that needs doing..

      ,,phillip ure..

    • weka 12.2

      “The suggestion that alcohol has been restricted in some way through taxation to minimise harm is nonsense.”

      Pure alcohol (food grade) costs something like $10 or $15 per litre. You can only purchase it at that price with a tax exemption. Once you water that down to match spirits on the retail shelf, you are looking at more like $5 or $7 per litre. Compare that to high proof vodka or gin at $50+ per litre.

      While I agree that access also has a large impact on consumption, I can’t see how the tax doesn’t (price is part of easy access).

  13. RedLogix 13

    Frankly I’m a little leary of letting governments determine what are ‘healthy’ eating choices or not.

    I’ve been more or less doing the lowish carb paleo thing for about three years now. The basic idea falls into three parts – eating well, sleeping and managing stress well and exercising well.

    The good eating part basically says if you could dig it up, pick it or knock it on the head – then it’s probably ok to eat. If it comes in a can, box or bottle it’s probably not. Eliminate ALL the sugars and corn fructose, eliminate the industrial hydrogenated oils, eliminate the refined wheat products – and minimise the dairy. Fermenting and culturing is highly desirable.

    I’ve been pigging out on saturated fats for ages and my last blood and cardiac test two months ago were perfect.

    Today for instance I got up at 4am, worked for several hours, breakfast was a banana, yoghurt, apple, cinnamon, egg and kelp powder smoothie. Plus a handful of macadamia nuts.

    I’m now eating dinner 12 hrs later (a chicken salad) and I’ve only had two apples in between. No sugar crash or cravings all day.

    The amazing thing is that despite the more expensive ingredients our total grocery bill is about 2/3rds what it used to be. Why? Because we can get through whole days without the need for ‘top up’ snacks.

    All up this approach more or less inverts the conventional food pyramid. The Danish tax on saturated fats was misguided – and I’d be concerned to something similar happen in NZ.

    • Descendant Of Sssmith 13.1

      “Frankly I’m a little leary of letting governments determine what are ‘healthy’ eating choices or not.”

      Huh when you said you were a bit leary I couldn’t but help think of this.

      “Admit it. You aren’t like them. You’re not even close. You may occasionally dress yourself up as one of them, watch the same mindless television shows as they do, maybe even eat the same fast food sometimes. But it seems that the more you try to fit in, the more you feel like an outsider, watching the “normal people” as they go about their automatic existences. For every time you say club passwords like “Have a nice day” and “Weather’s awful today, eh?”, you yearn inside to say forbidden things like “Tell me something that makes you cry” or “What do you think deja vu is for?”. Face it, you even want to talk to that girl in the elevator. But what if that girl in the elevator (and the balding man who walks past your cubicle at work) are thinking the same thing? Who knows what you might learn from taking a chance on conversation with a stranger? Everyone carries a piece of the puzzle. Nobody comes into your life by mere coincidence. Trust your instincts. Do the unexpected. Find the others…” Timothy Leary

      If you think about it though – government interference in food content not the quote above – government’s interfere in food to ensure it’s healthy all the time. It stops us eating lots of things that are not good for us and cause us to be unwell. It’s just as well they do otherwise our food would be full of all sorts of crap.

      The debate is not therefore about government interference in food choices. That’s a disingenuous argument as interference is a necessity to protect the population.

      The question in this instance, knowing that sugar is an additive to food, is should there be restrictions on how much can be added?

      In my view the real question is whether any drinks at all should be sold with added sugar?

      There seems to be no reason at all from a nutritional perspective. We certainly don’t need the added sugar and will get a sufficient intake from the rest of our food.

      What therefore is the point of adding the sugar? Making money and selling sugar are the only two seemingly legitimate reasons.

    • Tracey 13.2

      I guess my issue is it’snot about adults making choices, it’s about children making choices or adults making bad choices for them.

    • weka 13.3

      “Frankly I’m a little leary of letting governments determine what are ‘healthy’ eating choices or not.”

      The problem here Red is that they actually are right about the sugar thing 😉

      Completely agree with the potential for the govt to continue to do stupid things re fat. But I suspect we will see public opinion shift on this over the next decade.

  14. Tanz 14

    No tax. stop impinging on our freedomss . Smoking, etc. Let people make their own choices. Bossy boots govt.

  15. Tanz 15

    How is it your burden? If I drink fizzy drink how does that affect you?

    • RedLogix 15.1

      You will no doubt expect your diabetes to be treated at our expense.

      But look in your case I’m prepared to make an exception. OK?

