Arnold Kling

A Tax on Fat?

Arnold Kling, Great Questions of Economics
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In the dead-trees version of Atlantic Monthly for December, Jonathan Rauch writes about the new public policy concern with obesity.

It seems to me that the only honest and effective way to confront this issue is to tax not fattening foods or fattening companies, but fat people. It is they, after all, who drive up the government's health-care costs, so it is they who sould pay. What I propose, then, is to tax people by the pound.

Although the essay is tongue-in-cheek, the economic analysis is valid. If government regulates the fat content of, say, fast food, people will find fat elsewhere. Moreover, it could be that for some people the most efficient way to lose weight is not to change their diet but to exercise more. Just as the most efficient way to reduce fuel consumption is to tax gasoline, the most efficient way to reduce obesity is to enact the fat tax.

Discussion Question. Do you think that the goal of the anti-fat crusade is to improve health or to paint corporations as villains?

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