Tobacco, alcohol, whatever. Are “sin taxes” a legitimate way to generate revenue?
I say ‘no’. First off, I see no reason to pay an extra tax to do something that is otherwise legal and is already being taxed through the various consumption and income taxes. Second, the idea that the government feels that it is justified in this additional financial fleecing just because the targeted group is politically impotent is morally repugnant.
And no, the “…if you don’t want to pay the tax then don’t do it…” mantra doesn’t justify it.
So, why have them? Revenue generation is almost never stated as the reason. It’s usually some form of behavior modification that is touted. But if you watch and listen it seems pretty obvious that they (politicians) get all giddy when they talk about how much revenue came in. The stuff about reducing unwanted behavior is just a red herring. Any decently articulate person can make it sound good. California’s Prop 10 was almost exclusively about revenue generation.
Here what I believe (and maybe I’m being too cynical)…
What they say their priorities are…
#1 Curb unhealthy behavior
#2 Generate revenue
What I believe their priorities REALLY are…
#1 Generate revenue
#2 Perpetuate the bureaucracy
#6 Curb unhealthy behavior