Never A Truer Word Spoken

In his Devil’s Dictionary, the late and very-much-lamented Ambrose Pierce once wrote the following:

“When politicians speak, no matter the topic, they’re talking about money.”

…and boy, was he ever right.  Here’s an example.

For the past couple of years, governments have been talking about the “obesity epidemic” (as though getting fat can spread from one person to another over the air, instead of being the result of a conscious decision by individuals).  And of course, along with such alarums and panic from the Usual Suspects — those who Know What’s Best For You — have come clamors that Something Must Be Done.  And when people use the dreaded passive voice, of course, that means one, and only one thing:  government intervention.

So, of course, in steps Nanny Government to the rescue.  Of course, instead of pointing out that people get fat because they eat too much, or that their children get fat because their parents give them too much of the wrong foods, Big Nanny sets about punishing people for ingesting said wrong foods — and the easiest thing to target, because of its ubiquity, is sugar.

We all know that too much sugar is A Bad Thing, and if you eat too much of it, you get not only overweight but various health problems.  Let me repeat:  we all know that.

But how to punish excessive sugar consumption?  Do we (i.e. Nanny Government) ration the stuff?  No, too difficult and costly to implement, manage and police (although I would bet against it in the future — such difficulties have seldom stopped government in the past, e.g.  ObamaCare coff coff )  But sugar is not only bought and sold per se , it’s also a ubiquitous ingredient, and most egregiously so in the case of carbonated soft drinks (to normal mortals, that would be Coke, Pepsi, Mountain Dew etc.) wherein can be found the equivalent of a dozen or so teaspoons of sugar per can.  Not that this is always A Bad Thing:

So, goes Nanny’s thinking, if we punish people for drinking Cokes and reduce consumption thereof by making it more expensive to do so, the very best way to implement such policy is… to tax it.

Which brings us back to Ambrose Bierce.  And lo, there we have proof of the man’s sagacity:

The UK’s sugar tax has raised almost £154 million in its first six months, Government figures have revealed.
From April, companies selling drinks with added sugar have been taxed between 18p and 24p per litre for certain drinks containing high levels of added sugar.
The new levy was introduced in an effort to fight childhood obesity, as more than a third of 11-year-olds in the UK are now overweight and soft drinks are one of their main sources of sugar.

With that degree of success, replication must surely follow:

Raising so much money from the tax was ‘encouraging’, one expert said, but they urged the Government to extend the levy to calories in sweets [candy] as well.

And there you have it:  Nanny Government at its absolute finest.  It’s even more nasty in that with the above policy, the BritGov didn’t increase the sales tax on carbonated soft drinks — too difficult to implement, police and collect, see above — so instead they levied the tax at its source:

 There are 457 companies registered to pay the tax, and more than 90 per cent of the money came from charges on drinks with higher levels of sugar.

Much easier.  And needless to say, most of said companies simply raised the price of their product and passed it on to consumers — that would be us — to whom rising prices are a fact of modern life, and therefore the added cost went pretty much unnoticed.

Which actually makes it a perfect government tax policy:  it’s barely noticed by the public, it’s easier to collect / enforce (457 companies vs. many thousands of retail outlets), and best of all, if it fails to have the desired effect (making people drink less of the stuff), Nanny Government can simply increase the tax rate until it does — or until the supplier companies either quit or go out of business, which won’t happen because Coca-Cola / PepsiCo / Dr. Pepper / Cadbury-Schweppes etc. are collectively richer than Great Britain.  So there is theoretically no limit as to how much tax revenue the BritGov could collect from this policy.

And all because you, you fat bastards, insist on buying your kids Big Gulps and pouring  Dr. Pepper over their sugary breakfast cereals (a rant for another time, coming very soon to these pages).

And at the bottom of all this, of course is the reason why Gummint — in this case the Brit manifestation thereof — should care about fat children at all.   It’s not because they’re concerned for the chillins’ health (although that’s the figleaf), but because when obesity causes health issues, then said issues have to be covered by the foul (but government-funded) National Health Service.

Which brings us back — AGAIN — to Ambrose Bierce’s dictum.  It’s all about the fucking money.

At the beginning of this post, I said that Bierce’s death was much lamented but as I think about it, I’m glad that my favorite cynic of all time isn’t around to see all this.  He’d probably commit suicide.

And as a footnote, allow me to recommend unreservedly The Devil’s Dictionary, which under the reign of World-Emperor Kim would be a required textbook in all high-school curricula.


  1. Rather than taxing sugar, we’d be better served by phasing out subsidies for turning corn into fructose. It’s not that corn syrup is significantly worse than cane sugar (despite all the opprobrium directed towards HFCS ). It’s just that sweetening food is the only way to make it taste like anything after you’ve taken away all that lovely salt and fat. Of course, it would also require undoing several decades’ worth of bad Gubmint advice about nutrition. (“Salt, bad! Fat, bad!”) And NO ONE wants to be on the hook for that much liability.

