Thursday, 17 March 2016
Sucker Taxes - how we're fooled into believing a tax is good for us
Let's get one thing out of the way. The new impost on fizzy drinks isn't a public health measure it's a tax raising measure. Not a single pound from a single child will be shed because of this new tax. But HM Treasury will have £500m to splurge on a whole load of nannying interferences dubbed 'school sport'. There'll be - if there isn't one already - a new national agency, School Sport England, created to spend the money. It will have a well paid chief executive and some flash offices somewhere in either central London or a shiny regenerated city centre like Bristol, Brighton or Norwich. And it will have a chairman who used to be a (sort of) well known runner, swimmer or rower.
The 'sugar tax' as this measure has been dubbed (at least the Mexicans got their description right by calling theirs a soda tax) will join a load of other measures - from stamp duty through to insurance levies - that are, in as far as this applies to any tax, popular. Over the past couple of years, a coalition of public health agitators have banged on about sugar creating the belief in the public mind that, compared to other ingredients, 'sugar' (and especially that product of chthonic cunning, 'hidden sugar') is peculiarly bad for us. Add to this a campaign by Jamie Oliver of egregious misinformation and weapons-grade hypocrisy and the result is that the public will accept the imposition of a tax on sugar - or rather a specific tax on the special kind of bad sugar that only appears in cheap fizzy pop.
The wedge has been rammed into a crack - one created essentially by the lies of public health campaigners and self-serving celebrities like Jamie Oliver - in the food business. We can now expect an avalanche of further proposals - advertising bans, health warnings, taxes on confectionery, duties on table sugars, the banning of free sugar in cafes and coffee shops, and the further deappetising of school dinners to the point where they're little more than tasteless pap with half a flavourless apple on the side. In the same way that fast food takeaways, for no evidential reason, are being banned near schools, we will see planning controls extended to sweet shops, bakers, cake shops and ice cream vans.
And none of these measures, not a single one, will result in any child losing any weight. But they will result in a new industry funded by taxes on the bad things, and more opportunities to nanny the pleasure out of being a child. Once sugar in food has been taxed to the hilt and given that the illusory 'obesity crisis' will still be with us, public health campaigners and assorted nannies will move on to another ingredient. It might be fat. It might be grains. Maybe red meat. Sausages. Bacon. Cheese.
They'll churn out hundreds of poorly researched, badly referenced, scientifically inaccurate articles for the sort of journals that used to publish real science but now realise that propagating illusory health scares is a better business than science. Newspapers, magazines, TV shows and the new industry funded by the sugar tax will leap on this crappy pseudo-science to push for more taxes, bans, controls and limitations.And the taxman will rub his hands with ill-concealed glee as the public is suckered again into believing paying more taxes on everyday ingredients is good for their health - or rather good for the health of the children.
These are the sucker taxes of tomorrow - measure after measure sold to us as a public health benefit but, when stripped to essentials, nothing of the sort. Just taxes. Just new ways of extracting money from the public to squander on the deranged priorities of the Church of Public Health, its acolytes and useful idiots in the media or celebrity-land. This sugar tax is an object lesson in Colbert's law - we are the goose and we're letting the taxman pluck a load of feathers. Worse still we think this is good for us!