Why on earth would you possibly care how much soda someone else drinks?
i only drink soda with alcohol. so 2-3x/week
I never have lost weight from not drinking soda. In fact, I almost never drink soda at all any more, and have still never lost my surgery weight. (I'll do one better, and tell PETA that I've been vegetarian all year on a dare, and haven't lost the scads of weight they insist comes from my previous carnivorous lifestyle).

Maybe the reason people don't listen to those stupid statistics is because there's enough anecdotal evidence to show the common person that they're bunkum.
most fat people i know (self included) already eschew regular soda like you want us to, dan. lay off.
You know what DOES work?

Being diagnosed with type-2 diabetes.

(Well, it worked for me. Lifelong Pepsi addict. Cold Turkey (one weekend of "Trainspotting-esque" symptoms).

Lost 23 pounds in less than a month...having changed nothing else.

Fear is a powerful motivator.
I quit soda cold turkey a year and a half ago after drinking it for at least three decades, nearly every day. I've made a conscious attempt to avoid things with high fructose corn syrup and sugary snacks for at least half a year now (no mean feat, since my office provides free candy, junk food and sodas and I sit one room over from the common lunch area). I'm hyperaware of calories now, in a way I never was for most of my four decades plus on the planet.

I cut all my meal portions at least in half (again, no easy feat, since we're working longer hours lately and my studio started bringing in all kinds of greasy free breakfasts and dinners I avoid altogether), about two months ago and started running more (okay, twice a week, but I run 4-6 miles at a time).

For all of this, I've managed to lose all of five pounds, and I'm not convinced I've even "lost" that much, sort of half expecting it to come back. Being old sucks.
I went on vacation about 10 years ago, and my host only drank tea. I decided to stop drinking soda for the week, and I lost 2 inches around my waist. IN A WEEK. I never started drinking it again after that.
@3 and @4: You know, if you don't think in black and white then you would notice that some people lose weight when they stop drinking soda -- and some don't.

What's true for you isn't true for everyone.

I also note that hitting people in the pocketbook gets their attention very often.

@1: public health is a concern to everyone because overwieght and obese people use health care. We all end up paying for their fatness-related ills....

Peter F, I feel your pain. It drives me crazy when I read articles saying "I stopped eating Oreos and lost 30 lbs!" I never drink sugary drinks, my diet consists mainly of nuts and twigs with the occasional grilled chicken breast, and a big treat is a plain soy latte.
Weight loss = 0.
i was just going to agree with hartiepie about #1's comment. and Kat @ #3, "surgery weight"? are you sure this lack of weight loss isnt a function of something related to your surgery? i just had a pretty major surgery after a very lenghty illness myself, and was on prednisone (corticosteroids) for about a month and a half, and while i didnt gainweight this time (i was too sick) in the past, i put on TONS of weight (im talking 40 lbs in 2 months) on steroids. fuckers make you HUNGRY.and swollen. and sad. i hate steroids.
I saw part of a television program on this whole soda consumption thing last night. But it has always struck me.... who on earth drinks soda every day anyway? Oh right, most people in America do. Which is so beyond disgusting. Ugh.
@8, I don't think I agree with the argument that an individual's health is the business of everyone else because of health care costs. Isn't the implication that every activity that is unhealthy or risky to individuals should be controlled by the community?
i am !00% ok with non-essential items being taxed to help pay for healthcare. soda is more similar to cigarettes than it is to food. i'm saying this as a soda lover (well, former, after my aforementioned surgery i can no longer drink it). however, it would be nice to see a compensentroy decrease in the prices of healthier food.
Price increases due to higher taxes helped me decide to quit smoking. I just couldn't justify paying so much for something I knew was bad for me anyway. Haven't had a cig. since they went to 5 bucks a pack 6 years ago.

Also, some of the sugar substitutes in diet drinks create the same glycemic response as sugar since the body recognizes them as carbs. This makes them less effective as weight-loss tools.
Even the threat of health complications doesn't seem to deter some. One of my co-workers was complaining at length that she had to go on medication for her high blood sugar levels, yet goes to the vending machines every day for a regular Coke or one of those sugar loaded iced teas. When it comes to food, she always focuses on the things she doesn't eat instead of the things she does.

I have a thing for fountain sodas. Getting a diet coke with a bunch of ice is one of my favorite things. I know it's not very good for me, but when I'm standing at the checkout and everyone else in line is buying cigarettes, I don't feel as bad. Maybe it's the same thing.
Yeah, soda is so heavily subsidized by the government through corn subsidies that hardly any tax even under consideration in Washington would make the slightest dent in their artificial competitive advantage.
Dan envisions a world where you can have as much freedom as you can afford.
@6, 9,

Same here. I work out regularly and eat well and still have a little gut.

Even when I was at my peak physical condition a few years back (training for a marathon, 3 hour/day workouts every day, eating only egg whites, turkey breasts, veggies, and rice) I always had a layer of fat over my stomach. I could feel muscles under there, but the gut never went away.