    1. In the real world, HFCS actually is worse, especially the 55% fructose version used in soft drinks. Consumption of more than 40g/d of fructose is epidemiologically linked with increases in obesity and type 2 diabetes, so that extra 5% can add up.
      While fructose doesn’t drive insulin and thereby promote insulin resistance in the way that increases in blood glucose do, it persists much longer in the blood and is a much more efficient glycator than glucose so it does more damage to proteins; it also tends to promote increases in uric acid.

      Glycation: Say what?

      “Nonenzymatic glycation was first diagnosed and described in diabetic patients as leading to the accumulation of advanced glycation end (AGE) products in several tissues and organs. AGEs have been associated with end-stage renal disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, atherosclerosis, and connective tissue impairment. The term glycation has emerged in recent years to describe one of the most important aging factors for human tissues and organs; it now commonly refers to the nonenzymatic process of proteins, lipids, and nucleic acids covalently bonding to the sugar molecules glucose and fructose. Glycation occurs at random molecular sites and generally results in the inhibition of the target molecule’s functions. Immunostaining has demonstrated the presence of glycation in aged skin and resulting structural, morphological, and functional impairments. Glucose and fructose play a critical role in glycation, but foods containing glycated proteins also provide further exogenous AGEs to an organism. Barbecued meats, toasted bread, dark-colored soft drinks, and donuts contain high levels of AGEs. Now we know that grilling, frying, and roasting methods produce higher levels of AGEs in cooked food. Orally consumed and endogenous AGEs are proinflammatory and accumulate on nucleic acids, proteins, and lipids.”
      Emphasis added.

      “AGEs” was a brilliant coinage; the accumulation of glycation end products is part of the aging process.

  2. It’s even worse.

    Government decides something is bad for you, therefore is taxed. Taxes are revenue. Revenue is budgeted. Taxes increase, revenue increases, until the taxes actually HAVE the stated effect, meaning consumption of bad stuff decreases. Revenue falls, but the government NEEDS that revenue for essential programs (like figuring out why homeless people piss in alleyways, or my Dad’s personal favorite, millions spent to figure out how a fly lands on a ceiling.). So taxes are increased even more.

    Happened a few years ago in NJ. NJ has always had the lowest gasoline taxes in the area (perhaps in the nation), but made up for it with the highest property taxes (seriously, I pay about $1,000 a month in property taxes on a three-bedroom cape-cod house on a quarter acre of land. In the 17 years I’ve owned the house I’ve paid nearly as much in taxes as I bought the house for.). So a few years ago, when oil prices dropped, the sneaks in the NJ legislature raised gas taxes at the same rate gas prices fell, so the price stayed the same (to fight global warming you know). Then gas prices went up, so people felt the pinch, bought more fuel efficient cars or drove less, or people from neighboring states stopped coming to NJ to buy gas because the price difference didn’t justify it anymore. So NJ went into panic mode because the gas tax revenue went down. So of COURSE we had to raise the sales tax to make up for the lost revenue, but we’ll lower property taxes to make up for it. Two years after that whole fiasco, property taxes were back where they were before they were lowered and we STILL have the higher gas and sales taxes.

    Oh, when I sell my house next year, I have to pay another tax, I believe it’s 2% of the sale price of the house.

  3. The real sin is that after the tax is raised on [name the “sin”], usage falls, revenue falls and as pointed out above, Gummint begins a frantic search for a money spring to replace the falling revenue. That’s because they seldom use the “new” revenue to actually fight the “sin” as they promised, and spend it on other feelgood programs. The feelgood programs buy votes in the pols minds, so Gummint never uses their new windfall to pay down debt or build a rainy day fund. Various tobacco extortions for cancer cures and state lotteries for education are prime examples of money going into general funds or selected pockets rather than for their promised uses.
    The evil, self-serving, I-know-best nature of politicians compels them to buy votes, and since they usually fuck up everything they touch, they naturally as breathing throw more money at it to cover their turds.

    “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. This very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be “cured” against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.”
    – C. S. Lewis

  4. It would be wise to include “Chicken Little” as required reading in elementary education. I also appreciate John Winokur’s “The Portable Curmudgeon” as an anthology of such wisdom.

  5. The obvious solution is to provide people with more opportunities to get exercise. Take a Leftist, put him in a pillory, and encourage overweight people to take a baseball bat to his backside. Or kick it, on leg day. This provides both exercise and well-deserved chastisement.

  6. Ironically, much of that tax money will be going to pay people to live a sedentary lifestyle- either those louts on the dole, or the armies of bureaucrats “doing something”.

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