Something’s Fishy In Denmark (and here too)

I received a record number of emails alerting me to Denmark’s new tax on fatty foods.  In case you haven’t heard about it, here are some quotes from one of the many news articles:

Denmark is to impose the world’s first “fat tax” in a drive to slim its population and cut heart disease.  The move may increase pressure for a similar tax in the UK, which suffers from the highest levels of obesity in Europe.

Starting from this Saturday, Danes will pay an extra 30p on each pack of butter, 8p on a pack of crisps, and an extra 13p on a pound of mince, as a result of the tax.

If the U.S. government ever starts taxing my mince, I’m going to start a revolution.

The tax is expected to raise about 2.2bn Danish Krone (£140m), and cut consumption of saturated fat by close to 10 percent, and butter consumption by 15 percent.

Which means it will raise the consumption of crappy industrial food products by around 25 percent.

“It’s the first ever fat-tax,” said Mike Rayner, Director of Oxford University’s Health Promotion Research Group, who has long campaigned for taxes on unhealthy foods.

Unhealthy foods?  I thought the tax was on saturated fat and butter.

“It’s very interesting. We haven’t had any practical examples before. Now we will be able to see the effects for real.”

So let me get this straight:  you have no practical examples – which means you have no evidence that taxing fatty foods is a good idea – but you favor imposing those taxes anyway?  Mr. Rayner, are you by any chance related to The Guy From CSPI?

I read some rah-rah comments by journalists who love the nanny state, but at least one news article raised an important issue:

Butter, milk, cheese, pizza, meat, oil and processed food are now subject to the tax if they contain more than 2.3% saturated fat.  Danish officials say they hope the new tax will help limit the population’s intake of fatty foods.

However, some scientists think saturated fat may be the wrong target. They say salt, sugar and refined carbohydrates are more detrimental to health and should be tackled instead.

Those scientists are two-thirds right:  sugar and refined carbohydrates are more detrimental to health.  But as for “should be tackled first” – ummm … why?  Why should governments be tackling any of our food choices?  Or as Jacob Sullum (who appeared in Fat Head) aptly put it in one of his essays, When the did the size of your butt become the government’s business?

Whenever the nanny-statists set out to provide another real-life example of the punchline We’re from the government, and we’re here to help, they never pause to ask themselves two crucial questions:

  • Is this an appropriate task for government, and therefore an appropriate application of government force?
  • Do government officials have the knowledge and expertise to make the correct decisions on this matter and therefore apply force in a beneficial way?

One of the many reasons I love living in Tennessee is that a surprising number of politicians here actually ask themselves question #1 before acting.  I stood up and cheered when I heard that our mayor warned an alderman that he would veto the alderman’s proposed bill to outlaw hurricane fences.  The alderman insisted hurricane fences are ugly.  The mayor agreed … but said telling property owners what kind of fence they can install on their own land isn’t a proper function of government.  What a concept.

Nanny-statists, of course, believe that restricting our freedom in order to bring about whatever benefits they imagine will follow is just fine and dandy.  New York City’s Mayor Bloomberg recently spoke at a WHO conference dedicated to creating new policies to battle obesity, diabetes and other “non-communicable” diseases – in other words, diseases you can’t transmit to anyone else. We’re not talking about stopping someone from spreading polio to unwitting victims here; we’re talking about governments attempting to protect people from their own free choices.  Here’s part of what Bloomberg had to say:

While government action is not sufficient alone, it is nevertheless absolutely essential.  There are powers only governments can exercise.

True … only government can legally threaten to commit violence against you and toss you in jail if you don’t do what you’re told.

Policies only governments can mandate and enforce.  And results only government can achieve.

True again … I don’t think private organizations alone could have foisted so much bad dietary advice on us that we’d end up with record numbers of adolescents developing type 2 diabetes.

I’ve been watching (in small chunks) the excellent Ken Burns documentary on Prohibition – the most famous example of our government trying to protect people from themselves.  In one of the opening sequences, several historians wondered how Prohibition ever could’ve passed in America.  As one of them noted, the Constitution was designed to guarantee individual freedom  – but then we passed a constitutional amendment that specifically restricted individual freedom.  It was, one of them noted, quite un-American, quite contrary to our national character.

Yes, it was … or at least it used to be.  Have you ever wondered why Prohibition required a constitutional amendment to become law?  If Congress wanted to ban the sale and manufacture of alcohol, why didn’t they pass a federal law and start enforcing it?

The answer is that Congress knew the law would be struck down as unconstitutional faster than you can open a bottle of beer.  It would’ve clearly violated the Constitution’s limits on federal power, and back in those days most judges had this wild notion that the Constitution actually means what it says.

(Warning:  sidebar political rant …)

Then along came a bull@#$% theory promoted by “progressives” that the Constitution is a “living, breathing document” – which means judges can just interpret it pretty much any ol’ way they choose.  A “living, breathing” Constitution is nearly worthless.  Any part of it can be lived and breathed out of existence by some nanny-state judge, as we’ve seen countless times now.

