Small: Government Is Force

By Jonathan Small

Jonathan Small

Jonathan Small

A basic truth is that, at its core, government only accomplishes policy action by force. Behind every tax policy is the power to compel you to pay by court judgement, garnishment, additional fines, imprisonment, and even physical force up to and including deadly force in the act of enforcing even mundane provisions of law.

Given this enormous and unique power, tax policy is extremely important. Government has nothing that it did not first take from someone else. As Daniel Webster pointed out, “the power to tax involves, necessarily, a power to destroy.” The use of such power should be considerate, deliberate, scrutinized and limited as much as possible.

Recent reports suggest some in Oklahoma want to use this power to attack a new enemy at our doors, or perhaps inside our refrigerator doors: sugary drinks.

You might be thinking “when did I move to New York City?” But seriously, while Oklahoma families and the Oklahoma economy are reeling from low oil prices, the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust is spending state funds to complain about sugary drinks like soda and even fruit juice.

But it doesn’t stop there. Some now want to punish Oklahoma families with a new tax on their sugary drinks.

A special excise tax on sugary drinks would grant a new scope to sin taxes. Sin taxes are bad policy. They use the blunt force of government to micromanage the behavior of supposedly free citizens and create a gravy train for government-funded interests.

TSET sits on a $1 billion endowment, whose $40 million in annual earnings and additional annual settlement payouts should be used for actual physical care for the most vulnerable Oklahomans.

Government’s propensity to target people’s perceived weaknesses for punishing higher taxes reminds me of a leech. describes a leech as “any bloodsucking or carnivorous aquatic or terrestrial worm” and “a person who clings to another for personal gain, especially without giving anything in return, and usually with the implication or effect of exhausting the other’s resources; parasite.”

Proposals for an additional tax on sugary drinks are absurd and should be stopped. Sin taxes are just another way politicians divide citizens into groups and target them one by one for their free choices. A sugary-drink tax is just one more ploy to leech hard-earned dollars from Oklahomans.

Jonathan Small serves as president of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (

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