June 7, 2010

When Dew is outlawed, bro...

King of the Pigouvians, Professor N. Gregory Mankiw, has a great column in the Sunday NYTimes. He does not bring "the club" foursquare behind soda taxes -- or cigarette taxes. His consistent and well grounded position is recovering externalities. Even if you don't buy into Deleterious Anthropogenic Warming of the Globe, Mankiw suggests that for every mile driven:

You make the roads more congested, increasing the commuting time of your neighbors. You increase the likelihood that other drivers will end up in accidents. And the gasoline you burn adds to pollution, including the greenhouse gases thought to cause global climate change.

He later concedes that cigarettes predominantly affect the user, and that medical costs are likely offset with a shorter life span. The question is then raised about what an emailer calls "internalities:" a deleterious effect on the user's future self. At the end, he does not buy in enough to champion the soda tax.

--- All of which got me thinking about our drug legalization imbroglio. And I've another way to defend my position. I wish to champion the cause of the child who (GASP!) can handle a can of soda. The construction worker who can work off the calories of a bacon-doublecheesburger, the guy who can have a couple beers, the lady who can tolerate occasional marijuana use, &c.

Freedom lovers, do you not admit that there are such?And that as long as there are, those users should have the John Stuart Mill personal sovereignty to be "permitted?"

To me, that's the fall of the soda tax. There are people to whom it is not harmful. I suggest that we can walk that theory up the evil scale and make a strong case against prohibition of many substances.

Philosophy Posted by John Kranz at June 7, 2010 3:55 PM

Mankiw can talk about "reducing congestion," but he has no political power. Those with political power use "reducing congestion" and "improving people's health" as smokescreens for the real motive: getting more money.

"Taxes don't make people healthier; diet and exercise do."

Posted by: Perry Eidelbus at June 8, 2010 10:43 AM | What do you think? [1]