Dec. 1, 2015

tax on decisions

Health is a topic that is frequently discussed, however poor choices that affect one's health seem to go hand in hand with with any decription of freedom of choice. Why is it that no one is willing to have a discussion on the topic without becoming mired in the politics of 'freedom of choice"? Perhaps a fair way to look at freedom of choice should begin with how we make choices or are influenced to make those choices. We are all aware of the fact that parental influence, peer pressure, and advertising are the three major things that influence our choices. Years ago, the written word was our only source of information until the advent of radio, then televison, and now the internet. Fifty years ago, kids were forced to read, but seldom chose to read as they were too busy playing cowboys, riding their bikes, or interacting with the neighborhood kids at the local sandlot. During this time, peer pressure increased as parental influence declined, and now, the electronic age of vision and sound has just about taken full control over every aspect of our lives, and especially the influential lives of youngsters. A recent study showed that the male brain does not mature until age 24, yet most youngsters are given decision making powers over what they watch, hear, eat or drink by the time they are teenagers. This becomes a real factor when one considers that many decisions that form habits influencing long-term health are made at this time. Can advertising influence those decisions? Of course it can, especially with the modern medium of vision and sound. Yet the advertisers are doing what they need to do to promote a product that people think they want and that their stock-holders expect them to sell. We need look back in time about one generation to realize that the tobacco companies knew that nicotine was addicting yet encouraged smoking, even increasing nicotine content to help insure addiction. The marijuana industry is now doing much of the same. This is an example of advertising to promote a product in spite of the potential health consequences. Should the government have stepped in as they did? Most would say yes, and peer pressure has now decreased smoking among those knowledgeable in the bad side effects. Perhaps the same form of adverising by the government could stem the tide for marijuana use.

The question now becomes what else should be deemed detrimental and when does government oversight become to extensive? Perhaps the World Health Organization should be the standard bearer on what is or is not detrimental to one's health. We all know that excessive sugar, especially in the form of corn syrup, can lead to a myriad of health problems including obesity, diabetes, tooth decay, heart disease, etc. The same or similar can be said for any smoking, excess alcohol use, or over-indulgence of just about any food product. If certain products are deemed detrimental, would it be possible to prevent the advertising of said product, especially now in the freedom of information age?

Maybe a better solution would be a product health tax, with the proceeds of such a tax dedicated to long-term healthcare. In this way, no one's freedom of choice is being affected, and those who "choose" not to over-indulge don't have to help pay the health costs of those that do. One must always remember that too much freedom can become no freedoom at all. If our present way of managing healthcare problems continues along with allowing the 'freedom' to make bad choices, the consequences could be a collapsing, unsustainable healthcare system resulting in a totalitarian type of rule that is finally forced to tell us all what we can or cannot eat or drink (or smoke) to avoid total societal collapse. I guess it gets back to the old saying, "pay me now or pay me much more later"