A couple of you have commented previously that you support the idea of a “living, breathing” Constitution because you don’t believe today’s government should be restricted by words written on a piece of paper more than 200 years ago.  Before you swoop in to repeat those comments now, I want you to answer a question:

Suppose as part of the “war on terror,” Congress made it a crime to publicly criticize the commander-in-chief or the military … you know, because the founders couldn’t have anticipated world-wide terror networks, ya see, so they couldn’t possibly have understood that someday an American citizen’s anti-war comments could show up the next day on YouTube or Al Jazeera and provide comfort and inspiration to people who want to kill American soldiers, so we have to re-interpret the Constitution to fit today’s circumstances.

Now … are you okay with that law?  Do you buy the “living, breathing” Constitution theory in this example?  Or would you still expect the First Amendment to protect your freedom of speech?  If so, why?  Why should the Constitution be interpreted literally when it places limits on government that you hold sacred, but become all fuzzy and living and breathing when it places limits on government that I hold sacred?  You can’t have it both ways.

(End of sidebar political rant … sort of.)

Obviously, since I believe the legitimate purpose of government is to protect our freedom, I don’t believe mandating health habits is a proper function of government.  I don’t believe governments should be telling us what to eat, where to eat, how much we should pay for what we eat, or how much salt can be included in the packaged foods we buy.  I don’t believe governments have any business requiring restaurants to post calorie counts on menus or to serve low-fat or low-sugar foods.

And I certainly don’t believe governments have any business telling citizens that they can’t buy raw milk, as happened recently in Wisconsin. (That judge explained to the citizen that we have no right to consume the foods we prefer, because we only have the rights the government grants us … which means the judge is a @#$%ing nanny-state idiot who would benefit from having a copy of the Declaration of Independence forcibly inserted in his colon – raw and un-pasteurized, of course.)

On to question #2 – If government is going mandate health habits, does government have the knowledge and expertise to make the correct decisions?

Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!!

Thanks, after the political rant, I needed a good laugh.  Bloomberg is the genius who thinks government should force food manufacturers to reduce the salt content in their products, despite no evidence whatsoever that restricting salt would do diddly for our health.  Meanwhile, here’s what the World Health Organization is proposing:

Among the items included in the declaration are having governments intervene with the advertising of foods deemed unhealthy to “Promote the implementation of the WHO (World Health Organization) set of recommendations on the marketing of foods and non-alcoholic beverages to children, including foods that are high in saturated fats, trans-fatty acids, free sugars, or salt,” according to the document.

See the problem here?  You and I may agree that trans fats and sugar are bad for us, but some people still insist they’re harmless.  I believe saturated fat is good for us and grains are bad for us.  Other people believe it’s exactly the opposite.  You can cite evidence either way if you’re clever about it.  The difference is that I’m not interested in forcing my beliefs and my food choices on anyone else.  The nanny-statists are very interested in doing exactly that — and they don’t have the expertise to know for sure their choices are the best choices.

Governments should back off and leave us alone.  Our government has been telling us what to eat for 40 years now and subsidizing the foods it insists are good for us.  Does anyone believe we’ve gotten healthier as a result?

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98 thoughts on “Something’s Fishy In Denmark (and here too)

  1. Captain ChiliDog

    Yet another great post Tom.
    This is just further proof that government run health agencies are not at all concerned with the health of the people. If they were honestly worried about our health they’d look at the lowering taxes on, or even give away, the foods they call “healthy” instead of figuring out how to make more money on the “unhealthy food”. Why tax “fatty foods”? As you pointed out in the FatHead movie “Follow the money”. Since the marijuana issue was mentioned, it’s a great example. How long have we been told that it’s a horrible drug that ruins lives and kills puppies? But then someone tells a congressman “you could tax it” and suddenly “gosh maybe we should legalize it”.

    I‘m in the middle of an ongoing email debate with one of my socialist friends from (of course) California who wants the government to take over the healthcare system. As I pointed out to him, our government promotes a diet that is making people sick to benefit the grain industry. I don’t believe for a second that if the government were in charge of the entire healthcare system, they’d make decisions based on what’s best for patients. Medical protocols would be determined by political influence, just as dietary policy is now. If Senator Blowhard wanted treatment for heart disease to include drugs or devices manufactured by one of his big contributors, that’s what we’d get.

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  2. Anne Robertson

    Tom, if you’re so opposed to universal health care, what would you do about the people whose health problems are not related to nutrition? I’m totally blind due to injury in early childhood, and needed a liver and kidney transplant due to a congenital liver problem and poor kidney function after surviving acute nephritis at the age of two. As a blind person, my earning capacity is limited and was made more so by my reduced energy levels due to poor kidney function. Would I be expected to pay for my own health care, or do you think that people like me should just be allowed to die? For the record, I eat more or less the way you do and have rescued my health from the unfortunate consequences of having to take immunosuppressant drugs for the rest of my life. I agree that government should not interfere with our food choices, neither should it subsidize any business of any kind.

    I believe people have every right to ask for help. I don’t believe anyone has the right to compel others to provide help. Universal health care is a method of compelling others to buy your health care for you.

    That doesn’t mean you’d simply be allowed to die.

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  3. lauren

    You know, I’m not a very conspiratorial person, but I’m starting to wonder if the government wants us to be fat and sluggish. How else could you explain them pushing fattening/disease causing grains and taxing the food that keeps us healthy?

