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Are Sin Taxes an Example of the Tyranny of the Majority?

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posted on Jun, 2 2012 @ 08:57 AM
For a free country, we sure spend a lot of time telling each other how to live.

Take California’s Proposition 29, for example. If approved on Tuesday, Prop 29 would add a whopping $1.00 per pack tax to the price of cigarettes, plus another $1.00 per pack for all cigarettes counted in an annual inventory. Equivalent taxes would be laid on other tobacco products.

Sin taxes like Prop 29 usually have two goals: raising revenue and changing people’s behavior. Those who support sin taxes know that they will be easier to pass than other taxes, because they only affect a minority of the population. Taxes which affect everyone are much harder to pass, because most people don’t want to be taxed more. After all, if people think the government should have more of their money, they can always make a voluntary donation.

Using sin taxes to change behavior is based on the premise that if its supporters can just raise the cost of “sinful” behavior enough, people will stop doing it . But doesn’t the essence of a free society consist in people’s ability to make their own choices? And in a free society, what gives one group of people the right – whether through economic sanctions or any other means – to force their choices on others?

Of course, Prop 29′s supporters say that smoking raises health care costs for the rest of society. But what about smokers who are willing to take responsibility for their actions, and don’t want society to pick up those costs?

Smokers already pay higher health insurance rates than non-smokers. So those smokers who buy health insurance have already made the choice to trade money for the pleasure they derive from smoking. The difference is that in a competitive market, the higher rates are based on the actual increase in costs caused by smoking. Sin taxes, on the other hand, are simply pulled out of the air – or other regions.

Of course, the revenue raised by Prop 29 would be used to fund a worthy cause: cancer research. But while worthy causes are endless, the economic resources to fund them are limited. As a result, there can never be enough money to fund all the worthwhile causes. So, society must prioritize which causes are funded. It must also decide how much money to allocate to those causes, instead of using that money to pay for necessities or luxury items.

Instead of society determining its funding priorities by allowing people to decide for themselves what causes they want to fund, and at what levels, sin taxes shift funding priorities toward politically powerful interest groups. And there is no guarantee that those special interests will reflect the makeup of the affected population. For example, more than 80% of the financial support for Prop 29 comes from outside California .

Besides, we already have a cure for most types of cancer, and recently found the active ingredient for another one. And yet, the Federal government spends millions of dollars in a Constitutionally dubious program to stamp out medical marijuana, even in states that have legalized it. If the Federal government would stop shutting down medical marijuana dispensaries and jailing patients, the savings could provide plenty of funding for research.

But the biggest problem with sin taxes is that they represent the type of social engineering which America’s Founders tried to protect us from. As the name implies, sin taxes enable one group of people to impose its values on other people who do not share those values. Often, those values reflect the supporters’ religious views.

In 1787, James Madison expressed the hope that America would have enough “different interests and parties… that no common interest or passion will be likely to unite a majority of the whole number in an unjust pursuit.” But hope is not a plan. Despite all the intricate checks and balances of our Constitution, it has proved inadequate for protecting Americans from government abuse. Also, coalitions of special interest groups have formed, which use the government apparatus to take people’s resources and restrict their freedom of choice.

“In my opinion,” as Alexis de Tocqueville observed, “the main evil of the present democratic institutions of the United States does not arise, as is often asserted in Europe, from their weakness, but from their irresistible strength.” Also, “I do not say that there is a frequent use of tyranny in America at the present day; but I maintain that there is no sure barrier against it, and that the causes that mitigate the government there are to be found in the circumstances and the manners of the country more than in its laws.” But circumstances are bound to change, and the further we move away from the American Revolution in time, the more we lose the spirit of freedom and personal independence which gave birth to it.

The problem is even more pronounced in states that allow initiative legislation. In these states, special interest groups are able to place measures on the ballot, bypassing legislative committees and calendars. If the voters in those states do not respect the rights of their fellow citizens to make their own choices, and to be protected from paying a disproportionate share of taxes, they may be persuaded to vote for propositions whose costs will be borne by others. In other words, where they are in the majority, and the costs of the propositions are borne by a helpless minority.

And that is precisely what Madison meant by “the tyranny of the majority.”

posted on Jun, 2 2012 @ 09:26 AM
It's great to see the gradual re-emergence of well structured, thought-provoking threads here on ATS.
This thread is no exception, S+F OP

Back to the subject at hand, I have always found it interesting that these taxes are publicly called 'sin taxes'. Now hear me out, but I think it goes much deeper than simply forcing one to trade money for 'desires of the flesh'. In my mind, it conjures up the thought of an unnatural force on your shoulders, which results from people allowing tyrannical powers to redefine what is considered a sin. That level of control should not be handed over so casually IMO.

If there was ever a problem in the government, it would be that they have the power to determine what is just, and what is unjust; or that we give them the power to pave a road for people to follow, while labelling the outliers as sinners. For some, it is semantics, for others it is an invitation we never should have allowed.

Originally posted by FSBlueApocalypse
For a free country, we sure spend a lot of time telling each other how to live.