Genetics are a fickle bitch.
@12: Agreed. Health-police taxes annoy me. The bad habits of some ruin it for everybody. I'm very healthy and about twice a summer I enjoy a Rum & Coke (the cane sugar variety - where you can find it). Why should I have to pay more? Diet Coke and Rum is NOT an option.
is 45 cents twice a summer really that big a deal if it at least slows some people's overconsumption of soda and by extension some public healthcare dollars? and i know it sounds paternalistic, but i think food stamps should taper off paying for that stuff. and before everyone tells me you can't find real fruit juice/water whatever in some areas, stores will stock it if they know people will use their food stamp money there : i can't tell you how many dollar store type affairs in my home town started stocking milk, real cheese and juice when and advertising outside that they took WIC .

a sad fact is that healthy food is too expensive! a good friend of mine is on WIC/foodstamps and complains that she just can't afford to get enough soy milk (she's also lactose intolerant) to drink all month and soda is a delicious alternative. if soy milk were as cheap or cheaper than soda, people would probably make better choices
While it doesn't matter to me as I drink soda I think this is a really poor idea. People who have weight issues and are addicted to this stuff will just pay the higher price or switch to something else that's just as unhealthy. You cannot legislate good judgment.

However getting rid of the corn subsidy would be a good idea regardless of what it did to the price of soda.
To people complaining about the tax: soda's so cheap partly because corn is subsidized.

If you're gonna complain about them making unhealthy food more expensive, shouldn't you already be pissed that they're making unhealthy food less expensive?

And besides the public health issues - issues which affect our health care system costs, our work-force productivity, etc. And regardless of your weight, soda really isn't good for you - it has no redeeming qualities nutrition-wise. I drink it far too often, and I'm not fat, but it's still not good for me nonetheless.

But anyway, I think a tax on soda is a good idea because a lot of the people consuming soda aren't adults who supposedly should be taking personal responsibility. Kids don't always make their own choices, and they're not mature enough to be expected to make the responsible choice. And when kids get into bad food habits, they are harder to break later in life. And I support the same for junk food and fast food. And bans on advertising for that shit directed at children.
It would seem that the President of change, given the obvious health and obesity problems with corn syrup based products, especially soda, would use the Bully Pulpit to speak out against it.

Oh, yea.

He's from Illinois.
"Same here. I work out regularly and eat well and still have a little gut..."

Have you considered other factors?

Like there has been only 10 days of sunshine in the past 8 months?

As in, no one here gets anywhere near the D3 they need which is important for digesting food.
@23: Don't hate on my state. Remember, Obama's a Chicagoan, not a downstater. Also, Illinois isn't Iowa, SROTU.

I'm just a lucky bastard, having a palate that can't abide excessive sweetness or noticeable greasiness.
Corn subsidies are the issue. De-subsidizing corn and subsidizing something that actually needs subsidizing, like healthy foods, would function far better to help people make healthy decisions.
Like, wouldn't it be great if more people could afford to eat fresh vegetables and fruit?
Dump soda. Drink more Dairy Queen milkshakes.
I live in Austin, TX. I think it's rained maybe three times since I moved here in March. Before that, I lived in Florida.

You're right that there could certainly be other factors, but lack of sunshine definitely isn't one of them.
I used to drink wayyy too much soda. I switched to diet and lost about 35lbs over the next year. That was the only thing I changed (I'm all about baby steps, doing little things I can maintain). Now I mostly drink water and while I haven't lost more weight I certainly feel better.

I hate how much cheaper it is to eat junk. I know so many people who use that excuse and making it more expensive would make it harder for them to justify buying snack cakes over fruit. Some people will never quit it, but I do think a tax is a step in the right direction. Sugar addiction isn't all that hard to break.
I have a problem with the millions of plastic, single-use soda BOTTLES that fill our landfills. I know it has nothing to do with corn syrup and obesity, it's just that the delivery mode of beverages needs to change too.

And here's a joke about it:…
Consider this a tax on poor stupid people.....the best ones out there.
@14: Thank you for pointing that out! America's obsession with super-processed "diet" food -- which I'd wager has a primary causal relationship with wildly fluctuating metabolism (the so-called "yo-yo diet" phenomenon) -- is just dumbfounding.
Didn't Karen Carpenter die from a heart attack due to medical complications arising from anorexia nervosa?
One of the things that makes soda so refreshing is the carbonation (for me, at least). I've found a healthier alternative to be club soda (0 calories) and some of the flavored club soda is delicious. I may have a Coke occasionally if I'm eating on the go, but at home the only thing in the fridge is club soda.
I was under the impression that studies had shown diet soda to be just about as bad for you as regular soda.

I'm for the soda tax because soda is unhealthy and terrible for you and should definitely be a Sometimes Food. However, the idea that you'd lose 25 freaking pounds from drinking one soda less a day is pretty laughable. It reminds me of those morning show segments about how an extra flight of stairs per days will make Bikini Ready.

I do think diet and exercise can sometimes affect how we look, but Dan's wholecloth rejection of the HAES movement is pretty dumb. All the evidence--scientific and anecdotal-- is showing that it's a lot less possible to change our physiques than we once thought.
@ 34 - Oh yeah, and no one ever dies from overconsumption of sugar. Not like it contributes to Type II diabetes and high triglyceride levels or anything.

I'm not saying that anorexia isn't a public health issue - of course it is. But diabetes and heart-related illnesses that are directly traceable to lifestyle factors is a far more prevalent public health issue. Besides, while rail-thin runway models might very well contribute to anorexia, I sincerely doubt that encouraging people switch from soda to water is going to result in swaths of young women suddenly engaging in dangerous calorie restriction.