    I don’t think they want us to be sick so much as they want us to keep buying grains.

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  4. Big Daddy

    I am a political centrist. I float from leaning right to leaning left depending on what policies are being offered. The 2 question test is good.

    Interpreting the constitution is a bit trickier. Like Joe Dokes said often our feelings about the level of activism depends on whether the decision agrees with our beliefs.

    The Alien and Sedition Acts were a set of 4 laws passed in 1798. All of the laws expired without being overridden by any court. Jefferson pardoned folks and the congress game back some fines. One of the laws expired the first day of the next presidential term. Yes, our founding fathers made stupid political moves too. People were arrested for violating the Alien Enemies Act in the War of 1812.

    Jefferson — one of my heroes — understood it was a stupid law.

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  5. Gina

    “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.'” – Ronald Reagan

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  6. Marielize Goldie

    This is so scary, that a law like fat-tax can actually happen.

    There are talks about fat tax it in NZ every so often, that leads to loud protest. Not so much about fat but as in “don’t you dare tell me what to do!” bull headed bunch these Kiwis

    In the mean time, butchers cut fat to the minimum on meat although its mainly grass fed omega 3 rich fat. Thats good for me I generally pop in to the back, and ask for the lamb fat they cut of – so it’s fat with thin strips of meat. They gladly give it for free or charge a dollar or two for a kilo. I use this in so many vegetable meat dishes to up the fat. Therefore eating much smaller portions of protein – saving the world and staying full for ages!

    Because it is free I add this lovely high quality fat to my dogs home cooked meals, making my dogs agile, strong without any of the signs that ail our modern pets.

    Ha … so you’ve made the anti-fat hysteria work in your favor.

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  7. Jane

    Wow, I just wrote a rant about this same exact thing the other day, and pretty much the same reaction.

    I was totally pissed at people thinking it was okay to, as someone said, force the issue.

    My rant went off about how “FORCE” was the key word to that statement.

    The essence of government is not reason, it is not logic, it is not eloquence. The essence of government is force. So said George Washington.

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  8. Bob in NM

    Tom, you might turn me into a Libertarian yet. It’s bad enough that you and Gary Taubes convinced me to give up my beloved pretzels! Of all the many blogs I look at, if I see a new one of yours, I read it first. Thanks!

    I’ll happily welcome you to the team.

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  9. Midwest Housefrau

    When the government pays for your healthcare then you officially no longer own your body. They do kidnap children into the foster system in England simply for no other reason than being fat. As for medical marijuana, I live in Oregon and its one things the libs out here got right. I do not indulge myself but if someone else wants to get stoned or drink a fifth of whiskey or what not in the privacy of their home its no one’s business but their own. I do object to the condition of it being legal only for “medical” reasons. From what I understand, once its called “medical” that opens the door to the FDA to regulate it to death. This will be a eventually problem if the public ever pushes the federal government to legalize it.

    That’s one of the many reasons I don’t want the government taking over the healthcare system. Every attempt to curtail individual freedom will be justified as a health issue.

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  10. Bex

    Hmmm, a lot of hatred for the ‘universal healthcare’…..the only issue I have with the NHS is the doctors telling me to lose weight all the time – not from looking at me, but from looking at my BMI. Hmmm…..

    One good thing about the UK is that I can still wander into any supermarket and find full fat foods without any trouble. I can also buy raw milk (only from the producer though), and buy unpasteurised cheese in the supermarket.

    I did, however, find this little gem from 2009. I wonder if he’s changed his mind yet? Seems a lot of people thought he was talking crap then, though his comment about the lipid hypothesis has bruised my forehead – I wasn’t prepared with a cushion

    http://blogs.food.gov.uk/science/entry/The_appliance_of_science

    I see many of the comments were quite critical of the anti-fat campaign. I take that as a good sign.

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  11. Doina

    Greetings, Tom!
    I am so glad to come across your blog while doing research on nutrition, looking for a healthy diet to lose weight. I read a couple of your articles but had no time to read all – I’ll read them as I go along, probably this weekend. I also just finished Lierre Keith’s The Vegetarian Myth, recommended by Drs. Eades in their Protein Power Lifeplan (I bought the book, excellent.)

    Your response to MeMe Roth is brilliant! You’re so very right. You see, I’m one of those fat women that MeMe despises, and feels sorry for. Sad, as she put it (she shouldn’t, I am, paradoxically, healthy in spite of my weight, haven’t seen a doctor in more than two years and the last time I went to one was because of a flu bug.) I want to lose the extra pounds because I don’t like how I look, period. I went through a couple of books preaching vegan diet, in particular Dr. Esselstyn’s Prevent and Reverse Heart Diseas, albeit my heart hasn’t troubled me, so far. I just wanted to learn, and somehow I loved the idea to avoid eating anything that has a mother and a face … however, I don’t believe this diet is for me. That’s how I kept on searching, and discovered dr. Eades, dr. Westman, and the late dr. Atkins.

    I am fat not because I eat junk food. I cook at home, as my mother and grandmother have taught me. But it’s the age, slugghish metabolism, some genetics, and carbs (bagels with coffee, an occasional pastry, potatoes, some pasta.) I live in New York, suburbs, and you know, you run into a pastry shop every other corner. No more! For breakfast I’ll have my eggs.