This is a topic that I'd love to ramble on about for a while, but I won't spam up your thread. I'll just leave it with my main point: Isn't the attachment towards non-smoking, and the subsequent control on what is defined as pure or impure, just as harmful as the addiction coming from the chemicals themselves?

Whenever I see someone complaining about smoking and how it should be shunned from society, I always feel like that specific crutch is just as bad as the force that makes me want to reach into my pocket to light up another one.
edit on 2-6-2012 by dyllels because: grammar

posted on Jun, 2 2012 @ 01:09 PM
Yeah it is a bit crazy. If we lived in a free country things like sin tax wouldnt exist. First off labeling it as a SIN is mixing religion into government is it not? I think that alone should negate the law. Second off why should one group of people decide what is right and wrong and subject the rest of us to taxes for having an addiction that cannot be helped? Its selfish on the part of non smokers to burden us with taxes they dont feel like paying because they know we cannot break this terrible sickness and will scrape the last of our change to not go crazy from withdrawal.

posted on Jun, 2 2012 @ 01:10 PM
Smoking has always been an interesting thing to me. I love the phrase "Your right to throw a punch ends where my nose begins" and smoking provides an interesting contrast to that. To some respect you are violating someone's personal liberty with 2nd hand smoke, but it was the person's choice to enter that establishment.

posted on Jun, 2 2012 @ 01:18 PM
reply to post by FSBlueApocalypse

I dont mind the smoking outdoors only its nice to be in an establishment you can breath in. I dont smoke in my home either. Second hand smoke is not going to hurt anyone unless they are in an unventilated area with smokers on a regular basis so one can always choose to not go hang out in spots like that.

posted on Jun, 2 2012 @ 03:54 PM
reply to post by lobotomizemecapin

And it should be left to the owners of the establishment, whether to permit smoking or not. Then, in a free society, the citizenry is left to decide whether or not to patronize that establishment. Inviting the government to further control your lives is ludicrous.

posted on Jun, 2 2012 @ 04:03 PM
reply to post by FSBlueApocalypse

In the case of a referendum or proposition, yes, because it is the state which will impose the tax.. But, more times than not, it is a minority who encourages the government to take action on such behaviors. Consider federal tobacco taxes are already over $1 per pack and those taxes were not voted on by anyone.

posted on Jun, 2 2012 @ 07:09 PM

Originally posted by WTFover
reply to post by lobotomizemecapin

And it should be left to the owners of the establishment, whether to permit smoking or not. Then, in a free society, the citizenry is left to decide whether or not to patronize that establishment. Inviting the government to further control your lives is ludicrous.

That would be a living, breathing example of laissez faire capitalism, which apparently is evil and must be destroyed at all costs. The costs being sin taxes and the government telling what we can or can't do.


posted on Jun, 2 2012 @ 07:19 PM
Taxing cigagrettes and any other sin tax has a negative effect of cutting consumption which means they are counting on people to smoke but where less people are smoking.

Same thing with gas prices prices go up less people are consuming forced conservation and if they think they can count on an increase of tax revenue from it?

They are full of it.

posted on Jun, 2 2012 @ 07:53 PM
I'm of the opinion that taxes are tyranny, period.

Second line.

posted on Jun, 3 2012 @ 03:37 PM
I almost always vote no on the proposals.

Neighbors always vote for higher taxes though...

This one is a no because even though they are pitching it as a tax only paid by evil smokers (and I have never smoked and do not plan on starting) it seems likely that they will use general funds to create the bureaucracy and hire people to administer it.

And, if they decide to tax something I really like, I a hoping my smoking libertarian friends will remember my support in their hour of need and in kind be supportive of my cause.

No tax is a good tax. We are in fact TAXED ENOUGH ALREADY!
edit on 3-6-2012 by kawika because: corectolated spel'n err

posted on Jun, 3 2012 @ 03:44 PM
If you let them tax, just remember they will try it again and they will NEVER give it back.
Government rarely ever streamlines itself, especially these days

In canada, sin taxes have been used alot and we still are in debt, yet the gov't wastes money like it's no big deal.
Oh and our healthcare system is still broken/ works inefficiently
edit on 3-6-2012 by HamrHeed because: (no reason given)

posted on Jun, 4 2012 @ 04:28 AM
reply to post by FSBlueApocalypse

Partially agree, partially do not. Star & flag for OP because he/she made a good start of a debate in my opinion.

I agree that a government should interfere with the personal life of its citizens as little as possible. Private life should remain private and it should be the individual's choice what to eat, what to drink, who to sleep with in what way, who and how many to marry, etc.

I think there are however certain things that should be regulated. Let me take alcohol for example. In the US, if I am not mistaken, it is illegal to consume alcohol under the age of 21? (16 years for beer and wine, 18 for spirits in my country) Now, should that regulation also be canned? Another, albeit extreme, example is bestiality. After all, that is "sin" too and is forbidden, is it not? (I really do not like the word sin...) Now why should we, as a free society, hinder the expression of an individual's sex life? (I do NOT condone bestiality, just playing devil's advocate)

Concerning the consumption of tobacco there are, as you already mentioned, additional costs because of an increased risk of certain types of cancer occurring. However, smoking causes not only threats to the health of the smoker but also from second-hand smoke. Who pays for those health costs? In my opinion it should be covered by those who cause it, i.e. the smokers.

On a personal note, as non-smoker I actually feel disturbed by people smoking next to me, even outside. And it is not me going to smokers but me waiting for the bus and people coming after me and lighting a cigarette right next to me.

As the saying goes: your freedom ends where my freedom begins.


Besides, we already have a cure for most types of cancer, and recently found the active ingredient for another one.

Tell this to all those people who "obviously" die needlessly of cancer all the time?!

To sum it up: "sin taxes" suck, I agree. But sometimes society/the government should make regulations for the greater benefit of the people.

posted on Jun, 4 2012 @ 04:43 AM

Originally posted by imherejusttoread
I'm of the opinion that taxes are tyranny, period.

Sin taxes are tyranny from the mafia pretending to be our government. It's the natural result of far too much democracy and too little republic (protection against mob rule). This tyranny has been implemented so slow that most of us have not noticed.

Creative taxing in the last 100 years:

Accounts Receivable Tax
Building Permit Tax
Business License Tax
Cigarette Tax
Corporate Income Tax
Dog License Tax
Federal Income Tax
Federal Unemployment Tax (FUTA)
Fishing License Tax
Food License Tax
Fuel Permit Tax
Gasoline Tax (42 cents per gallon)
Hunting License Tax
Inheritance Tax
Inventory Tax
Interest Income Tax
IRS Interest Charges, IRS Penalties (tax on top of tax)
Liquor Tax
Luxury Tax
Marriage License Tax
Medicare Tax
Property Tax
Real Estate Tax
Service Charge Taxes
Social Security Tax
Road Usage Taxes
Sales Tax
Recreational Vehicle Tax
School Tax
State Income Tax
State Unemployment Tax (SUTA)
Telephone Federal Excise Tax
Telephone Federal Universal Service Fee Tax
Telephone Federal, State and Local Surcharge Tax
Telephone Minimum Usage Surcharge Tax
Telephone Recurring and Nonrecurring Charges Tax
Telephone State and Local Tax
Telephone Usage Charge Tax
Utility Taxes
Vehicle License Registration Tax
Vehicle Sales and License Tax
Watercraft Registration Tax
Well Permit Tax
Workers Compensation Tax

I'm sure there are 10 more taxes for every one listed above. Had enough of this freakin' BS yet?

posted on Jun, 4 2012 @ 06:48 PM
From Handel at KFI in Los Angeles. =452967&article=10078860

Bill Handel Voter Guide
You're A Loser If You Vote How I Tell You To Vote.

Reduces the total amount of time a person may serve in the state legislature from 14 years to 12 years. Allows a person to serve a total of 12 years either in the Assembly, the Senate, or a combination of both. Applies only to legislators first elected after the measure is passed. Provides that legislators elected before the measure is passed continue to be subject to existing term limits. Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local government: No direct fiscal effect on state or local governments.
"I don't care one way or the other how you or I vote on this one. Just pick one."

Read more:

Imposes additional five cent tax on each cigarette distributed ($1.00 per pack), and an equivalent tax increase on other tobacco products, to fund cancer research and other specified purposes. Requires tax revenues be deposited into a special fund to finance research and research facilities focused on detecting, preventing, treating, and curing cancer, heart disease, emphysema, and other tobacco-related diseases, and to finance prevention programs. Creates nine-member committee charged with administering the fund. Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local government: Increase in new cigarette tax revenues of about $855 million annually by 2011- 12, declining slightly annually thereafter, for various health research and tobacco-related programs. Increase of about $45 million annually to existing health, natural resources, and research programs funded by existing tobacco taxes. Increase in state and local sales taxes of about $32 million annually.
"I totally changed my mind. I'm voting YES. Even though I hate raising taxes per se, it simply has to do with my tax dollars and my insurance dollars. As long as smokers cost me what they've been costing me, I'm fine with taxing them into oblivion, much like I'm ok with taxing gasoline nto oblivion because I don't want to pay those arab bastards for the oil and high taxes reduce consumption. Because cigarettes have absolutely no redeeming social value other than smokers somehow getting an addictive high off of them, they cost me, a nonsmoker, money by them having to go into the hospital with lung cancer and heart disaease and other illnesses. We either end up spending direct tax dollars or higher insurance premiums for it and I just don't want to pay for it anymore."

Read more:

24 candidates. If none gets 50% plus one vote, the top two meet in November.
"After careful consideration and research, I have decided I am going to vote for Dirk Allen Konopik. Not only do I like the name 'Dirk' I find his candidate statement to be the most compelling and logical one out there. I will quote his statement "Christian, Veteran, American. NRA, VFW, American Legion. Will stand boldly for Christ."

Read more:


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