@ 35 - Occasional consumption of regular soda isn't really the problem - it's constant consumption. Part of the issue is that soda also displaces things like water and milk (and before people start, yes, I know milk has more calories than soda, but (1) they're not empty calories, and (2) a large portion of the calories in skim milk are very high-quality protein).

@ 36 - I think there's a lot of value in the HAES movement insofar as it gets people to focus on healthy diet and exercise without having them obsess with whether they look like the models in the latest Victoria's Secret catalog. That much, at least, is laudable. But there's a difference between "Health at Every Size" and "Every Size is Healthy." As for studies demonstrating that it's not actually possible to change our physiques, well, most of those studies don't really stand for that proposition. The issue is that, once people drop weight, they're inclined to return to their old eating habits. Again, this isn't to say that genetics don't play a factor - of course there's a genetic component. But there haven't been any reputable, peer-reviewed studies that have suggested that behavior and environment aren't equally, if not more, important.
Venomlash, I'd caution you against mentioning your particular palate in a roomful of might not survive the experience.
I was a true Pepsi and choco-holic from my late teens. I was lucky to be a naturally skinny person so as far as weight goes, it never made a difference until menopause. Then I put on pounds - all around the middle. So I lowered my soda consumption by about 99% several years ago.

The primary reason was to stop the steady weight gain. Other reasons were: fear of Type II Diabetes, general fatigue, headaches, constipation and teeth staining. Plain water is my primary drink now. I confess, it took a lot more effort to reduce my chocolate and store bought pastry consumption.

But it has paid off. Change of diet DID stop my creeping weight gain and helps me lose pounds with less effort. I feel less lethargic and sleep better. My GORD problem got better. As for teeth staining? Well, I still like tea, so no help there. :\

I still love an occasional Pepsi with my pizza. When I drink any sugary beverages now, I notice the fatigue pretty quickly and I really notice changes when I eat too much chocolate or non-scratch baked stuff. Yes, this is anecdotal, but it was true before I singled out the cause.

Like some others here, I am also reading labels and avoiding fructose syrup intake. I am amazed at how many products it is in - possibly some where it isn't even listed? The best way to avoid it is to avoid the inner aisles of the grocery store, stick to produce and cook from fresh, basic ingredients.

And moderation, of course.

mmm Goverment enforced dieting, imposed predominantly on the poor. Love the ethics of it.
We could just as easily view—and more convincingly argue—that the government subsidies that artificially lower the cost of soda pop and corn-syrup-packed garbage non-food is an assault by our government on the health of the poor.

Huge corporations profit from government subsidies for this shit, profits made from the poor, profits that are quite literally killing the poor.

The same poor you care so very much about, 40.
Let them eat cake.
So cut the subsidies. Don't fucking dual regulate the market.

Seriously, this, "I know what's best for everyone shit" is great in so far as regulating big corporations and banks at the executive level but regulating the market at the retail level to restrict poor people's access to something in the interest of effecting your idea of human potentials is psycho.

God, get over yourself, Dear Leader.

@37: It was less a commentary on eating issues and more a commentary on Dan making this one of his mini-crusades.

His approach would be more convincing if we publicly watched him go from being obese and then pulling a Richard Simmons before our eyes. I know that some obesity generally (and much in the U.S.) is preventable, while for some, it isn't — try to death as hard as they can push their bodies with exercise, proper diets, and proper portions. It's in particular these people I see getting flogged for their body being what it is. When that flogger is just a skinny white guy, the message becomes a bit disingenuous.

Eating issues — everything from pressure to conform to ultra-thin ideals to absurdly easy accessibility to poor-grade foodstuffs in the U.S. — are many. But to single this out as a social problem when: a) it's too nebulous to eradicate by poking at specific foodstuffs, b) unproductive to lambaste people's dietary decisions, writ large, in an over-simplistic manner, and c) far less costly a public health issue than other means of serious bodily harm (I'm thinking automobile injury and fatality as being super-expensive and high-ranking) comes across as a kind of browbeating, if not also a scapegoating — one that's uncalled for.

And for disclosure, I say the above despite being underweight for most of my life and never having personally experienced obesity issues on my person.
Cutting those subsidies—not politically possible, sorry. (Hey there, Iowa!) Taxing the shit out of pop? That's a lot likelier and it will do a lot of good even if no one drinks any less soda. The feds and the state could sure use the revenue.

And it's not about restricting access, Ms. Rand. No ban, just a sin/consumption/idiocy tax—just like the ones we slap on booze and cigarettes and should slap on pot.

Over myself!
Um... link + quote = (mini) crusade?

The bar is set so low these days.
Anne @37:

Impeccably said!

Thanks for proving right my oft-stated prejudice that people "in MA" engage in (and expect) discourse on a higher level than here.
The straight line to Ayn Rand is Godwin-Lite. I'm not some 14 year old "can't tell me nothin'" libertarian for thinking you've gone past the point of sanity sin-taxing a kind of sweetener that is already everywhere in the market because it's source is a government subsidized crop.

Instead of approaching the right way, it has to be the easy way because it's all about your ideas being executed at your convenience and if that fucks with the consumer, all the better.