    Currently, I’m purging my pantry of everything carbs, flour, rice, potatoes, pasta — out they go! I make lists of vegetables that should accompany the protein I’ll be eating from now on, according to dr. Eades plan. We’ll see how it goes.

    But enough about me – I just wanted to introduce myself, as it is the first time I post in your blog.

    I find the idea of taxing sat-fat absolutely ridiculous, and wonder about the outcome on the Danish population. And I don’t like very much the idea of a nanny-state.
    So long for now. A pleasure to read you!
    Doina

    Welcome, Doina. Keep us posted on how the new diet works for you.

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  12. Walter B

    And when the health problems arise from the reduction of saturated fat in the Danish diet, the tax on saturated fat will be increased.

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  13. Joe Brown

    Hi Tom – I am a devotee to your blog as well as to the books and writings of many in the LC community from Jimmy Moore to Gary Taubes. Political rant’s are prone to objective comment. I am interested in knowing how the “non-nanny” state of Tennessee enacts a law that will end up preventing as many as 500,000 people from voting. All under the guise of protecting our freedom to vote by preventing “voter fraud”. Sometimes I think that having “the government here to help” all depends on what some folks think the government ought to help out with. Preventing certain classes of citizens from their right to vote could be one of those things. Perhaps we really do get to pick and choose which liberties are good for society and which are not.

    I don’t consider it a form of nanny-statism to require voters to prove they are who they say they are. I don’t want illegal immigrants, citizens who couldn’t be bothered to register, or dead people voting in elections. Surely you’re not suggesting there are 500,000 legitimate registered voters in Tennessee who can’t, for some reason, produce an ID?

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  14. Patricia

    Didn’t they try an additional tax on “junk foods” here in the US a while back?

    I’m surprised at the fat tax in Denmark, a country known for their fat consumption and their lower rates of obesity and diabetes. That’s like taxing sauerkraut in Germany!

    Maybe Denmark just needs additional revenue and decided to tax the more popular items under the guise of health.

    Whenever governments attempt to fix a supposed problem by imposing a new tax, I suspect raising revenue is the primary motivation. Follow the money.

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  15. Be

    Let me preface this with two things you already know: I am anecdotal proof that your view of diet works, and I have libertarian political views.

    But, I must ask a question of you and all other paleo/primal/pure/real/low-carb/natural foodies out there. Do we want the government to label food as GMO?

    Technically, I agree that the Uncle Sam has no business in the labeling business. Food businesses itself should be interested in marking their own food as “No GMO”, no MSG, no nitrites, no nitrates, glutton-free, etc. “Organic” is vague, even if it helps define GMO content, but who defines what “Organic” means now or in the future (after folks like Whole Foods and Organic Valley concede that “GMO is substantially food”)? There is no value in any label without any legal definition, even if that definition is only upheld by the courts.

    But our government already force food manufacturers to define the carb content, trans fats (without distinguishing between vegetable and meat trans-fats, like CLA), etc.

    And let me tell you, while I don’t want the government defining my food choice, I still appreciate labels. Wheat, HFCS, and sugar is added to EVERYTHING! Other than when I know my farmer (limited time here in the North), these labels are saving my life. Are the labels, limited as they are, helping or hurting us? And if we want labels at all, shouldn’t we know if and when GMO crops are being used?

    If we really want government to stay out of our food business (and endorse a pure “Libertarian” – large L -agenda) then we would say the government shouldn’t be involved in labeling at all. Maybe we want an independent company to test and confirm food labels – a self-governance system.

    Sorry, maybe a bit off topic here, but I am interested in your angle here.

    Labels would hardly be my first target if I woke up one morning and found myself in the White House as the first libertarian president in modern times. I like having that information and use it all the time. But of course, as a libertarian, I don’t think it’s the government’s job to force other people to give me what I want just because I want it.

    It is a proper function of government to prevent fraud, so I have no problem with governments requiring that labels be accurate and certainly have no problem with governments prosecuting companies that sell harmful products.

    As for forcing labeling of GMO foods, I don’t see why that would be necessary. Given the number of people who don’t want to consume GMO foods, I would expect companies to advertise the fact that their products aren’t made from GMO crops.

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  16. C

    NO TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION!!!!!!!!!!!!! We need low-carb representatives.

    Nice timing. I just got done reading all 3 sections on the Revolutionary War in my history textbook and how the colonists made a huge deal over the taxes on tea. We need the USA to come together and help Denmark rebel against this unfair saturated fat tax! We need to spark a revolution that will the known as The Saturated Fat Revolution!!!!!

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  17. Peggy Holloway

    Tom, I usually agree with you, but here you have made a tactical error. You say that no-one should have to pay for someone else’s health care. In our current system, we are all paying for everyone else’s health care. I am paying for my sister’s (she is a public school teacher) and my mother and partner’s (they are both on medicare). When I worked for a small college, my students paid for my insurance through their tuition which paid for my benefits. When I buy a car, (if I ever have the money to do that again), I will pay for the insurance of those who built and sold the car. Right now, I am paying for my own insurance for the first time in my adult life since the college where I worked closed down last year (due to the economic downturn) and there are no full-time jobs in my field because institutions of higher learning can’t afford to pay benefits. So, the current system of paying for other people’s insurance isn’t working and it needs to be divorced from employment. The best plan is for us all to pool our resources through a universal, single payer system. The government (which is us) can’t be any worse than the insurance industry at making stupid decisions about what is covered and what isn’t.
    As for making nutritional advice, the government has a bad track record, but so do the private agencies such as the ADA and AHA. I guess we just have to stay vocal and get the word out.

