05 October 2011

Bittman Wrong on Food Tax

Two stipulations, if you please. First, I am no libertarian. Second, I generally find Mark Bittman's columns in the New York Times  both simpatico and interesting.

I think he's dead wrong today, however, to praise the Danes' tax on saturated fat in foods. For two reasons.

1.  First, and foremost, is that this is the Nanny State gone wild. I favor regulation on toxins in food and drugs, environmental hazards, etc. I am not advocating Ron Paulism, and far from it. But saturated fat is not poison, and if people choose to eat it, that's their business. It's not like second hand smoke. It doesn't hurt other people. And the concept that it increases medical costs (if true, see below)... well, so do a lot of other things. I draw the line short of here: the government has no business using taxes to disincentivize these choices.

2. Now, if that didn't convince you, how about this? The scientific justification for this kind of tax is specious. There is, in fact, absolutely no evidence, despite many attempts to prove otherwise, that saturated fat in the diet causes heart disease, obesity, cancer, or any other health conditions. Don't believe it? Refer to Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes, with its extensive footnotes and bibliography. It's the truth.

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