Next, They’ll Make The Trains Run On Time

New York’s economy is in big trouble. The state has an enormous budget gap to close, and toward that end the Paterson administration has proposed a measure that is such an egregious miscarriage of governance, as well as being so audaciously stupid, that I can hardly find appropriate language with which to disrespect it.

The proposal, which you can read about here, is an 18% “obesity tax” on “non-diet” soda pop.

I am so dumbfounded by what an offensive and idiotic idea this is, in so many ways, that I am almost at a loss for words. If I were a manufacturer or consumer of these beverages (I am not) I would by now be on the phone with my lawyer, if not on my way to Albany to join the crowd that is probably already surrounding the State House with pitchforks, torches and tumbrels.

There was once a popular political movement, one that exerted considerable influence in a large European nation a few years back, that compelled children to read a health manual advising them that “Food is not a private matter!” and “You have the duty to be healthy!” This same outfit, which took public health and diet very seriously, also felt, as the Paterson administration seems to, that “The public good supersedes the private good!” regarding how the citizenry ought to be taking care of themselves. (This last is a translation; the original slogan was “Gemeinnutz geht vor Eigennutz!”)

There is a word for this sort of thing. It is a word much overused, almost always inaccurately, and I do not use it here lightly. The word is “Fascism”. The group mentioned above was, of course, the Nazis.

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7 Comments

  1. Charles says

    That is just… I don’t know what to say.

    Posted December 17, 2008 at 3:02 am | Permalink
  2. Court says

    I’m a firm believer in the rule-of-thumb that Nazis should never be invoked in any debate or discussion of a contentious issue. I think the reason for that rule is amply demonstrated here. I think you can make your point without resorting to such lowly analogies.

    Suggested reading for you: Don’t Eat This Book. Simply put, we do not live in a level playing field where rational individuals make rational choices based upon perceived benefits and detriments. This is not a simple issue of personal freedom or choice. Rather, in the US we are showered from birth with advertising propaganda to buy sugary soft drinks AND we are hard-wired by evolution to prefer such drinks, wherever possible, so less tasty, more nutritious alternatives. Seems to me that a tax on sugary is just one attempt to level the playing field. Obesity is having a major impact on our country, one that we are going to pay for one way or the other. Just like cigarettes, (though admittedly not one quite as heinous), sugary soft drinks are an unnecessary, unhealthy product, that should quite rightly be taxed in order to help ameliorate its effects and discourage its consumption. I think this is a step in that direction, something that can be tried.

    Posted December 17, 2008 at 3:06 am | Permalink
  3. Malcolm says

    Yes, I dithered about that myself, of course. I am well aware of Godwin’s Law, and I came very close to taking out the last sentence.

    So here’s a clarification and a disclaimer: I am in no way suggesting that the Paterson administration is a bunch of Nazis. This sort of thing is, however, exactly what Fascist regimes — every one of them — do.

    But yes, Court, perhaps I should have slept on this one before publishing; I might have been a bit more oblique in making my point.

    Posted December 17, 2008 at 10:24 am | Permalink
  4. Malcolm says

    Part of the problem when writing a post like this is that, in order to demonstrate that policies like this are exactly the sort of thing that Fascist governments typically devoted themselves to, it is necessary to give an example — in particular because it has become commonplace, especially on the Left, for everyone to call any government policy they disagree with “Fascist”, however inappropriately and inaccurately the term may be applied. The Nazis were almost obsessively involved in promoting public health and physical culture, for the betterment of the greater German nation.

    Posted December 17, 2008 at 11:56 am | Permalink
  5. Kevin Kim says

    And in other Hitler-related news

    Kevin

    Posted December 17, 2008 at 3:44 pm | Permalink
  6. Malcolm says

    HI Kevin,

    Yes, heard about that one on the radio. Nice parents to have. Thoughtful.

    Posted December 17, 2008 at 4:11 pm | Permalink
  7. Court says

    Huh, I didn’t realize it was an actual law, and not just a rule of thumb. Well, that’s good to know. Thanks for pointing it out. Moving over to your other post to respond there.

    Posted December 17, 2008 at 8:17 pm | Permalink