The Insignificance of Gavin Newsom’s Soda Ban
So San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom has banned soft drinks on city property. Even on libertarian grounds, I don’t think this is at all objectionable. Newsom has not banned soda. He is not taxing it. He’s acting well within his power as the elected representative of the citizens of San Francisco in saying that it will not be sold on city property. The people of San Francisco have every right through their elected representatives to refuse to sell certain things on their city property. Like fireworks. Or pornographic videos. Or jeggings. Again, I don’t see any libertarian objection here whatsoever.
The real question, I think, is whether this is likely to have any practical effect on combating the alarming rates of obesity. Perhaps Newsom can persuade through example, but the direct impact will likely be negligible. Which is exactly why I would favor a much more sweeping measure. A soda tax!:
As Matt Yglesias, another soda tax fan, points out:
It’s a modest impact, but the point is that if you can come up with a revenue source whose non-revenue impacts are positive then these are good ways to fund government operations compared to things like the payroll tax.
I adamantly and angrily oppose bans on vice items like clove cigarettes, but I think it’s eminently reasonable to raise revenue by taxing items that promote obesity and, in turn, raise the amount we spend on publicly subsidized healthcare. Libertarians may object to my idea, but I don’t see why they would object to Gavin’s.