When Larry Summers and 266 other economists lobbied the UN for change, it wasn’t filled with the stereotypical phrases you would hear from a hard-headed economist.
How much is your life worth? Your health? Both in Australia and globally, healthcare costs are rising in real terms and as a proportion of GDP. The discussion around this in the media and policy centres on this fact, and solutions are proposed to change how much we spend; less effort is expended on analysing how we spend it. We propose that health economics is flawed both in its implementation and its theory.
It is no startling revelation that people of the modern age are larger than their counterparts from only a few decades ago, and I’m not talking vertically. Cutely chubby, big-boned, and pleasantly plump – there is certainly no shortage of terms we use to describe the surge of our waist sizes and pot bellies.
The Coalition’s conditional support for the Labor proposed National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) has sparked media frenzy and has dominated domestic news headlines this past week due to the wide and deep affects this will have on the community at large. The scheme, funded in part by revenue raised through an increase in the Medicare levy, represents a tax hike of 0.5% to the average taxpayer. However, for the 410,000 Australians and their families suffering from a congenital or acquired permanent disability, the NDIS embodies the much-needed lifeline that will assist in alleviating the financial burden imposed by their disability.
When we walk into a major supermarket, some of us expect to fill our trolleys with nutritious food for the week ahead, but nowadays what we’re presented with is a plethora of products. Disregarding perhaps the periphery of the supermarket where the organic fruits and vegetables are, we’re presented with shelves upon shelves of pre-packaged products that no longer resemble food at all. There are aluminium cans of soft drink, fruit juice boxes that have undergone aseptic processing, foil chip packets filled with oxygen, and in the meat aisle we have identical cuts of bacon in vacuum-sealed plastic. Everything has been processed, packaged and with the help of marketing, made to look enticing and palatable. Sadly, a tomato is no longer a tomato – the marriage of economics, science and technology carries it from seed to plate in the most economically efficient manner. Many ‘food products’ today are mass-produced by large multinational corporations who prioritise efficiency, profits and turnover over the health of arguably their most important asset, their consumers.
In recent years there have been a number of high profile calls for government intervention in the form of taxes or bans to discourage unhealthy diets. These range from Mayor Bloomberg’s proposed soda ban in New York City to Hungary’s Hamburger tax. The Australian Medical Association has even weighed in on the debate and voiced support for similar measures in Australia.
This issue can raise various emotive and ideological arguments pertaining to government and individual rights. However, this article will analyse the proposition of a ‘fat tax’ from an economic perspective.