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A Pigouvian Tax on Meddling

March 24, 2010

Reacting to a demand for a 1-cent-per-ounce tax on sugary beverages, Monsieur Boudreaux at Café Hayek suggests an excise tax on busybodiness:

New York State Health Commissioner Richard Daines alleges that the low prices, generous serving sizes, and vigorous marketing of sugary drinks are evidence of “market failure” (Letters, March 21).  As far as I can tell, though, Mr. Daines’s lone rationale for accusing the market of “failing” is that he and other ‘experts’ disapprove of suppliers competing hard to satisfy people’s demands for sugary drinks.

If Mr. Daines’s allegation is justified, then I’m justified in alleging that the political process in New York State has failed.  My reason?  I disapprove of the fact that many voters demand that busybodies such as Mr. Daines poke their noses into people’s diets.  I disapprove also of Mr. Daines and his colleagues working hard to satisfy these voters’ demands.

So to correct this failure, I propose an excise tax on busy-bodyness – say, $1.00 per word spoken or written that ‘experts’ (such as myself) judge will promote injurious officiousness and unhealthy meddling by government officials in the private affairs of others.

Donald J. Boudreaux

The French Cowboy is all for it!

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