[ExI] Don't be a locavore fundamentalist

BillK pharos at gmail.com
Sun Sep 27 15:40:52 UTC 2009

On 9/27/09, Giulio Prisco wrote:
> I only like "working class" food, greasy food, full of all sort of
>  unhealthy elements. I don't like vegetables and eat fruit only as a
>  medicine any now and then. Give me pasta with metaballs and a lot of
>  sauce, sausages, grilled meat and thick bean soups. I mostly like
>  things which I can eat with a spoon. Yes, before I forget it, I am a
>  smoker too, and a unrepentant one.

Watch out! The food police will be coming after you.   :)

Slate draws attention to an article in the New England Journal of
Medicine, co-authored by the health commissioner of New York City, the
surgeon general of Arkansas, and several others. (Slate is critical,
of course).


Taxation has been proposed as a means of reducing the intake of these
beverages and thereby lowering health care costs, as well as a means
of generating revenue that governments can use for health programs.
Currently, 33 states have sales taxes on soft drinks (mean tax rate,
5.2%), but the taxes are too small to affect consumption and the
revenues are not earmarked for programs related to health. This
article examines trends in the consumption of sugar-sweetened
beverages, evidence linking these beverages to adverse health
outcomes, and approaches to designing a tax system that could promote
good nutrition and help the nation recover health care costs
associated with the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages.

I liked their paragraph citing 'market failures' as a justification
for intervention and higher taxation of unhealthy foodstuffs. It
struck me that their description of 'market failures' could pretty
well apply to almost every market dreamed up by mankind.

Economic Rationale

Economists agree that government intervention in a market is warranted
when there are "market failures" that result in less-than-optimal
production and consumption. Several market failures exist with respect
to sugar-sweetened beverages. First, because many persons do not fully
appreciate the links between consumption of these beverages and health
consequences, they make consumption decisions with imperfect
information. These decisions are likely to be further distorted by the
extensive marketing campaigns that advertise the benefits of
consumption. A second failure results from time-inconsistent
preferences (i.e., decisions that provide short-term gratification but
long-term harm). This problem is exacerbated in the case of children
and adolescents, who place a higher value on present satisfaction
while more heavily discounting future consequences. Finally, financial
"externalities" exist in the market for sugar-sweetened beverages in
that consumers do not bear the full costs of their consumption
decisions. Because of the contribution of the consumption of
sugar-sweetened beverages to obesity, as well as the health
consequences that are independent of weight, the consumption of
sugar-sweetened beverages generates excess health care costs. Medical
costs for overweight and obesity alone are estimated to be $147
billion — or 9.1% of U.S. health care expenditures — with half these
costs paid for publicly through the Medicare and Medicaid programs.


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