In a country known for butter and bacon, Denmark\’s new tax is a body blow. Danes who go shopping today will pay an extra 25p on a pack of butter and 8p on a packet of crisps, as the new tax on foods which contain more than 2.3% saturated fat comes into effect. Everything from milk to oils, meats and pre-cooked foods such as pizzas will be targeted. The additional revenue raised will fund obesity-fighting measures.
The move has parallels elsewhere in Europe. Hungary has recently imposed a tax on all foods with unhealthy levels of sugar, salt and carbohydrates, as well as goods with high levels of caffeine. Denmark, Switzerland and Austria have already banned trans fats, while Finland and Romania are considering fat taxes.
But it is Britain which has the biggest obesity problem in Europe, and campaigners have urged the government to follow Denmark\’s lead. Tam Fry, spokesman for the National Obesity Forum, said: \”It is not a question of whether we should follow the Danes\’ lead – we have to. If we don\’t do anything about it, by 2050, 70% of the British population will be obese or overweight and that would result not only in the downfall of the NHS but also of our national workforce.\” A recent study found that poor health and obesity costs the UK economy at least £21.5bn a year.
So, like we\’ve this problem, right? And we\’re not sure what to do about it, see?
So, err, whadda we do?
Why, we could turn to the second great invention of mankind. The scientific method.
The worry is that the entire population will turn into weebles of fat. Quite apart from anything else, there\’s the aesthetic problem: no one will be able to look at children without envisaging the activities that led to them as two balls of lard have at each other.
We\’re not really sure what will stop this. Tax fat? Which sort? Ban trans fats? Sugar? Salt? Whip the population into running 4 miles before breakfast?
Now, the thing is, when you know you\’ve got a problem, the scientific method says you should formulate a hypothesis about what is causing it or even what will cure it. You then run an experiment to see whether you are correct.
Does aspirin cure ingrown toenails? No, ah well. Does aspirin reduce heart attacks? Hmm, interesting, eh?
Now, it\’s very difficult to do an experiment on an entire population, something economists have bemoaned for decades. Apart from anything else, who is your control group? Who can you compare who are not affected by whatever you think the cure is against the effects upon people of what you think the cure is?
But, and here\’s the interesting point, these other countries are conducting experiments on their entire populations. And what we can do is compare the effect on their populations of doing something on hte effects of us not doing something.
In short, we can be the control group for all of the other experiments. A control group that there has to be by the way.
And this doesn\’t extend just to trying to get rid of muffin tops. This is true of all of these large scale population interventions. Excessive booze, too much salt, sugar in coffee, regulations about the rights of temporary workers, Keynesian interventions into the economy, financial transactions taxes…..the whole great big long list of things that \”they\” would like to do to \”us\”.
There must be a control group. There must be some population which is not afflicted with all of these bright ideas so that it is possible to measure the effects of these bright ideas.
I propose that we British volunteer to be that control group. All of you, everyone of you, fuck off and try out your ideas on Johnny Foreigner. Give it 2 decades and we\’ll see which ones work, those that do we can adopt. In the meantime, we\’ll remain free, at liberty, liberal even, and you can all bugger off.