      • bad12 15.1.1

        Is not the treatment of any medical condition ‘treated at our expense’, someone crashes their car into a power pole while speeding, we all chip in to pay for the carnage, should they be treated at our expense,

        i’m sorry i see this ‘at our expense’ as words likely to come from the mouth of a Farrar or Hooton, the we want to pay less and less tax brigade, another nasty side of the Neo-Liberal ism…

        • Psycho Milt 15.1.1.1

          Yes. User pays could be applied to a lot of things, from the health system down through education, ACC, you name it. Very bad path to start down.

          • Tracey 15.1.1.1.1

            I know what you are saying… but to run with it, what happens to the users who can’t afford to pay? The one’s on under $22 bucks an hour for 36 hour week? I am thinking particularly of health and education. It’s not inconsistent to want to rely on a cost to someone’s choices when your philosophy, for want of another word, that certain services, health and education being at least two, are precursors to a fair and just society.

        • Draco T Bastard 15.1.1.2

          someone crashes their car into a power pole while speeding, we all chip in to pay for the carnage, should they be treated at our expense,

          Of course they should as it’s part of the ‘insurance’ that should come with living in a society. Of course, they should also be fined for speeding.

          i’m sorry i see this ‘at our expense’ as words likely to come from the mouth of a Farrar or Hooton, the we want to pay less and less tax brigade, another nasty side of the Neo-Liberal ism…

          Everything is paid for from the community and thus everything done is done at a cost to us but it is also a benefit and usually, the benefits outweigh the costs. The fact is that Hooton and Farrar are extremists and that needs to be communicated as well.

          • weka 15.1.1.2.1

            Not to mention that we (collectively) do many and various things to reduce car accidents and resulting injuries, so why not do the same for excessive sugar consumption?

  16. Richard McGrath 16

    The sad thing is that those who eat and drink responsibly will be forced to pay this sin tax and thus subsidise the health care costs of those feeble-minded idiots who over-indulge.

    • McFlock 16.1

      The sad thing is to see what you do with the education other citizens paid for.

      • Richard McGrath 16.1.1

        Unrelated to the topic of this thread and doesn’t address my comment. Now THAT’S sad.

        [lprent: It did however relate directly to your comment. Did you pay directly for your education? How many other people paid taxes for it?

        McFlock just widened out your ‘principle’ to the “sin” of education paid indirectly to you by that other taxpayers who may not have received it. It was a pertinent analogy in the context of your comment, and your failure to recognize it does say that it was a wasted donation by other taxpayers.

        I suspect that what you are annoyed about is that he shifted the grounds of the debate beyond where you felt comfortable going. Specifically by answering a smartarse “do you beat your mother” question with an exact duplicate style of comment. Such mirroring is something you should get used to.

        Use your brain before wasting moderator time with arbitration requests. Eventually we get pissed off and eliminate the nuisance. ]

  17. Richard McGrath 17

    Point taken. However I’m not uncomfortable discussing my education, though perhaps comments should be directed to my parents regarding my schooling. As there were no private universities in NZ offering a medical degree in 1979, I chose to attend a state funded one. I would wager the tax I have paid since (around $75k annually these days) has more than paid for the cost of my entire education. My three kids have attended a mixture of state, integrated and private schools.

    So no, I’m not uncomfortable discussing my education, but it does stray somewhat from the original topic which was whether to place an arbitrary tax on sugary drinks. I essentially commented that under this blunt instrument a person eating and drinking responsibly will end up having to contribute to the health costs of someone who throws caution to the wind and shoulders no responsibility for their own health.

    Just out of interest, under such a system do readers know whether something like Coke Zero would be taxed at a different rate to standard Coke?

    • One Anonymous Bloke 17.1

      So you’d rather everyone pay more tax to treat diabetes and other obesity-related disorders than target the taxation directly at the users?

      How very socialist of you.

      • Richard McGrath 17.1.1

        No – cut taxes, and put more money in people’s pockets so they can purchase their own health care directly, through co-operatives, or through insurance tailored to what the individual or family can afford. Raised insurance premiums for lard-arses will provide incentive to lose weight. Lower taxes and deregulation of the protected medical ‘club’ to allow competition by overseas trained doctors, nurse practitioners and medical assistants will allow medical treatment to be provided at lower cost.

        • McFlock 17.1.1.1

          The thing about user-pays healthcare is that only the payers live.

          • Richard McGrath 17.1.1.1.1

            Rubbish. We have lots of non payers at our medical centre and they’re still alive. In many cases we forgive their debt. But I guess private charity doesn’t figure in the socialist world.

