Saturday, October 14, 2006

Proposition 203: Smoke! It's good for the children!

Proposition 203: Arizona Early Childhood Development and Health Initiative

A group composed of various Democrat and Republican politicians from around the state calling themselves "First Things First for Arizona's Children" has put forth this initiative which would establish a new bureaucracy, the "Early Childhood Development and Health Board", a vast Lyndon Johnsonesque expansion of the Welfare State, and a tobacco tax coming to eighty cents per cigarette pack to pay for it all.

Predictably, the measure's authors argue in its text that early-childhood education and well-baby care is a public good and that it must therefore be paid with taxes. This is patent nonsense, of course, to anyone with a 101-level understanding of economics who can distinguish between true public goods and private goods with positive externalities.

If this was a mere residual-welfare measure, subsidizing that less than 1% of parents so irresponsible or so hard-up as to not be able to provide their children with education and health-care, it could be called folly. This, however, is a universal program, designed to make all Arizonan children government dependents--making someone a government dependent being one of the most insidious harms possible--and get them into government schools early-on.

If that isn't enough, its funding source is so poorly thought-out that it almost has to be a deliberate scam. Would you fund universal and permanent entitlements through a tax on an unhealthy and socially unacceptable product the consumption of which you expect to only decrease as years go by? A few years from now when cigarettes aren't popular enough to pay for this, it's more likely that politicians will raise taxes to fund it than that they'll eliminate the program.

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