Just for complete disclosure…this article was stimulated by one published by Solomon Kleinsmith a few days ago.
I am a believer that we should pay our way for what you use or do in a society. Personal responsibility and accountability is critical to the success or our society. For me this is not in conflict with believing that a society should also help take care of those less fortunate…so I also believe in some socialism for the greater good. I say this to give context to the following…
Smokers, Drinkers, Drug Abusers, Obese people all choose to live lives that “externalize” upon society much of their costs to live the lives they choose. That truly is just a fact. I understand that genetics and upbringing play a significant role in a person’s ability to make good choices… but personal responsibility is much too important to just completely excuse away. We can make some accommodations for this with programs supporting those who are struggling to make good choices.
Smokers and drinkers both make offsetting payments back to society in the form of taxes. Some studies show that society actually profits from smokers (CLICK HERE for one such example). I haven’t seen any articles on what the financial status might be for drinkers. Hopefully the study on smokers is reasonably accurate and that the status on drinkers is about the same…if not, the taxes on both should be raised.
Drug abusers…society takes a mostly non-financial punishment approach to deal with these people who abuse drugs. This approach actually increases the costs to society when we jail so many. I am for legalizing marijuana and taxing it enough to offset the costs that the use of it, as well as other abused drugs, impose upon society. One key condition to this…can honest studies be done on the question of whether marijuana use leads to abuse of more dangerous drugs? If honest studies show that it doesn’t, then legalize and tax it.
Now for the obese…where do they make offsetting payments to society? There is an onslaught of obesity issues coming at us in our country. I am for both added taxes on the worst of the food products that clearly contribute to obesity, as well as higher health insurance costs for the obese. The reality is that higher costs are already in place for private sector health insurance. So it is just the government funded health insurance that needs to catch up with the business world. There won’t be a perfect or even near perfect way of doing this; but there are ways to take a reasonable approach that will create some offsetting charges to the most egregiously offending obese people and unhealthy products.
This isn’t about punishment…it is about personal responsibility and accountability.