            • McFlock 17.1.1.1.1.1

              It does ixist, but it is insufficient. Otherwise there would not have been a demand for public health systems in the first place.

              Or are you saying that there are no financial barriers to primary care? Because emergency departments would probably want to talk that one over with you.

              • Richard McGrath

                I’ve done six months as an emergency doctor in a public hospital and have seen who comes into those places. Most ED consumers could afford treatment elsewhere but choose not to. Some EDs now send people they’ve triaged as low priority non-urgent cases off to GPs for management.

                • McFlock

                  “Most”…

                  Oh well, there’s no problem then.
                  Oh wait, that would be if you said “all”. And I wasn’t aware an asset and income register was required at ED – wasn’t last time I was there…

        • Colonial Viper 17.1.1.2

          No – cut taxes, and put more money in people’s pockets so they can purchase their own health care directly, through co-operatives

          Yeah there’s already one big fuck off efficient co-operative – it’s called the NZ sovereign state.

          Why you’d advocate putting more money into private insurance providers and for-profits is beyond me.

          Oh actually it’s not beyond me, its standard operating procedure for the corporate compliant Right Wing.

    • McFlock 17.2

      Try reading the post and links.

      You know, try using that taxpayer-funded education (by the way, there was nothing stopping you going overseas for an ethically-obtained education, rather than using the proceeds of theft from your fellow citizens).

      • Richard McGrath 17.2.1

        So you admit it’s theft?

        • McFlock 17.2.1.1

          Nope, but by your logic it is.

          I’m only accusing you of blatant hypocrisy, not receiving stolen goods.

          I’m also suggesting that in your case, the education system has tragically failed us all by giving you the ability to articulate arguments about theft, yet failing to give you the ability to recognise that your failed religion can only exist if society provides the very fabric that you seek to destroy – social services and economies of scale provided by a central government.

          As soon as you destroy those, the demands on law enforcement become unattainable by government, while at the same time local informal power structures replace the government to provide law and social services. As the central government becomes less relevant and decays, the smaller power structures enter into conflict, until eventually one wins and replaces the old central power.

          And yes, it all starts with bitching that you don’t need incentives to change your behaviour, so therefore such a tax is you subsidising the “feeble-minded” (you sure that medical degree wasn’t 1879?).

          Asking whether such a tax is the best policy decision is fine, but slipping into that territory shows that you don’t give a shit about anyone other than yourself. In which case, you’re welcome to emigrate.

          • Richard McGrath 17.2.1.1.1

            Because the education system hasn’t turned me into a lockstep statist, you’re upset. Diddums.

            As for your comment about not giving a shit about anyone else – you don’t know me.

            • McFlock 17.2.1.1.1.1

              I’m not upset.
              I’m just pointing out that you’re a hypocrite who by his own measure is happy to flourish in a system that apparently consists of widespread theft.

              The facts that you claim to be a libertarian (albeit a hypocritical one) and refer to groups of people as “feeble-minded” are collectively a pretty good indication that you don’t really value the abstract concept of “person”, although I’m sure that you grow attached to people who directly prove to you their worth- a bit like pets, maybe.

        • Colonial Viper 17.2.1.2

          So you admit it’s theft?

          How can taxation by the government be theft when

          a) it’s issued by the government and therefore the government’s money anyway
          b) the system of taxation is what gives money its value.

          Are you an idiot?

          • Richard McGrath 17.2.1.2.1

            God, that’s priceless. You’re saying everyone’s money belongs to the government. So morally speaking they can just empty my bank account (and yours) any time and that’s kosher… yeah.

            “The system of taxation is what gives money its value.” Where do you start with that… as I say, priceless.

  18. felix 18

    Richard, I’m surprised no-one has addressed this directly:

    “those who eat and drink responsibly will be forced to pay this sin tax and thus subsidise the health care costs of those feeble-minded idiots who over-indulge”

    The more responsibly you eat and drink, the less you pay to subsidise anyone else. How could you take issue with that?

    • Richard McGrath 18.1

      But you can drink small amounts of soft drink without it necessarily being unhealthy, yet still end up being taxed. As you say, those who consume excessive amounts will pay more tax than those who consume small amounts of Unfavourable Substance X. But as ACT leader Jamie Whyte has asked, how do politicians know what is “good” or “bad” for anyone? Using markers such as heart disease is only a narrow part of the picture. How do you balance the enjoyment from drinking sweet drinks against the gradual development of weight gain and its consequences. Politicians also conveniently forget that lack of exercise also contributes to weight gain. Will the next tax be on those who can’t prove they’ve exercised for 20 minutes 3 times a week?

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