    I don’t believe anyone should be compelled to pay for anyone else’s health care. If people want to voluntarily pool their resources and their risk by buying insurance, that’s fine with me.

    I agree that insurance needs to be de-coupled from employment, but doing so doesn’t require a taxpayer-funded government health-care system. And yes, I believe the government could do a MUCH worse job. Imagine if doctors like Mary Vernon, Bill Davis, and Michael Fox were paid by the government and told they must follow government treatment protocols.

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  18. Mika

    Disturbing! After watching Fat Head, I went back to eating saturated fat and more animal products. My cholesterol has improved greatly, my blood pressure is down a bit, my moods seem more stable, and even my hair looks much healthier. I’m a believer. Shame on Denmark.

    They clearly didn’t check the science first … or don’t care.

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  19. Ron K.

    The labeling of GMO foods is a human rights issue. Everyone has a right to know what is in their food and has a right to choose not to eat it. If it is not labeled, that choice is denied them.

    Gmo is labeled in Europe but not in the US because the FDA sees no need too. The labeling of GMO will probably occur at the state level instead of the federal level, witness California trying to get it on the 2012 ballet. Hopefully other states will also go for it in 2012.

    I live in Colorado and there is talk of a similar effort occurring here.

    Have you considered interviewing Jeff Smith? He has the number one selling book on the subject of GMO crops.

    No, I’m not familiar with him, but I’ll try to do some reading on him. Working a 40-hour week now, my reading time has been considerably diminished.

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  20. Fat Guy Weight Loss

    Makes me think of the suagr tax we had briefly here in Washington State. Only affected me since they group soda with sugar even if it had no sugar so my diet soda cost me a little more. Eventually this was reveresed with a public ballot…this is a case where they were attempting to restrict the right thing to help obesity but still falls under the “it is not the governments business how big my butt is.” Though this was only in effect for a few months curious if it sucessfully reduced sales on the high sugar items…

    Glad to see the citizens revolted. I would too, and I believe soda is bad for us.

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  21. Sid Mannluv

    Patricia, I live in Spokane, Wa and the mayor put a tax on junk foods that didn’t have wheat/flour in them. It caused a huge uproar and when voting time came we got the Act removed. Mayor is still here, but she might be gone in the upcoming election season.

    It makes me uncomfortable to think of government deciding to meddle in our personal affairs, especially something as tedious as the food we eat. I can see the angle they would play, telling us that obesity is a big drain on the economy due to illnesses and time missed from work. So of course here comes Big Brother to swoop in and save the day by taxing the wrong foods and making us feel its all our fault. Which of course is true, I mean lets be real we can’t be getting sicker and fatter because our government has been promoting the wrong foods for the last 40yrs.

    What I would like to see is the government taking a hike and focusing instead on keeping our borders safe and making sure our country is working efficiently (something they are barely able to do).

    Let’s face it, government saving the day = citizen freedom restriction

    The essence of government is force.

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  22. Andrea Lynnette

    On the food labeling thing, I would point out that a lot of companies voluntarily label their foods in ways that AREN’T required by government. When people want information and can’t get it easily, they inform the company, and smart companies provide the desired information, knowing that people will buy the product that gives them easy access to the information they’re looking for.

    I’m old enough to remember the time before standard nutrition labels, and I don’t remember people crying over boxes of Twinkies because the new labels made them suddenly aware of the fact that Twinkies are bad for them. They already knew, and the labels have not stopped people from buying Twinkies!

    Exactly. Companies that don’t listen to consumers aren’t around very long.

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  23. Dan

    Nice rant Tom. I’m with ya. You know, when I first heard the phrase, “a living document” in my youth, I always thought that this referred to the fact that you can amend the document, not that it was open to interpretation. However, I think it is technically correct that it is open to interpretation, but not an ‘open’ interpretation. For instance, the lawmakers create a law, and it is up to prosecution in the courts where the law is defined. As an example, the 16th Amendment (a very dubious one at that as it sought to overturn previous articles of apportionment without following the proper protocols to do so) states that “…Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived…” but the term “income” isn’t defined. It later received its definition from the Supreme Court decision on Brushaber v Union Pacific where the court stated that income is profit or gain from corporate activity (even further still is the definition of “corporate activity”). So this is, in a sense, the “live breath” of the Constitution that I think some are alluding to however, once interpreted by the courts, I don’t see any logical way that it can be interpreted differently later on simply because society has “changed”. If this is the case, then I don’t see any reason to codify any law. But what do I know? I don’t mean to stir up any anti-income tax sentiment on your site, but that was a readily available example (in my mind at least) and I decided to use it. Keep up the information deluge. It is much appreciated.