I gave up soda a decade ago. Along with all fast food. No french fries, no burgers, nuthin.

I weigh more now than I did then.

Who knew that if you wanna bring the crazy out, start talking about taxing high fructose corn syrup....sheesh, you unregistered are NUTS.
Fuck the poor....and tax their bad habits too!
@46: A single post a mini crusade does not make. A continuing instalment of posts on weight, obesity, and diet does. A slow browbeating like this is how you roll with things that get to you.

If there is a bar, it is set low because this is a limbo — not a high jump or pole vault.
I'm all for cutting subsidies to corn syrup, but the difference it'll make to the cost of soda should be insignificant. A can of coke costs 75 cents (or 30 cents if part of a 12-pack on sale). The wholesale price for corn syrup is around 25 cents a pound, so the amount that goes into a can of coke would cost the manufacturer about 1.5 cents. Even if removing subsidies meant the price will double, this would still only make a difference of a few pennies to the cost of a coke can...
Uh, with all this obsession over carbonated drinks, let's not get into the American phenomenon and prevalence of the all-you-can-eat buffet (aka, the feedlots).

Nero fiddles.
I hate the idea that products which bring pleasure should be taxed more than those that are "good for you". It's all straight from the Puritans. Embedded deep in our culture is that idea that if people enjoy something then it must be sinful. Surprising that Dan is taking up the pleasure-is-sin banner.
Taxes are intended to pay for necessary government services not to discourage behavior that nanny state Nazis don't like. You jack taxes on things like pop and all you'll do is prevent the poor from affording them. That is IMMORAL. We working stiffs don't need well-off newspaper schmucks telling us how much pop to drink or what to eat. . You don't like pop? Then don't drink it or buy it for your kids. Mind your own damn beeswax and stay the hell out of my wallet.
Taxes are intended to pay for necessary government services not to discourage behavior that nanny state Nazis don't like. You jack taxes on things like pop and all you'll do is prevent the poor from affording them while the rich still can. That is IMMORAL. We working stiffs don't need well-off newspaper schmucks telling us how much pop to drink or what to eat. You don't like pop? Then don't drink it or buy it for your kids. Mind your own damn beeswax and stay the hell out of my wallet. You have no right to tell me what to drink. I propose you should be taxed every time you get wood. How would you like that?
It's only a mini-crusade because of one of Dan's underlying ongoing themes is about the general untermenchlichkeit of fat people.

[I agree with him about the sugary/corn-syrupy drinks, however]

Note that beer is no better, and almost certainly worse for you, being loaded with carbs. I used to make beer the quantity of "malt syrup" (aka goopy sugar) is staggering.
@ all the people who are bitching about how "the research" shows that people have less control over the shape of their bodies, blah blah blah:

yes, there is pretty convincing evidence that it is very, very hard for a number of biological reasons to lose weight that you have already gained. but there is no evidence whatsoever that you are "programed" to gain that weight unless you put the necessary number of calories in your mouth.
@ 45 - Fucking Iowa caucus. Shit like this is why I actually see the appeal of just going with a national primary system.

@ 47 - Thanks for the kind words, but I don't feel like I'm stating anything (1) particularly insightful, or (2) that hasn't been said on this or other comment threads already. Which I think gets to the heart of the matter - whenever behavior-related public health issues come up, we end up arguing in circles for 100 comments.

@ 56 - Ok, first off, Godwin's Law. So you already lose the thread.

Second, dude, have you LOOKED at our tax system? It's filled with incentives/discouragement for particular behaviors. Everything from encouraging small business growth and home purchases (um, deductibility of interest on mortgages, anyone?) to discouraging pulling money out of annuities early is folded in there. That goes for income tax, sales tax, you name it. For instance, we don't levy a sales tax at all on most basic foodstuffs. That's a straight-up policy call. Hell, even HAVING a graduated income tax structure is ultimately a public policy decision. But I'm willing to bet that you "working stiffs" aren't advocating for a flat tax.

The examples are innuemerable, but the point is, anyone who thinks that taxes are solely "intended to pay for necessary government services not to discourage behavior," well, clearly doesn't actually know anything about the tax system.

I'd look into this book for a nice intro if you ever want, you know, actual information about the tax system, rather than empty rhetoric. As the title suggests, it focuses on income taxation at the federal level, rather than state income or sales taxes, but you'll get the idea.

(As for your idiotic, false "tax on erections" comparison, well, I can't believe I'm even addressing this, but here goes - sex isn't an economic activity. But since I'm all for legalizing prostitution, then income prostitutes make would be subject to income tax, and those costs would likely be passed on to clients. So, yeah, taxing you for getting wood? Makes sense when getting wood is an economic activity.)
I gave up a lot of sugary stuff and took up exercising last October.

I've lost 7lbs.

But I wear jeans that are 2 sizes smaller....
We're all doing what we can to get to through each day the best way we know how. You can't suffer a poor man access to something so inoccuous as a sugary beverage then you're as big a dickhead as the people who think you shouldn't get to exoerience the joy of wedding another man or the joys of raising a child.

This is the new lens for understanding what a good American does. He asks himself, "What should we ban?"

This week it vuvuzelas, best friends and soft drinks.

