A rational response to asinine sugar tax proposal

By Alec Hogg

When employed to shape human behaviour, tax is a blunt weapon. Even so, that hasn’t stopped politicians applying its misguided logic to disguise the real reason for all taxes – raising funds to finance a mushrooming public sector.

South African economyLatest tax subterfuge is the proposed 2.29c per gram levy on sugar, justified on the grounds of growing South African obesity. Chairman of Coca Cola Sabco, Phil Gutsche, says the sugar tax puts 60 000 jobs at risk. As he’s spent half a century at the company his father also directed, I’d wager Gutsche knows what he’s talking about.

It’s also worth recalling Berkshire chairman Warren Buffett‘s take on the subject. Buffett, who turns 86 at the end of the month, reminded shareholders at this year’s AGM that human beings require 2 700 calories a day. He chooses to acquire a quarter of them by drinking a Coke. Others might prefer a slice of cake.

Buffett believes blaming Coca Cola for excessive sugar consumption is asinine. As is the misguided notion that taxing soft drinks will reverse obesity. Great word, asinine. It means “extremely stupid or foolish.” Something you might also apply when describing a government battling high unemployment which uses the premise of doing good to destroy jobs.