    Sure, we always interpret to a degree when we read a text. The “living, breathing” document crowd, however, doesn’t seem to believe they need to refer to the text before interpreting. As Justice Scalia once said, it must be great to go your chambers and decide the Constitution means whatever you want it to mean.

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  24. Dina

    It’s not only in the UK they want to follow in Denmark’s footsteps 🙁 Here in Israel they started to look towards that direction too… So I’ve started to write to MPs and cardiologists and journalists and… Don Quijote has become my middle name. 😉

    If there are any fellow countrymen reading Tom’s blog – Please help out! 🙂

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  25. Patricia

    @ Sid Mannluv

    . . . “the mayor put a tax on junk foods that didn’t have wheat/flour in them.”

    Interesting it did not include products that contained wheat or flour. Because including grain products must make it a health food?

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  26. Peggy Holloway

    Tom:
    After the experience my sister had with Mary Vernon, it might be good if some agency were investigating her practice, government or otherwise. Please don’t use her as an example of a physician doing wonderful things, because she is not. I’d be glad to discuss this further.
    Peggy

    I’m sorry to hear your sister’s experience her wasn’t good.

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  27. Anna

    We live in mighty frightening times really. Not only do governments seem hell-bent on telling us how to live our lives, a good number of people actually WANT that to happen – every time something bad happens, there is a public outcry demanding “a law about that” or “an inquiry into that”. Greed rules and people are increasingly unable to make decisions for themselves. Somehow I think Denmark’s fat tax will just be the first, not the only – there has been talk here (‘here’ being New Zealand) about taxing “unhealthy” foods or subsidising “healthy” ones for some time, all in the name of saving us from ourselves, of course…

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  28. Lone Stewart

    The thing you have to know about the Danes, is that they KNOW that the new fat tax is just another tax to raise revenues. We really couldn’t care less. We will keep buying what we like and what we want to eat – or cross the border to Germany, where the government is not quite as crazy as ours – and load the car with delicious danish Lurpak.

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  29. Joyfulbaby

    Unfortunately, there is another way that we are all paying for everyone’s healthcare: It is the law (and you should agree that it’s a good one) that says that Emergency rooms have to treat people first and ask for payment later. Okay, so the people who are sick and don’t have insurance know to go to the emergency room. Because the hospital is now out the fees they might have collected from that person, they charge everyone else just a little bit more to make up for it. My insurance company then gets charged that little bit more…and they charge ME just that little bit more. So, yes, I am paying for that indigent person to get medical care. And so is everyone else who has insurance. We have to do something, it’s just not clear what.

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  30. Nowhereman

    Galina L wrote:

    “It is quite possible, of course, that the future raise in the obesity would be explain by not following the low-fat diet strictly enough”

    That seems to be the constant chant of these people when things go catastrophically wrong with their vegetarian and vegan diets. You mention Steve Jobs. But did you know that he and Bill Clinton have something in common with one another? They were both strict followers of Dean Ornish, and the two men had near-fatal and fatal illnesses between them.

    When Clinton had developed heart disease, Ornish admonished him for not being strict enough on his diet. I wonder what Ornish’s excuse will be for Steve Jobs?

    Probably something similar.

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  31. Joe Brown

    Tom – 50,000 was one figure I read in one news article on this and, it was an estimate. Problem is, if it is one person, it is too many. You do have thousands of folks in your state who are poor, do not have a passport or drivers license or birth certificate which is what the law requires. The one case examined was of a 92 year old woman who does have a bith certificate but of course it states her maiden name. She has voted in the last 30 elections but no longer. Has voter fraud been a big problem in Tennessee/

    Then the solution is to find an efficient way to provide voter IDs, not to allow anyone who shows up at the polls to vote. As we saw in 2000, an entire election can turn on mere hundreds of votes. In a razor-close election, fraudulent votes could put the candidate who should have lost in office.

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  32. TonyNZ

    Two bits of discussion around the taxation is for revenue issue that have come up in NZ recently.

    Capital gains tax: The left wing opposition party is campaigning on introducing a capital gains tax should they get in with the reasoning “it will discourage people investing in housing and drive investment into the productive sector”. Ok, so why would my farm (of which I’m pretty sure is part of the productive sector) be subject to the same tax. This is no disincentive for pouring money into another housing bubble, it’s a disincentive for pouring money into anything.

    Alcohol tax: In order to reduce alcohol related harm, alcohol tax was increased with the reasoning “by raising the price of cheap liquor, it will curb binge drinking because people will not be able to afford it. Ok… aside from the fact that an alcoholic will pay any price to get the stuff at the expense of other things like shoes for their children, why is it that making that $30 bottle of scotch $40 also makes this $150 bottle of scotch now $200. I would never binge on that stuff, but I pay $40 more in tax to “discourage binge drinking” on it.

    Now I can accept (not necessarily agree with) these taxes if they were honest, i.e. “we are introducing capital gains to raise revenue” or “alcohol is a luxury, so we are taxing it and using the proceeds to invest in strategies to reduce alcohol related harm” (only a small percentage of alcohol tax actually goes to this) or the $150 bottle of scotch only goes up to $160.

    These are such obvious cases of actions that belie the purported intentions, there must be hundreds more examples.

    Governments levy taxes because they want the money. All the other justifications for the taxes are b.s.

