Thursday 3 September 2009

Fat taxes

Kiwiblog a few days ago pointed to a very nice British study looking at how much the Brit government spends on lobbying itself: funding advocacy groups or research reports whose main function is to "independently" demand that the government do something that the government would very much like to do anyways but needs to be seen to be being pushed to do. So where things like fat taxes would be opposed if they were proposed by the government, if they're proposed in an "independent" study the government can always say:
But look, this "independent" sciency research report says that we'll save billions of dollars and millions of lives! Unless you want to waste a month of your life digging through the report, unpaid, to show how it's wrong, just accept its conclusions! It's sciency! And sciency is almost as good as science!
And so yesterday's Christchurch Press and the New Zealand Herald report on work commissioned by the prior Labour government undertaken by, you guessed it, one of the usual suspects in the Department of Public Health at the University of Otago at Wellington's School of Medicine, showing the benefits of subsidizing healthy food options.

Lindsay Mitchell and Bernard Darnton have already nicely discussed the proposal. I won't be fisking this new O'Dea report, but I had gone through the prior O'Dea report on tobacco taxation here (ungated version here).

If Treasury ever pulls its thumb out and stops the Ministry of Health from commissioning reports the sole purpose of which is to lobby government, one wonders how BERL and the Wellington School of Medicine will earn their keep. Somebody ought to run a New Zealand replication of the UK Taxpayers' Alliance report linked-to above.

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