And you can say it's not about banning it but it is. If corn syrup is the poison you say it is, stop the government from taking money away from the citizens to enrich it's growers as they sell it back to the citizens at an inflated rate of tax in the market because they're hooked on it. That's insane and cruel. Ban corn syrup if it's a problem or leave it alone.

Dan, rule of thumb: If it feels mean and clever, it's probably an effective way but it's probably not the best way.
I never drank a lot of soda but I have a sweet tooth so I love it. But I really cut down when I was watching a show on nutrition and obesity a few years ago and heard a doctor say that an average person would have to ride a bike for one hour to burn off the calories from just one can of soda.

If you drink a can of soda (or eat at a fast food place) once in a while, you're not going to become obese and, contrary to what food purists might say, it's not going to kill you. But if you slam down a lot of sodas (and cheeseburgers) and don't burn off those calories then, yeah, you'll probably get porky. Yesterday, while at the Fremont Fair, I passed by three 20-something girls outside Simply Desserts chowing down on delicious-looking cheesecake. All of them were substantially overweight. They almost certainly eat a lot of stuff like that and don't get much exercise.
untermenschlichkeit? What the fuck is untermenschlichkeit?
You can quit anything you want, get diagnosed with type-2 even, lose lots of weight--chances are you're still going to gain it back and substitute something else entirely.

I need convincing that drinking diet soda's going to kill me any more dead than living does.
I need an awful lot more convincing that the state is taxing soda and candy because It cares about our health. I already know that Washington has no money and this is just one way It thinks It's going to make some.

But I highly doubt I'll see any power class people tightening their belts. They can go to their spas, I'll have another diet store-brand.
60/Anne: Second, dude, have you LOOKED at our tax system? It's filled with incentives/discouragement for particular behaviors. . . The examples are innuemerable, but the point is, anyone who thinks that taxes are solely "intended to pay for necessary government services not to discourage behavior," well, clearly doesn't actually know anything about the tax system.

Anne, what you point out is, of course, true but I don't interpret Retnan's comment as a statement of fact but, instead, as how he/she feels taxes should be applied. I think most people, Retnan probably included, realize that the tax system has numerous ways of encouraging or discouraging certain behaviors. It's just that they feel it shouldn't be used for that.

Anne @60: Have you spent much time in Seattle? Informed argument and deference to common sense are both novel concepts here.

-- d.p. once upon a time of MA
Yeah, Retnan's not really from around here. He's still one of those that thinks we'll be convinced if he just gets meaner and YELLS LOUDER.

Doesn't work, bro.
@67: I see what you're saying but I don't think Retnan believes that, either. No one really believes the tax system shouldn't be used for encouraging or discouraging types of behavior. Here's why: We have to have taxes if we want public services. Despite Reaganomics, that's generally the way it is.

Given that this is true, what and how should we tax? Should we tax equally? Doing so would "encourage" the policy of equal tax burden sharing. But it would also hit poor people disproportionately hard, thus "discouraging" them to purchase basic needs like food and shelter, as those make up almost the entirety of their spending.

Thus, we exempt certain things (like non-soda, non-alcohol, and other foodstuffs), and effectively "encourage" their purchase by making them cheaper. This is not unreasonable. If we must tax, we should probably tax in a way that minimizes the damage to our health, our future, and our economy. This is a choice we made a long time ago, and I doubt even Retnan, for all his vitriol, has any authentic interest in reversing it.

I find this all the time when I ask these "nanny state" whiners about this. It usually ends up that they support "nanny state taxation," they just haven't thought it through enough to realize it.
Dan wants to tax the shit out of unhealthy behaviors.

Like drinking soda.

And, no doubt, males having sex with males (MSM).

Because MSM skyrockets rates of STDs.
Even more than IV drug users and hetero street whores.
Like, 38X the AIDS rate of other Americans.
Expensive to treat AIDS.

So Dan naturally wants to tax the shit out of MSM.

And it's not about restricting access.
No ban, just a sin/consumption/idiocy tax—just like the ones we slap on booze and cigarettes and should slap on pot and MSM.

Right, Dan?
70: @67: I see what you're saying but I don't think Retnan believes that, either. No one really believes the tax system shouldn't be used for encouraging or discouraging types of behavior.

I basically agree with you but am not as absolutist as you are. I could no more say that "no one" wants to be fucked by a horse (because some people do) than I could say "no one" believes the tax system shouldn't be used for encouraging or discouraging types of behavior.

@ 72 - So people who don't think the tax system should be used to incentivize or discourage particular behaviors are on par with horse fuckers? Roma, I like you already. :-)
@ 68 - d.p., I can't help but wonder if you've got a sampling bias here. I ask because - at the risk of sounding like an elitist jerk - a lot of people who lived in Massachusetts once-upon-a-time went to school there, and frankly, a number of schools in the Boston area seem to attract a disproportionately large number of very bright people.

Out of curiosity, where in Mass did you live?
@72: Roma, I was being emphatic, and (it looks like) you know that. There are indeed a few people who believe the tax system shouldn't be used for encouragement or discouragement.

But there are a great many more people who *think* they believe this. And they'll say they believe it. But when another provokes to explain or examine these beliefs, they'll often concede that they do want the tax system to encourage or discourage some behavior--be it marriage, homeownership, working, being heterosexual, opting for water, or whatever.

