Thursday, 12 March 2009

Then they came for the chocolate-lovers

As a Scottish GP calls for a tax on chocolate to combat obesity, it seems that no form of pleasure or self-indulgence is now immune from Puritanical censure. The idea that the assault on smoking did not presage an assault on pretty much everything else anyone likes doing has now been stripped of any credibility.

Describing this kind of thing as “health fascism” has sometimes been portrayed as hyperbole, but in reality it does display a genuinely Fascist attitude, that individual adults do not have sovereignty over their own bodies and lives and have to subordinate their own interests to a higher purpose.

In fact many of today’s so-called health crusades have their antecedents in the Nazi era – Hitler was famously a teetotaller and vegetarian, and the Nazis made great efforts to deter their citizens from smoking, drinking and eating meat so they would (supposedly) be better able to serve the Reich. However, I suspect most of the pork and beer-loving Germans took all this with a large pinch of salt.


  1. No, you are wrong, I drink far more beer than I eat chocolate. Take tax of beer and put it on chocolate.

    Oh, OK, you are right. How they think taxing chocolate will reduce obesity I don't know.

    OK, I've got it, the problem is taxing chocolate would not be enough. Tax chips and bacon butties and deep fried Mars Bars and lard and Full English Breakfasts, then it might work.

  2. The only good thing about this is the more they seek to tax or ban, the dafter they start to look. A bit like Ryanair and charging to use the toilet. Eventually they become a parody of themselves.

  3. I'm not sure it works like that - the strategy is to slowly but surely "denormalise" certain behaviours so something that was once generally accepted increasingly becomes regarded as beyond the pale. Now what fits that description?

    The famous metaphor for this is the boiling frog. Throw a frog into a pan of boiling water, and it will jump out, but put it in a pan of cold water and gradually bring it to the boil and it will boil to death.

    I fear we are going to see things go a lot further with alcohol over the next few years.

    And, considering the Ryanair example, 25 years ago it would not have been considered remotely acceptable to charge for the use of public toilets at railway stations.

  4. You may well be right, but I do think people are waking up a bit. The question though would be, "are we waking up in sufficient numbers?"

    And as an aside they have been charging way beyond 25 years for toilets in (some) stations. I should know. I grew up on a small one and they charged there.

  5. I'm just worried about the cost of beers that taste of chcocolate particularly Downton's Chocolate Orange Delight. Will it be taxed at the supertax rate for tasting of both?

  6. I'm just back from some beer-tourism in Marple, where I overheard a touching conversation in the excellent Railway (Robbies). A chap in his late sixties (I guess) was explaining why he was now forced to drink Kaliber because of the medicines that would keep him going till his eighties; his similarly aged friends on the next table clearly thought he now had nothing to live for, and you've got proper countryside in Stockport ! Politicians need to realise that living longer without enjoyment is overrated.

  7. I know the Railway in Marple quite well - a notably well-kept, spick-and-span pub with (in my experience) reliably good beer.


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