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  33. The Older Brother

    @Peggy H

    “we are all paying for everyone else’s health care. I am paying for my sister’s (she is a public school teacher) and my mother and partner’s (they are both on medicare). When I worked for a small college, my students paid for my insurance through their tuition which paid for my benefits. When I buy a car, (if I ever have the money to do that again), I will pay for the insurance of those who built and sold the car. ”

    Using that logic, you are also paying for your sister’s and mother’s and her partner’s and the auto workers’ food. (A – You were taxed or paid for a service or product, B – some of that money went to health care, therefore C – you paid for their health care.) So using your logic, it follows that we should have a single-payer food source run by “the government (which is us).” I’m sure they can do a better job than a bunch of individuals who mostly depend on having jobs to eat, no? Let’s be consistent.

    How is it that folks who are onto how incredibly inept and corrupt government is when it comes to something as basic as our food supply can suspend their disbelief enough to think that exact same government can efficiently, fairly, and economically run an entire health care system for over 300 million people?

    Cheers

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  34. Lori

    “Okay, so the people who are sick and don’t have insurance know to go to the emergency room. Because the hospital is now out the fees they might have collected from that person, they charge everyone else just a little bit more to make up for it. My insurance company then gets charged that little bit more…and they charge ME just that little bit more. So, yes, I am paying for that indigent person to get medical care. And so is everyone else who has insurance.”

    You’re assuming that people who don’t have health insurance don’t pay for health care. Several years ago, I went to the emergency room without health insurance, and paid every cent of the bill. Full freight, no insurance company discounts. My best friend is having health problems and giving most of her paycheck to doctors–and if she ever went to the ER, it might take her a long time, but she’d pay off her bill.

    As Thomas Sowell has said, everything else in this country is bought on credit, why not health care?

    We don’t see doctors often — okay, almost never — but when we do, we end up paying out of pocket. Our insurance is structured to cover us in case of a real disaster, not for routine care.

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  35. Galina L

    I was slightly uncomfortable to mention Steve Jobs because it is not a good moment now to criticize his diet. Even Dr.Mercola abstained from that. I just wanted to give an example how much people could believe in the holiness of vegetarianism. My husband is a smart person, with PhD in chemistry, he personally saw how my health improved, but he attributed it to other health practices, my lost of job 2,5 years ago and good genes.
    We also should remember that it is impossible to guarantee a perfect health 100% even with the best diet. Shit happens.Often it takes years for our resilient body to show result of our life style. I shudder to remember how I used to cook everything with margarine. Look at Peggy Holloway’s sister. Probably, Dr.Vernon just didn’t have any magic bullets to reverse diabetes and her communication skills were not perfect, at least LC diet didn’t cause that, but didn’t cured.

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  36. Galina L

    There is something else is going on – we continue the “safe starches” debate in the Paleo biosphere. All arguments sounds quite reasonable for me until I start to think about practical side – if we start re-introducing starches we should be reducing fats at the same time. By how much? I tried to get more carbs into my diet but started slowly regaining weight. Yes, BS reading went higher than !40 after eating one potato but it is because the body didn’t handle such food for a while and it supposed to get better in time, on another hand, after eating a little more carbs, my fasting BS was going slightly lower. Due to peripheral IR my FBS is something like 107 now. What is to give? Dr. Kurt G. Harris doesn’t think that it is necessary to pay too much attention on rare BS spikes, if I understood him correctly. I don’t have the necessary patience to micromanage my diet and it is one of reasons to watch just one macro-nutrient – carbohydrates. Another important reason is my case- migraine control. I think I will continue to eat two high-fat-low-carb meals a day for a while at least. I spend 3.5 year loosing my fat and too scared to regain (isn’t it natural?) Hever before did I spent so much time on a diet. It is because I never felt deprived or truly hungry – it became a way of eating that I like without being obsessed with food or eating compulsively. We will see what Jimmie’s experiment would demonstrate. I really and truly try to have an open mind and not to treat my diet like a religion.

    I still feel a little bit guilty of bringing up Steve Jobs diet to the discussion. He thought he did the right choice. I don’t know how he felt, but for sure he was functioning very well. I feel well myself. It may be not the bottom line.Bu what is it? My guess – lower level of inflammation, if not low weight.

    About Bill Clinton – may be Dr. Ornish deserves some public appreciation for suggesting a diet that should curb an excessive libido in that gentlemen. I wish it would be a kinder way. B.C. is SO charming!

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  37. norpan

    Tom, I’m interested in your take on illegal immigrants. You say in a previous reply in this thread that “I don’t want illegal immigrants […] voting in elections.”

    How does the concept of being an illegal immigrant fit with the libertarian view? Citizenship is something provided by the state that gives special privileges to those who have it. If two people live in the same place, have the same job, etc., but one has citizenship and the other has not, what’s the rationale for treating them unequally?

    I’m not sure why you see a conflict there. Citizens of the U.S. have rights guaranteed by the Constitution, including the right to vote. Illegal immigrants aren’t citizens.

    Reply
  38. Guy

    It’s quite frightening really, especially because governments would surely like to earn more money. This gives them the perfect excuse to impose more taxes on us in the disguise of “making us healthier”. Since money runs the world this rule might easily be implemented in many other countries, and that is quite a grim scenario.

