“If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.”

File under: “to man with a hammer, every problem looks like a nail“.

We can save lives by taxing red meat.

The British taxpayers recently funded a generous research grant resulting in a report that explained to them why they need to pay more money for luxuries such as food because they are too stupid to eat a sensible balanced diet.

Taxing red meat would save many lives and raise billions to pay for healthcare, according to new research. It found the cost of processed meat such as bacon and sausages would double if the harm they cause to people’s health was taken into account.

Well, if you put it like that, who can disagree?

Presumably this research is solid and isn’t predicated on any assumptions that are easily falsifiable?


Governments already tax harmful products to reduce their consumption, such as sugar, alcohol and tobacco. With growing evidence of the health and environmental damage resulting from red meat, some experts now believe a “sin tax” on beef, lamb and pork is inevitable in the longer term.

Really? Tobacco is taxed to reduce consumption?

How successful has that strategy been over time do we think, compared to other potential strategies such as an outright ban or simply reducing the locations where smoking is permitted?

And this tax on alcohol to reduce consumption, hows that working out?

Hmm, not the most successful initiative in human history, then.

Bill’s Opinion

As Tim Worstall points out, this study fails to consider one very important fact in its faux economic analysis; if people are dying early due to an unhealthy diet, they aren’t costing the taxpayer-funded health service a single penny the day after they die.

The great thing about the negative health consequences of eating too much red meat is that heart attacks often occur quite suddenly and the victim shuffles off this mortal coil with little warning or chance to incur expensive palliative care.

Prima facie, this is yet another politically-motivated report disguised as academic research. The answer was known before the study commenced.

Interestingly, I discovered this chart whilst researching relative prices for beef around the world.

The Uk is ranked #37 most expensive for a 1kg lump of cow. Counter-intuitively, that’s slightly cheaper than the US and Canada.

Amusingly, India and Venezuela are significantly cheaper. For very different reasons, best of luck finding a steak in either of those locations!

8 Replies to ““If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.””

    1. Well, quite. The health benefits of preserving meat by salting and curing far outweighed the risks until about 5 minutes ago in human history.

  1. While it is using the slippery slope fallacy, it feels that the sorts of people who successfully propose a sugar tax, and then a red meat tax will one day propose that we simply have our entire salary sent to a government revenue account. In return we can receive the appropriate amount of calories and nutritional elements in the form our betters deem suitable for us, and we can enjoy the healthcare and other services our labour funds.

    With an appropriately limited number of fun vouchers for allocated times when fun was allowed. Or individual choice.

    If only we could come up with a name for such a system.

    It’s almost as if the underlying pathology is a strong desire to exert control over others, justified by the large benefit to them and society more generally, of course.

    1. Have you read about China’s “social credit score” system? If not, stay tuned as there will be a post here about it once I’ve done some paid work this week.

  2. Hmm. Guardian article refers to the research published in PLOS One.

    What’s the first thing you might read when visiting plos.org?

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