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Speaker: Talking past each other: Ideological silos and research

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  • Joe Wylie, in reply to Don Christie,

    I do find it strange that when I have suggested removing GST form certain common items I get told how impossible that is by many on this platform because we have such a "simple" tax system and that must be "a good thing". Only our "simple" tax system is extraordinarily unfair on the least well off sections of our society. Thanks Rogernomics.

    Australia's exemption of food from the the GST introduced in 2000 came about thanks to the now electorally extinct Australian Democrats, who made it a condition of their support for what was an unpopular new tax.

    From my recollection, the only casualties were the likes of boutique ice cream manufacturers, who found their products suddenly reclassifieed as confectionary, and therefore subject to GST.

    While the Howard Government of the time made the usual noises about exemptions blighting the purity of a "simple" tax system, the GST-free status of food now seems pretty much set in stone.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4591 posts Report Reply

  • william blake,

    Since Mar 2010 • 378 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Danielle,

    James said "end poverty", but apparently that's so hard for us that all we can think of doing is being punitive to poor people.

    Some of us have agreed with him explicitly. Own your stuff please.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19688 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Don Christie,

    Finally, my understanding of the “sugar” problem is that it is more of a “sugar + salt” problem and our fizzy drink and fast food providers have been cynically upping the amounts of both, knowing full well they are killing us, to make us want to eat and drink more of their produce. Just like the tobacco companies.

    I'll post something longer later (been running around all day) but I think this is true, and appalling. There's a reason 40% of Americans will develop Type 2 diabetes in their lifetimes. (The evidence on salt doesn't seem as strong.)

    Meantime, I'd ask everyone to be wary of fulfilling the scenario outlined in the original post :-)

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22756 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle,

    Sacha, you seem to be labouring under the misapprehension that I take any sort of orders from you about how to conduct myself.

    The "we" in my post meant "New Zealand society in general", fwiw.

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3828 posts Report Reply

  • Sam Bradford,

    I'm in favour of a sugar tax -- if a way is found to make healthier foods correspondingly more affordable. It would be punitive on the poor if that didn't happen; but poverty does breed obesity, because bad food is cheap food, and to maintain a state of affairs that leads to gross health problems does not seem like much of a kindness to the poor. It'd be interesting to see if just tackling the 'make healthy food cheaper' part of the equation shifted things much.


    I do believe that sugar is addictive, because I've tried to give it up; and while I like a lot of Dr Toomath's work, I agree with the commenter above that the genetic part of the equation only takes us so far, because even those populations that now suffer massively from obesity were not obese a century ago. So yes, a predilection towards obesity may be genetic, but the problem would not exist if not for (hopefully reversible) changes in the food environment. (It seems pretty disempowering too, to tell people that their ill-health is inevitable because of genetics, when none of their grandparents suffered the same problem.)

    New Zealand • Since Jul 2014 • 30 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Stowell, in reply to Tim Darlington,

    Better to posit a highly unlikely genetic explanation for obesity than to admit you spent decades making things worse, I guess.

    Maybe you've read the book, and followed all the arguments, and are pointing to an obvious hole. Or maybe you've followed Robyn's work for decades, and found it seriously defective in this regard.
    Or maybe you're just insulting someone more-or-less gratuitously.

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 2091 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Stowell,

    There are health issues with high levels of sugar consumption beyond obesity. It seems likely there's a link between high comsumption of sugar and some mental health problems, for example.

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 2091 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Russell Brown,

    fulfilling the scenario outlined in the original post

    performance art, innit

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19688 posts Report Reply

  • Sam Bradford,

    To get back to the meta-point for a moment: I guess I'm incapable of arguing with libertarians in good faith, because I don't believe they can take any argument seriously enough -- the winning of the argument, yes, but not the substance of it.They might say it's because I'm irrational, I'd say it's because they refuse to acknowledge that reality is important. What does it actually mean to say that freedom is impinged on by a government decision to tax sugar? It means sugar becomes more expensive, that's it. And for some reason, their slide-into-tyranny arguments are extremely bloody selective.

    New Zealand • Since Jul 2014 • 30 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Sam Bradford,

    Yes. Accepting tax as one extreme of a spectrum shows how badly our political discourse has been eroded since 1984. Look at the reaction here when someone dares to suggest firm regulation of a social harm.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19688 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to Sam Bradford,

    I guess I'm incapable of arguing with libertarians in good faith

    Surely that's, as much as anything, because the likes of Jamie Whyte are inevitably stalking horses. They can only be seen as engaging in good faith so long as their intellectual vanity blinds them to the cynicism of their real enablers.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4591 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Rob Stowell,

    There are health issues with high levels of sugar consumption beyond obesity.

    Far more interested in diabetes and tooth decay, personally. Nobody *needs* coke.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19688 posts Report Reply

  • linger, in reply to Sacha,

    Nobody *needs* coke.

    A line sure to have some snorting in derision...

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1889 posts Report Reply

  • Jackie Clark,

    I would just like to invite people to reflect on how fattist they may be.

    And any time you’d like to speak to someone who actually works in one of the communities that these measures are aimed at, you just let me know.

    That is all.

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3136 posts Report Reply

  • william blake,

    Since Mar 2010 • 378 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    My young-adult ASD son still has a very limited diet, and a staple of that diet is Nutrigrain. While Nutrigrain does contain useful nutrients he might not get elsewhere, it does my head in how much sugar it contains. But it contains less than it used to, since the manufacturer cut the sugar content a bit last year so it could display a four-star “health rating”.