    Always follow the money.

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  39. Gwen

    Something the government grants to you is not a *RIGHT*, it is a *PRIVILEGE*. Rights are what you have when no man has acted. You are created with them. There are two distinctions between rights and privileges — you are born with rights, and they cannot simply be nullified by the decision of another. Privileges are granted and taken away by the whim of those who claim control over you.

    This is an important distinction when remembering that our government comes from the consent of the governed. They claim to govern us. We have the *right* to gainsay that claim, and to replace those who make decisions we disagree with, at the ballot box.

    The Constitution IS “living and breathing”, but not in the way they say it does. It lives and breathes because WE do. It can be changed if the people disagree with it, by the mechanisms laid forth within it. There is a list of such amendments — the first ten being called the Bill of Rights — where changes have been successfully made. Thus, it lives and breathes, changes over time according to the needs of the nation.

    What it does NOT do is change at whim according to the diktat of judges, the “signing statements” of executives that would be king, or the regulations of pet “czars” that have no leashes.

    I wish everyone shared your view on rights.

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  40. David

    Just wanted to quickly say “Amen” to your statement …

    “Then along came a bull@#$% theory promoted by “progressives” that the Constitution is a “living, breathing document” – which means judges can just interpret it pretty much any ol’ way they choose. A “living, breathing” Constitution is nearly worthless. Any part of it can be lived and breathed out of existence by some nanny-state judge, as we’ve seen countless times now”

    Amen to you as well.

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  41. Simon

    Hello Tom,

    I’m going to keep this short and sweet, but after watching Fathead and reading this blog, I feel a lot better about my desires to drink full-fat milk and avoid low-fat products. They just don’t taste as good, and now I know they’re actually better for me after all. Needless to say I won’t be using lean beef mince for my pasta anymore ;D

    I never eat lean mince.

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  42. Denmark

    Hi folks. Denmark here. It should be noted that the government largely based its reasoning on the work of Arne Astrup. However. Its nearly 15 years old and Arne himself say the very thing you just said, Tom : “This tax is a disaster, people will just eat more junk carbohydrates.” The man with whoms work they argue, calls it outdated and irrelevant today. He has even gone so far as to say that dark chocolate and fat cheese is, as a matter of fact, good for you.

    Also it comes at a time when the most popular dietitians in Denmark calls eggs “the perfect food”.

    The real reason for the fat tax is to be found in 2 things. The government gave generous tax cuts to the most well off and we went to war in the coalition quigmire. Then the financial crisis struck and they needed money, lots of money, and fast, to fuel our ponzi sch…social democratic system.

    And as usual it is the poorest that has to pay the real price. Which is ironic since it is those (Assumed stupid) poor people who ate wrong to begin with. Someone with a good income doesnt feel the tax much, but to a poor family it can mean the difference between eating meat every week and not eating meat every week. Or more likely, they will compromise and get “meat products” that had its fat removed and changed for celulosis, sugar, flour or something like that.

    Even the politicians admit that this is whats going on. that the forreign press managed to miss this tells you everything you need to know about their work ethics. They just took the Reuter news feed from our PR department. Nobody here thinks it is a good idea and people who know what they are talking about are expecting a health disaster down the line to come of it.

    Whenever governments raise taxes, it’s because they want the revenue, period.

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  43. Denmark

    Time for a rant. seperate post because its irrelevant to the subject,. We are allready the most tax burdened people in the world. This is not something I say to be interresting. This is a statement of fact. When you get your paycheck 50% of it goes directly into the state coffers as income tax. There is 25% VAT on all goods unless they are “luxury” in which case its 50% VAT. If you want to buy a car its 180% (one hundred and eighty percent, its not an error) and you pay a yearly road fee based on the weight of your vehicle. The fat tax is a financial insult that came from the same governement who promised a stop on raising taxes. The danish politicians have it really easy. Danes are easy going people who prefer to avoid conflicts if we can…some people (shame on them) would probably use words such as “docile” in relation to danish politics. In most other places there would have been a violent revolution a long time ago. They dont even bother to lie anymore.

    “yes we needed money and just pulled that tax out of our a-holes. And walked right over all the scientists whoms work we abused in the process. It became a fat tax because fat is a hot issue isnt it? I mean thats what people out there worries about, being thin and shit, right?”

    %”¤&#”%&(!!!

    Sounds like a well-deserved rant.

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  44. moreporkplease

    Today our long-time pal Dr. Uffe Ravnskov of “The Cholesterol Myth,” took on the Danish fat tax in a major Danish paper: http://www.b.dk/kronikker/fedt-er-fedt

    Key quote: [in the context of obesity & diabetes] “Saying that eating fat makes you fat is as silly as saying that eating vegetables makes you green.”

    Glad they printed his article.

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  45. desmond

    I just read that the Danish Fat-Tax is dead!
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-20280863

    Legacy: Danes did not change their eating habits, but they did change their shopping habits. Perhaps a politician followed the cloud of diesel emissions heading south into Germany and realized Danes were spending their Euros in German grocery stores. The government certainly found an effective way to hinder farm-to-table businesses on the Jutland peninsula.

    The law of unintended consequences strikes again.

    Reply

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