Friday, June 08, 2007

How about taxing bad ideas?

There are these new Nanny types who want government to regulate everything and to create “incentives” to force people to change how they conduct their own life.

The incentives are really punishments. If you act in a way Nanny doesn’t approve of then Nanny will have more money taken from you by the tax man. If you live according to the dictates of Nanny you will receive some of your own money back. The whole purpose is about control.

One of the dirty secrets about the “Swedish model” of welfare is that it is not about socialism at all. The Swedish model doesn’t collectivize the means of production. In many ways big business in Sweden is actually less taxed and regulated than in many other Western nations. The “Swedish model” is about nationalizing consumption not production. It is about controlling how people live individually not about “controlling the forces of capitalism” as the Left pretends.

And the main means of control is through a system of carrots and sticks, subsidies and taxes. You see this with the movement to tax people for eating “unhealthy” food. It is there in the drive to penalize people for smoking on private property and high tobacco prices. It is present in the high taxes on alcohol. Often these are called “sin taxes”. Of course one such sin that tends not to be specially taxed is gambling since so many governments run their own gambling operation with lotteries. When the revenue goes to themselves they tend to be more tolerant of a little sin.

So for a little fun I thought I’d jump on the band wagon. If we can tax unhealthy decisions and “immoral” decisions why not extend this to other areas of life as well?

Why not penalize bad ideas? Consider this basic fact. Communism was responsible for the deaths of something like 300 million people. Far worse than some donuts I think. And unlike donuts the people involved couldn’t avoid the risk easily.

Bad ideas are very destructive. They are bad for your health. So as the health Nazis want to do with everything else lets tax bad ideas more than good ideas.

Here is how it would work. People are still “free” to make their own decision about what ideas they will consume. We the paternalistic elite will simply nudge them in the right direction and discourage them from bad choices. There are a whole lot of academics (who else?) who support this sort of paternalism.

So there would be no taxation on ideas of which I approve. Hey, somebody has to decided what is a good idea just like somebody decides which "sins" to tax, which "fatty" foods to tax, etc.

So copies of The Road to Serfdom will be untaxed. Copies of Das Kapital will be highly taxed -- not that it sells very many copies these days. And technically when it did sell no one actually read it.

All campaign speeches, no matter the party, will have a high penalty on attendance. I can think of no more prolific source of bad ideas than from campaigning politicians.

Even films and videos would need to be rated by me, of course, or at the minimum by people who agree with me. The rating system will be tied to the tax system. The lower the “content” of the film the higher the taxes.

If you see something a “good” film you pay no admission tax. Ditto if you buy it on DVD. On the other hand there is a high tax on things like An Inconvenient Truth. Certainly Michael Moore films would be so heavily taxed that only those who can afford their own therapy will be able to attend. We can’t have people filling their heads of bad ideas after all and that is all Moore peddles.

We might actually find it necessary to extend this sort of incentive system to the actors and directors as well. Any film with, or produced by, Mel Gibson ought to have a $5 per ticket tax slapped on it. Ditto anything with, or by, Tom Cruise, John Travolta, Sean Penn, and anyone named Hilton

Any newspaper that carries columns by Paul Krugman, Ann Coulter, or Michelle Malkin, will have a 50 cents per copy tax. It will be used to subsidize ear plugs for people who have to listen to these morons.

Actually we might wish to restrict certain television so it can’t be on free broadcast but is a subscription service only. Fox News ought to be subscription only. Ditto for things like the State of Union speech. Now, in the spirit of this paternalism we will allow the cable networks to sell subscriptions to these “bad idea” channels at any rate they wish. But a Fox News tax of $100 per month will apply. And the tax for listening to a presidential litany of lies, as if that isn’t taxing enough, ought to be high enough that not even Bill Gates could afford it.

Our “bad ideas” tax would apply to TV evangelists, shows with purported psychics, campaign commercials and other forms of chicanery.

Funny thing is that it might be hard selling this wonderful concept. It seems that the very people who want a paternalistic state offering us “incentives” to live a healthy lifestyle suddenly start spouting things like “the free market of ideas” when you apply their principles to the realm of thought.

But why is freedom in one permissible but not free choice in the other? Maybe we shouldn’t have the state tampering with either? Radical idea. And I know some politicians and bureaucrats would go into withdrawal just at the thought of giving up power. But why not try freedom. It will be a nice change of pace.

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