What's really at issue, and what we should be talking about, is that these "libertarians" like Ratnan have no problem with the "nanny state." They just happen to disagree with what the nanny is saying, and lack the information they need to substantiate why. Knowing this, they go off into this absolutist and inaccurate representation of their actual, and more thoughtful, values, one that sounds like: "I don't think the state should be using tax policy to encourage or discourage us from doing anything."

Instead they should be saying something along the lines of: "I think the state should be using tax policy to encourage or discourage certain behaviors, I just don't think they should be using it to discourage this particular behavior and here's why." That's a position I'd like to know more about.
Anne, in terms of being a small minority, yes (although I'm sure the no-incentive-discouragement tax folks are far more numerous than the would hope anyway.)

Haha. I dunno man. There's a lot of horse-fuckers out there.
Mindglow, yes, I figured you were being emphatic but you never know. Absolutists do exist.

But there are a great many more people who *think* they believe this. And they'll say they believe it. But when another provokes to explain or examine these beliefs, they'll often concede that they do want the tax system to encourage or discourage some behavior-

Very good point, and I agree.

I'm sure you'll also find people opposed to taxation of one substance who are in favor of outright bans on another. For example, I'm sure there are many people opposed to taxes on soda or beer or cigs (damn nanny state!) who support keeping pot illegal (yay nanny state!)
@78: Oh yea, for sure. But then wouldn't they want our tax policy to encourage "absolutism"? Haha. I'm kidding, don't worry.

Most people I've talked to who want marijuana legalized also want it taxed to discourage its consumption. They have what might be called a "nuanced position." This is, in part, because they've spent a long time having their views questioned, and their position has evolved accordingly. And the resulting position is a well-substantiated one: they're right to acknowledge the substantial difference between banning a behavior and discouraging it through tax policy.

Similarly, I'm likely to support a tax on sodas (to help pay for the government while targeting taxes in the places where they do less damage) but I would not support a ban. If for no other reason than I think the cost and effort involved with banning sodas would be exorbitant compared to the societal damage they might do. Sorta like marijuana.

That being said, I'm not against all bans. I think the think-they-know-better-than-you liberal elite political class that run the ol "nanny state" should continue to prohibit us from rape and murder (and horse-fucking!), for example. Consider the case when these liberal elitists decided they were going to get the nanny state into yet more areas of our lives. These red-blooded Americans know the guh'mint shouldn't be telling us what to do!
@ 76 - Aw, I was just giving you a hard time. It was just a funny comparison for you to make - I couldn't help myself.

@ 77 - Thanks for providing me with my daily dose of horror. Excuse me now while I bleach my brain.
they're right to acknowledge the substantial difference between banning a behavior and discouraging it through tax policy.

Absolutely. People may not like taxes on things like beer and cigs (and soda) but at least they have a choice to legally buy and consume those things.

that being said, I'm not against all bans. I think the think-they-know-better-than-you liberal elite political class that run the ol "nanny state" should continue to prohibit us from rape and murder (and horse-fucking!), for example.

I doubt anyone (hmmmm...what was I saying before about absolutism?) -- liberal, conservative, libertarian or what-have-you -- believes that actions which involve harming someone without their consent should be legal. Where people differ is on consensual activities, like same-sex marriage (or, if you're very conservative, same-sex sex itself) or prostitution, or on activities which only cause harm to oneself, like smoking pot.

The nannies, whether conservative or liberal, feel these things should be forbidden because they result in some "greater social harm." People who are more libertarian-leaning disagree, believing that these things don't actually cause greater social harm or that, even if they do, it's not sufficient cause to deny individual freedom of choice. Take alcohol. It cuts quite a path of societal destruction. Every year thousands of people get slaughtered by drunk drivers and thousands more are assaulted (and sometimes killed) by someone who's had too much to drink. There's no question that alcohol results in greater social harm but few people are in favor of banning it for that reason.

Aw, I was just giving you a hard time. It was just a funny comparison for you to make.

That's why I made it!

Maybe there should be an Eqwin's Law: "As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of someone mentioning horse-fucking approaches 1."

@ 82 - Roma, I think you and I need to conduct a thorough, statistically rigorous, peer-reviewed study to determine whether this proposed law actually holds true.

By which I mean get drunk and click through random blogs while control-F-ing "horse fucker."
@81: Oh yeah, definitely.

I do wanna be careful though: I'm not fundamentally opposed to "being a nanny"--or, in other words, sensibly regulating against social harms. But I do think to forbid something, the greater social harm would have to be pretty compelling, and the enforcement can't be counterproductive. And if we did forbid such a thing, we should be open to the idea that social harms change with time and our prohibitions should change accordingly.

For instance, virtually all environmental regulations are prohibitions against activities that don't directly harm another without their consent. But we've come to support the idea that they might harm us through indirect and dispersed means, just as (conservatives would argue) same-sex marriage would. I happen to think they're wrong about applying my rationale to environmentalism to justify their social conservatism, but simply because I disagree with the particular ban they wish to enact. I take less issue with the "whole idea of bans" at this point.

