Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Not All Market-Based Thinking is Dangerous!

Lest my last post be interpreted as a wholesale (pun sort of intended) attack on market-based thinking, I feel a need to cite a story closer to my own home, also reported by Reuters last night, this time by Adam Tanner. Here is the lead:

San Francisco stores selling high-calorie sodas should pay millions of dollars a year to offset the health-care costs related to obesity, the city's mayor said on Monday.

"This is not just hippy-dippy, left-coast, granola stuff," Gavin Newsom said about his proposal to encourage people to drink less Coca-Cola, Pepsi and other soft drinks. "There is a direct correlation between caloric sweetened beverages and obesity."

"What we are doing is proposing a fee against the supermarkets and hypermarkets."

The details do not appear to have been worked out thoroughly yet. However, here is the basic strategy:

The plan, outlined during an interview at City Hall, seeks to raise to between $1.7 million and $7.1 million a year for anti-obesity programs by having stores pay between hundreds and thousands of dollars a year each.

Needless to say my injunctions about thinking, particularly about premises and consequences, still hold. Nevertheless, I find this an interesting strategy, somewhat along the lines of efforts to wean Americans off of the tobacco habit. It is an interesting way to think about problems and solutions in terms of costs and benefits, and I hope it is given the attention it deserves.

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