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How sugar taxes rot your mind

How sugar taxes rot your mind

by Jon Caldara

As the rest of the world is dealing with the macro, large-picture consequences of the new Trump reality, I’d like to go in the opposite direction and dive into the micro level. The most dangerous question on Tuesday’s ballot was … the nanny city of Boulder’s tax on sugary drinks.

Now, stay with me on this one.

One of my favorite shows way back when was “Northern Exposure.” In one episode the Devil himself comes to the little town to do what he does, make a deal. He appears in the form of a gentle, caring, sweet little man (sound like a progressive you know?). The Angel of Darkness makes his pitch to a simple, but well-meaning young lady. All she needs to make her big wish real is to burn her boyfriend’s old, ugly, favorite shirt. She can bring happiness and security to her whole community with this tiny betrayal of principle.

After a tormenting decision process, she says “no,” and a disappointed devils responds, “First apartheid goes. Now this.”

When asked why he picked her, Satan tells her, “You’re my bread and butter.

“Look, say I get some corporate raider to suck up some company, turn 3,000 employees out on the street. Where’s the victory there? But if I can get somebody like you, pure of heart, to let her bumper stray over that white line just a little bit …”

I don’t think the writers of “Northern Exposure” meant to create a metaphor for the creeping incrementalism of the state, but this is how governmental control grows.

My second bad metaphor is the one about how to boil a frog (and who knew boiling frogs was a thing?). If you throw a frog into a pot of boiling water, it will jump right out. But, if you put the frog into a pot of room-temperature water and slowly bring it to a boil, the frog doesn’t notice the incremental change and stays in the water until dead and cooked, perfect for serving with spotted owl.

Well, this is the how government overreach grows. Or to be more precise, this is how we humans build up an ever-growing tolerance to let other people tell us what to do through the coercive power of government.

Imagine just how inconceivable a tax on soda would have been a decade ago, because it would be laughably silly! It’s no less laughable today for most of America, but it’s political reality in the nannyist strongholds where superior thinking people are so much smarter than us. Boulder, the city that banned the sale of ice cream sandwiches at their swimming pools this summer, now will tax sweet drinks.

The real goal is to take away our choices by playing with prices, and thus force their lifestyle values on us, because that’s, um, how liberal cities celebrate diversity. So much for a right to pursue happiness.

But that’s old news. What’s really worth noting is how we build a dangerous tolerance to this coercion, and how it subtly changes the way we think.

The more the state forces us to act “responsibly,” the more recklessly we act and the more willing we are to accept even more behavioral controls.

The scientific term is Risk Homeostasis or “risk compensation.” We act less careful when we FEEL more protected.

Several studies have noted people drive faster when they are forced to wear seat belts against their will. Drivers using anti-lock-brakes get closer to the cars in front of them. The higher we raise the drinking age, the more cases there are of alcohol poisoning. The better the pads and helmets in sports, the more concussions we get. Seriously, want to end concussions in the NFL, take off their helmets and see how hard they hit each other.

From how we come to accept dehumanizing TSA lines to growing numb at the NSA reading our e-mails, we are being boiled slowly. But make no mistake, we’re being boiled.

And now that Boulder is training our brains not to make our own nutritional choices: Stretch pants here we come.

This article originally appeared in the Denver Post on November, 12 2016.