That being said, I don't think it's reasonable to have a ban on sodas (in particular), and I'm not sure anyone (uh oh...) on this board does. I think it'd be difficult to enforce (sodas are a huge industry) and are unlikely to be effective. Also, sodas just aren't that bad. People should be able to consume them if they want. But they're not a "right" that everyone, rich and poor, must have unrestricted access too. And soda consumers should just be aware of the potential health costs of being a soda consumer, and their ability to externalize the cost of that decision onto the rest of us should at *least* be offset.

Anyways, I appreciate your thinking, Roma. However, I may be headed out to drop the ol' horse-fucking bomb on another blog out there.
this is article is so typical of the reaction of the governments of modern western democracies to a problem:
- introduce a tax overcome a problem created by state intervantion (subsidising of grains)
- try to get people to behave responsibly by treating them like children
Anne @74:

I was born to Cantabrigians, grew up in Brookline, and spent most of my 20s in Boston proper. So actually, school (NY) and my relocation to comparatively-dysfunctional-in-every-way Seattle are the two extended exceptions to my life in MA.

I don't think the concentration of a so-called "elite" student population in Boston skewed my sample. If anything, one might expect the annual infusion of the ambitious-but-callow to permanently arrest the culture at age 18.

On the other hand, much of the civically, culturally, and intellectually engaged population of the Boston area is a self-selected group that once arrived there as students, found the place stimulating and agreeable, and chose to stay into adulthood.

I have a not-yet-fully-congealed theory as to why Seattle -- despite its much-ballyhooed status as the nation's highest concentration of people with higher-education credentials, its purported voracious literary consumption, etc. -- fails to discourse with informed critical thinking. My thoughts on the matter are currently only at a Mudede level of cogency, so please bear with me...

It's Seattle's pervasive, unwavering, unexamined devotion to capitalism -- and the way that informs its understanding of the role of education -- that has constructed a local culture incapable of self-improvement through deductive reasoning.

If one accepts that industrial capitalism begat a reductive approach to the tasks of production (a vivisection of the knowledge and understanding required of skilled producers into unskilled and cheaply compensated fleshy cogs in a mass-production machine), then it follows that post-industrial capitalism seeks "efficiency" by doing the same to white-collar professionals.

Of course, these jobs in the service sector (including much of the so-called "creative class"), in engineering, and so forth do require a skill-set for which higher education is seen as prerequisite. But the skill-set is highly specific and is essentially treated as a packaged good that you purchase with your tuition, time, and studious exertion -- a commodity available to anyone with the minimum funds, time, energy, and brainpower to make such a purchase. Idiosyncrasies: discouraged. Critical thinking: superfluous. Adaptability: eschewed. You are trained to function only in the manner that the economy dictates at the moment of your training. Biases ingested during training become mistaken for instincts (or worse, "best practices"). You are just as much a cog in an economic machine -- a better-compensated, societally esteemed cog, but an indistinguishable and replacable cog just the same. Worst of all, you are encouraged to bask in your "value" and avoid examination of your economic role at all costs.

This is the essence of modern Seattle. It explains the unquestioning adherence to comical banking practices that made WaMu a hyperbolic catastrophe even when compared to its national counterparts. It explains why people stubbornly snapped up "investment properties" and proclaimed Seattle's development exceptionalism as the rest of the country plummeted from an obviously-burst housing bubble. It explains why tens of thousands of Microsoft employees can't collectively make anything work. And, most importantly (to me), it explains why such a highly-credentialed city chooses civic mediocrity over bold ideas every time (see the aforementioned conflation of ingrained biases and perceived instinctual correctness).

So, Anne, if I may ask, why are you an ex-Seattleite? And where in MA are you?
@84: How do regulations against, say, groundwater pollution only protect those who would "consent" to having their groundwater polluted?
As for the horse-fucking @82: I'm pretty sure "Eqwin's Law" would only apply to Slog.
@85: Well, yeah, and we raised that earlier here. We could stop subsidizing grains. But given the bipartisan support for farm subsidies, that's simply not going to happen any time soon, though it most certainly should. We should probably deregulate land use zoning too, and get people walking again, but you know... such attempts at free market, mixed-use zoning are akin to "forcing people into tenements."

All that being said, I hardly think raising taxes on social harms is "treating people like children." If the people think that, they probably just need to man up and resolve their insecurities about their adulthood.

The more important bottom line is that we have to pay for the government somehow. This question is mainly about how we should best go about doing that. I don't think anyone is really that interested in telling anyone else that they "can't have a soda." (I mean, are they?) They're just not saying they *must* have it for unreasonably--and, as you rightly point out, artificially--cheap.
@84: Eh, I don't think I ever said bans on groundwater pollution only protect those who would consent to having their groundwater polluted at all. I'm not even sure what that means. Who would consent to have their groundwater polluted anyway? And why should they be protected?

Please clarify your question. What do you mean?
@90: From you @84:

"For instance, virtually all environmental regulations are prohibitions against activities that don't directly harm another without their consent."

I'm sorry; I think I might have taken your wording to suggest that the polluting activities don't harm others without their consent, when you actually meant that the prohibitions are imposed without the polluters' consent.

If so, my bad. I was drinking the whole time I was writing @86.
@91: Oh, I'm sorry too, actually. I did a really poor job of wording that sentence. I can't really improve it right now, but I can provide some lengthier context: Earlier in the debate we were referring to "consent crimes," or, in other words, crimes where someone's consent is violated, such as murder. There was a contrast drawn between those and victimless crimes--crimes whose impact is not immediate, direct, or even interpersonal but dispersed and degrading to "society as a whole." These are crimes that "don't directly harm another (without their consent)."

