The Cook County Soda Tax is a Failure in Every Way

By Mason Mohon | ILLINOIS

On August 2nd, 2017, Cook County Chicago’s sweetened beverage tax began to take effect. The bill has made national headlines, for it is very controversial, and at the same time, it is rife with unintended consequences. From a libertarian point of view, this bill is a disgusting attempt for the government to play nanny over the citizens, which more often than not leads to tyranny. This article will go over the many issues with the bill from the point of view of many subject matters.

Libertarian Philosophy

As libertarians, we at 71 Republic, and many others across the U.S. who self-identify as libertarians are appalled by this bill. Libertarians firmly believe in self-ownership and voluntary exchange. Owning yourself means choice over your actions. You have the authority to do what you want with your own body, which definitely extends to the choice of drinking a soda. When the government (even local) tells you what you can and cannot put into your body, it is in effect declaring itself the owner of your body, resulting in a loss of personal freedom.

Furthermore, we believe the government should not interfere in the voluntary transactions of consenting adults. The buyer and the seller are both acting in their own self-interest, which means that they both believe the purchase of a can of coke is mutually beneficial. The seller sees the money the buyer is offering as more valuable than the can of soda her store holds, and the buyer sees her store’s can of soda as more valuable than the money the buyer currently possesses. Both members of this transaction are engaging voluntarily, and both members are benefiting themselves and the other (otherwise the transaction wouldn’t be taking place). There is no good reason for the government to get involved in a voluntary interaction that is benefitting all involved parties.

Democrats Biting Their Own Tail

Of course, the libertarian aspects of this atrocious legislation are important, but we start to see a bit of a comical turn when we see what this Democrat supported bill is doing to the party itself. Cook County’s Board President Toni Preckwinkle asked for the Cook County Democratic endorsement on Thursday but was met with questions as to whether or not she would work the repeal the unpopular tax. She firmly declared that it would stay and that she would not make moves against it.  

When asked to address potential political fallout, she avoided the questions. Many Democrats fear the tax is going to hurt the party and spark an anti-tax hike voting spree in the next election. Preckwinkle believes the tax is good for what the county government is trying to do, but it may be very costly for her party, and other Democrats realize that.

Moreover, the tax is turning out to be phenomenally costly in the realm of food stamps. Federal law requires that food stamps be exempt from legislation like this, but according to state officials, it is not. Well, what is the price tag for this type of exemption? It seems that it could be potentially over $86 million, which is absolutely ridiculous. This type of unforeseen legislative contradiction and monetary loss for taxpayers is precisely what is wrong with the government trying to play mom and regulate what we feed ourselves.

I encourage libertarians all over Chicago to get involved and take action against this joke of a beverage tax. Do whatever you can – get politically involved, or maybe even take up civil disobedience by selling sodas without collecting the tax. Fighting back in whatever way we can is necessary if we hope to show the government we aren’t going to tolerate their ridiculous policies.