A while back I wrote about a proposed junk food tax. Proponents of junk food taxes argue that maintaining good health amoung individuals in society is an important public policy consideration. But there are components to a healthy lifestyle beyond avoiding junk food. Fitness through physical activity is frequently cited as a critical element of healthy lifestyle. Daily exercise and weight control is the bedrock of the nutrition pyramid published by the Harvard School of Public Health. And the Presidential Council on Physical Fitness and Sports reports that “Adults 18 and older need 30 minutes of physical activity on five or more days a week to be healthy; children and teens need 60 minutes of activity a day for their health.” ((http://www.fitness.gov/resources_factsheet.htm)) In response to these calls for increased physical fitness, some are proposing a fitness tax credit. If the health of individuals is indeed an important public policy objective, then a fitness tax credit, a tax credit that makes fitness resources more accessible, may be a worthy consideration.
The debate over junk food taxes is drawing increasing attention from both sides. Continued debate over of the adverse health impacts of sugary drinks is coupled with heating debate over the propriety of a tax on a dietary pleasure — a pleasure some believe people have an unassailable right to partake in, but others find to be a health hazard.
Here are some recent arguments from vocal advocates on both sides of the debate:
Does societal responsibility for individual health needs give rise to individual responsibility to maintain health?
The proposed changes in healthcare have consumed a fair portion of media attention over the past few months. Much of the debate revolves around the provisioning of healthcare to American’s. But buried deep in the discussions is some talk about preventive care and the role that health maintenance plays in America’s overall healthcare policy. President Obama’s healthcare policy discussion mentions individual responsibility for preventative care:
“Barack Obama and Joe Biden believe that protecting and promoting health and wellness in this nation is a shared responsibility among individuals and families, school systems, employers, the medical and public health workforce, and federal and state and local governments. All parties must do their part, as well as collaborate with one another, to create the conditions and opportunities that will allow and encourage Americans to adopt healthy lifestyles.”
The proposed changes in healthcare represent, to some degree, a movement towards increased public responsibility for the health of individuals. If society shoulders some of the burden of individual healthcare issues, then an individual’s health habits have, in addition to personal health consequences, external repercussions. This begs the question: If society takes responsibility for the health of its citizens, do the citizens have a corresponding responsibility to society to maintain their own health?
Punishing Consequences or State of Mind: An Examination of the Driving Force Behind the Criteria Used for Criminal Punishment – PART 2
This post is a hugely delayed continuation of a discussion that I began several months ago here: Do We Imprison People Randomly? If you have not read that earlier post, this post may lack context.
The Reality Equation
The intuitive response to the hypothetical presented in Part 1 is that it takes place under circumstances that can only exist in a fictional world. In reality, it is virtually impossible for Driver A and Driver B to have identical states of mind. Perhaps Driver B was driving a smidgen faster than Driver A. Perhaps Driver A had a car that was capable of handling faster speeds safer. Perhaps the wind was blowing against Driver A but with Driver B making it easier for Driver A to halt his car in an emergency. There are countless factors that could bear on the safety of the driver’s conduct. It is the action of the driver under the precise unique circumstances of the moment that give rise to the state of mind of the driver. Thus, there might never be a real situation where two individuals truly have an identical state of mind.
Many of the innovations in green energy involve the recapture of otherwise wasted energy. Regenerative breaking systems on hybrid automobiles recapture the kinetic energy inherent in the motion of the vehicle. In a conventional automobile, as the brakes are applied, friction in the braking system converts this kinetic energy to waste heat. But in a hybrid, a portion of this energy is converted to electricity and stored in batteries for future use. Since this energy would otherwise be wasted, this is essentially free energy. Similarly waste heat recovery systems recover energy that would otherwise be wasted from power generation facilities. Most conventional power generation facilities covert approximately half of the energy in the fuel into electricity. The remainder is lost as waste thermal heat. Waste heat recovery systems recapture this heat so it can be put to good use, increasing the efficiency of power generation facility. These are but two examples of innovative methods of recapturing otherwise wasted energy. There is another unharnessed form of energy rushing through our cities and countryside every day: our natural gas distribution pipelines.
Energy cannot be created or destroyed. Scientists have accepted this theory of conservation of energy for ages. But this theory seems to be in juxtaposition with the conventional thought of energy being a scarce resource. If energy cannot be created or destroyed, why are we always scrambling to find new sources of energy? While energy cannot be created or destroyed, it can change form. And there are only certain forms of energy that we can practically harness for use. One of those forms is potential energy. How we work with potential energy, transport it and harness its potential, is an area of significant evolution in science.
Punishing Consequences or State of Mind: An Examination of the Driving Force Behind the Criteria Used for Criminal Punishment – PART 1
On a pleasant spring day, two men go out hunting. They both have a history of heart problems and have both had a heart attack within the past year. As they are walking through the forest a loud bang from another hunter startles them and triggers another heart attack in each hunter. Their fingers involuntarily clench the triggers of their rifles. One of them fires a stray bullet into the dirt. The other fires a bullet that travels two-hundred feet to where another hunter is hiding the bushes. The stray bullet strikes this third hunter in the head. Should the hunter responsible for discharging the bullet that ultimately killed a person be punished differently from the hunter that shot the bullet into the ground? Stated differently, as a society, how do the mere consequences of a defendant’s actions bear on our punishment of his crime?