David Harsanyi

"And he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the Pepsi drinker!"

There has to be a statement about soft drinks tucked somewhere in Leviticus. I have assurances, after all, that such beverages are wicked.

Sin taxes normally are levied on so-called vices, such as drinking, smoking and gambling. Now Congress is "studying" a proposal to legislate morality by taxing sugary beverages -- which is to say, it is "studying" whether such a tax would be politically feasible.

According to the executive director of the Center for "Science" in the Public Interest -- a group that has been pushing this tax, along with a glut of other tragic nonsense -- "Soda is clearly one of the most harmful products in the food supply, and it's something government should discourage the consumption of."

There is nothing "clear" about it. Soda can be harmful; it can be harmless; and it is always tasty with a cheese-infused burrito, which we should affix with a massive "discouragement" tax if we're going to be consistent about our gut-busting peccadilloes.

The selective tax also would pursue energy and fruit drinks but not politically correct high-everything beverages, such as Frappuccinos. No one wants a violent insurrection in the malls and trendy urban cores of America.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest also wants government to "pressure" food companies to produce healthier fare (because, god knows, there are barely any wholesome options available for the masses), dramatically raise taxes on alcohol (what fresh hell is this?) and dictate the level of sodium allowable in packaged and restaurant food.

The CSPI is the group that once laughably claimed that 150,000 people perish yearly from salt intake (the "Forgotten Killer") despite lack of any evidence and the ongoing debate regarding the real effects of sodium.

Beyond the health issues, you may want to ask yourself whether it's appropriate for government to use taxes as a tool for strategic social engineering.

Isn't it counterproductive to pass one-size-fits-all punitive taxes that target the recreational ginger ale drinker, along with the depraved Coca-Cola abuser?

Or is it government's job to provide transparency, allowing consumers to make smart decisions -- or not -- about what they ingest?

We already have set a precedent with cigarettes. And the argument most often employed by sin tax proponents revolves around economic externalities -- or the idea that everyone shouldn't have to pay for the destructive habits of the few. (Though there is evidence that the societal cost of the obese is largely inflated, as it were.) I have a lot of sympathy for this argument. So perhaps all citizens can begin taking fiscal and moral responsibility for their own behavior. …

… I'm just kidding. That's crazy talk.

But once we start rationing health care, externalities will only become more of an issue. If we collectively pay for health insurance, then what is to stop the majority of us from dictating to the minority what it can eat or drink?

What would stop Republicans -- after they roar back to power in 2048 -- from levying sin taxes on promiscuous behavior? After all, promiscuity burdens all taxpayers through sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancies and Lindsay Lohan.

If government continues to manage social behavior through taxation, why not give it a shot? It's the moral thing to do.


David Harsanyi

David Harsanyi is a senior editor at The Federalist and the author of "The People Have Spoken (and They Are Wrong): The Case Against Democracy." Follow him on Twitter @davidharsanyi.