The implication (specially 'round these here libertarian parts) is that prohibiting the latter is problematic, while the former less so. But those who support the prohibition of victimless crimes don't actually consider them to be "victimless," they're just arguing from a rationale of victimhood that is more dispersed and holistic. I believe it's fairly safe to say that while environmental pollution does have a direct effect on those proximal to it, it's regulated under a similar rationale as "victimless crimes" like choosing to smoke danky herb: their real and potential aggregate effects on everyone else, despite the offending individuals' best intentions to contain them, are profound enough to justify regulation.
@ 86 - Wow. That was a far more thoughtful/involved response than I was expecting. Food for thought. :-)

Anyway, I'm not even sure I count as a Seattle-ite. I'm from the DC area, insisted on getting the hell out of dodge for college, and ended up at U-Dub - so, honestly, I feel like I was relatively insulated up there. Then I made it out to Massachusetts for law school (thus my own sampling bias). I took a job in Boston, so two years out of school, here I am, running amock in Back Bay.
"It explains why tens of thousands of Microsoft employees can't collectively make anything work"

You have a strange definition of "work".
@86: As an ex-Seattleite-transplant, that was profound, wonderful, and insightful to read.

There's a lot to crunch in there, but in short I think you sort of got it. Up to now, I called Seattle, somewhat derisively, the Yay Area of the North — except sub out yay for caffeine, or some variation of exogenous stimulant — for its obsession with white collar modes of production being made as efficient as possible. I think you've done a far more thorough job of encapsulating that idea, especially given the intellectual disconnect between that higher education statistic often lobbed by Seattle during inter-urban capital discourses and the sense that higher-level conversation is so less frequent here.

Incidentally, I sort of broached a variation of this question with Richard Florida a couple of years ago when we met. When it came up, he sort of changed the subject, handed me his business card, and then went on to do the same with others in the lounge where we were drinking wine. Somehow I think he believes that when people bump into one another in Seattle (at a coffee joint, of course), they launch into Tolstoy or talk about recent local music shows, when in practice they are more likely going to talk about the latest product dish on Gizmodo or where they're taking their $2,000 mountain bike for a spin.
Wouldn't it be more productive, and less controversial, to encourage the fat to get even fatter? (You know, in the hope of removing them from the Welfare/Medicare/Medicaid roles earlier?) How about free High Fructose fountains in all public buildings and parks?
@56: Nah. Because the fatter and more disease-plagued they are, the more it costs us. It's "cheaper" to have people live long and be healthy than to have them kick off early after years of severe medical trouble. But our policies should not be made among these kinds of lines anyway, but along the lines of morality. I'm pretty sure you're joking, though.

Thanks for filling me in, and sorry for the misreading. When a thread gets this long there's a good chance I'll miss out on some of the tangent discussions!

I might argue that its easier to argue against the purported "victimlessness" of environmental pollution -- where the effects on both the immediately proximate and the environment as a whole are tangible -- than it is to argue situations where the impact of personal risk-taking is more likely to impact society and others abstractly (financially), and where activities not frowned upon (such as bungee-jumping) could have the same impact on health care costs as smoking or being fat.

So I think I might be arguing for a prohibitive tax on bungee jumping. ;-)
Anne @93 and Tesla @95:

Glad I didn't offend anyone too much (except perhaps the Microsoftie @94).

I don't think that this problem of post-industrial capitalism and its education-as-widget-manufacture pedagogical corollary is unique to Seattle. But Seattle -- a magnet for those seeking the mild-climated, outdoor-recreation-happy "good life" and thus inherently self-centered -- seems particularly gung-ho about it.

I find it truly terrifying, as the result is an entire generation of self-satisfied "educateds" uniquely ill-qualified for adaptive thinking (at a time of great human challenge) and disinterested in understanding the "why" of human behavior and predilection. (How many times have you heard a Seattleite say that their taste in food, sexual attractions, and manner of negotiating personal space are as they are "just because?" Or that our "progressive" city has asinine development habits, the most regressive tax structure in the nation, and a homelessness problem that it prides itself on bearing rather than solving because "that's just the way Seattle does things?")
If weight loss and overall health isn't a concern, then the horrible, stinky breath soda creates should be a deterrent. People, someone needs to tell you: Sugar makes your breath and body STINK!

But it takes a lot of time to wean yourself off of sugar, and then even more time to see results. A lot of people these days live very impatient lives, and give up or get defensive and angry if they don't see results quickly. I gave up sugar of almost all kinds for a year about 8 years ago, and to my surprise I haven't been able to stomach most sweets ever since (I used to "get my energy up" with a Snickers and a Coke, something that is unfathomable to me now). But it took me YEARS to even get to the point where I was healthy enough to eliminate—cold turkey—such a big part of my diet. People need to learn to cut themselves (and their bodies) a break, and take baby steps. If you must, start by switching to diet, then quit the cola, then switch to club soda, and then switch to water. After a year without a soda you'll never be able to gag one down again—it will feel like pure poison (which it is). But anyone can quit drinking soda/sugar-water, and they should.

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