    The “health rating” is ropey in itself, but Kellogg’s move did underline the fact that the food and drink companies actually control the amount of sugar in their products. And they do: the sugar content of popular fizzy drinks varies from country to country – sometimes very sharply. (A single can of Coke still contains about four times as much sugar as a serving of Nutrigrain, btw.)

    So if trying to influence consumer choices with a sugar tax isn’t acceptable, are there ways to directly influence manufacturers? Or apply a tax in a way that doesn’t take money out of people’s pockets? Or are there environments where it’s acceptable for the state to act directly? (We lost one of those when National cynically campaigned on returning junk food to school tuck shops.)

    I don’t think it’s tenable to deny the research. Yes, sugar is a nutrient. But carbon is a condition of life on earth – and too much of that in the atmosphere could make earth uninhabitable. It’s about an excess our bodies are not equipped to deal with.

    The people we should care most about are children who have very high-sugar diets before they even get to make that choice. The consequences of childhood obesity are really, really awful. It’s a sentence to a blighted, impaired life. Child obesity is five times higher in the most deprived areas in New Zealand than in the least deprived. And it’s getting worse.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22756 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Russell Brown,

    are there ways to directly influence manufacturers?

    Regulation.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19688 posts Report Reply

  • william blake,

    Regulation.

    While the state has the responsibility to care for people with hundreds of millions of dollars worth of preventable illnesses due to poor diet,tobacco and alcohol, I think it is fair that the state has the right to tax and regulate the industries in ways that mitigate this suffering.

    Since Mar 2010 • 378 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to Russell Brown,

    are there ways to directly influence manufacturers? Or apply a tax in a way that doesn’t take money out of people’s pockets?

    I think "all of the above". In theory we already compensate poor people for the GST, we have a whole heap of compensation and distortion within the ideal of a "simple and fair tax system", it's not as if adding one more is going to destroy the purity of the ideal. As a paid-up member of the green-left inner city elite{tm} I obviously prefer that we simply give people enough money that no-one lives in poverty except that tiny fraction who choose to (Christians, for example). I suspect you don't count that as "state acting directly". So:

    Or are there environments where it’s acceptable for the state to act directly?

    Yep. I think there's a case for a limit on sugar in specific things. We limit caffeine, the "on principle" argument has been lost. So restrict soft drinks to, say, the daily added sugar allowance for a 30kg child, per 300ml or container (not per "serving", that mythical magic number so beloved of food industry lawyers). Do the same for other specific problem foods, like breakfast cereal and "healthy snacks" (and, I think, require labelling of the rest as per cigarette packets, just so there's no confusion. "20% of front of wrapper to contain text "unhealthy snack" in red on white... make it 20% of area per serving if you really want to piss people off - some of those "snack bars" contain 2.8 servings. Ahem).

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1198 posts Report Reply

  • st ephen, in reply to Jackie Clark,

    And any time you’d like to speak to someone who actually works in one of the communities that these measures are aimed at, you just let me know.
    Yes, I find it nauseating when Carrick Graham, Katherine Rich, Cameron Salter and the execs at Pepsico trot out the "won't someone think of the poor brown folks" line, but it isn't much better coming from smart urban lefties. I'd rather listen to people like Robert Beaglehole (who has had a guts-full of pulling rotten teeth out of young mouths), endocrinologists (who are sick of sending people off to have feet amputated), and public health researchers (whose actual field of expertise is looking into what works and what doesn't - at a population level, rather than anecdata).

    Coke etc have spent billions convincing us that their product is a dietary staple. It isn't - it's a "sometimes" food. Our parents' generation got by just fine without it, and so did all the generations before them. Even if it ends up that most of us can only afford it for birthdays and Christmas, and the drinks aisle in the supermarket shrinks down to the size of the cake decorating section, that's not such a terrible outcome. (Yeah, yeah - I know. It's the Fun Police. Whatever next - taxing tobacco? Banning P?).

    dunedin • Since Jul 2008 • 254 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Christ. An Australian consumer group has reported that some toddler snacks (including those "certified organic") are composed of as much as 60% sugar.

    60%!!

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22756 posts Report Reply

  • Howard Edwards, in reply to st ephen,

    Cameron "Salter" and "anecdata" - I love both of these!

    Albany • Since Apr 2013 • 66 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to Russell Brown,

    About the same as the percentage of lactose (a sugar) in human breast milk (once water is excluded).

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle, in reply to Russell Brown,

    It’s a sentence to a blighted, impaired life.

    No, according to the link you posted it increases the RISKS for impairments and health problems. I think it’s really really important to a) be very careful about what you’re predicting and b) treat and talk about fat people – and PARTICULARLY fat kids – as humans rather than a social problem to be “solved”. It’s actually very difficult to not be obese once you become obese (see that article Lilith posted upthread, which notes that people who lose large amounts of weight actually burn about 500 fewer calories per day when at rest than people who have not dieted), and so this is less about making fat people cease to exist, and more about making them (and, in fact, everyone else whatever size they are) less likely to develop health problems.

    I’m fat. I’m in my 40s. I currently don’t have any health problems. I never really have (except the ones caused by pregnancy). THE FATTIES WALK AMONG US. We all need to think about how we talk about this. You know?

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3828 posts Report Reply

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