Taxation as Nudge: The Failure of Anti-Obesity Paternalism
Excerpt from Adam J. Hoffer and Todd Nesbit, eds., For Your Own Good: Taxes, Paternalism, and Fiscal Discrimination in the Twenty-First Century. Arlington, VA: Mercatus Center at George Mason University, 2018.
22 Pages Posted: 4 May 2018
Date Written: January 3, 2018
Recently, many local governments have tried to fight obesity by taxing “unhealthy” foods, requiring calorie information on menus and vending machines, or placing moratoriums on the establishment of new fast food restaurants. But are all these measures really helping to combat the obesity problem? This chapter discusses some of the unfortunate consequences that result when governments try to pick what you should and shouldn’t eat. Key takeaways: (1) Government attempts to change human behavior usually backfire and fail. (2) Policymakers try to sell sin taxes as both a revenue source and a tool to improve health outcomes, but they can’t do both effectively.
Keywords: paternalism, tax policy, taxation, behavioral economics, obesity, tax subsidies
JEL Classification: H2, H7, H71
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation