7 June 2017
FMF, COSATU and the ANCWL agree on taxes – that’s radical
The Free Market Foundation (FMF) has opposed the idea of a sugar tax since it was first conceived and championed by health minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi. The FMF opposes this tax on the same logic the FMF opposes any other kind of tax: taxes increase the cost of living for consumers, especially the poor, and place undue strain on employers, leading to job losses. More importantly, the sugar tax violates the personal freedom of South Africans.
COSATU expressed its opposition to the sugar tax in 2015 and the ANC Women’s League has also now come out against the tax. A consensus is developing in South Africa that excessive government interference in the market will inevitably result in hardship for ordinary South Africans.
Taxing sugar and other “sinful products” is a blunt instrument that, besides treating adults like children, diverts attention from government’s desire to control ordinary people’s lives and to raise revenue by any means possible. The true unhealthy appetite belongs, not to those consumers of sugar threatened with another undeserved tax, but the taxer.
According to statistician Garth Zietsman, “People may choose not to reduce consumption of soft drinks in response to the tax but instead compensate for the additional expense by cutting back on healthy food and drinks or by switching to other sources of cheap sugar. Economics has documented many such cases of human behaviour.” Indeed, if people value their sugary treat more than they do reluctantly eating a less-tasty healthy meal once a week, one can bet money that they will cut out the healthy meal rather than the satisfying cool drink or chocolate.
A tax on sugar will erode further our personal freedoms. Yesterday it was tobacco, today it may be sugar and salt, tomorrow it could be government imposed restrictions on how loud you play your iPod or car radio; how close you sit to your television set; in time it could be how long you spend in the sun and, even, who you may or may not sleep with (shades of apartheid). The choices will no longer be yours to make – all in the name of your health.