Since the shooting in Aurora, Colorado, conservatives have been groaning and rolling our collective eyes at Nanny-in-Chief Mayor Mike Bloomberg's fresh calls for gun control. This followed our recent groaning and collective eye-rolling at the Big Nanny's moves to ban the Big Gulp. And our prior groaning and collective eye-rolling at moves to ban smoking in outdoor, public places like parks.
We can groan, eye-roll and mock Mr. Bloomberg all we want, of course, but the sad fact is that he has allies. And they're not just your average nanny-loving American liberals. They include some people with substantially more influence, who work for powerful international organizations like the World Health Organization (WHO).
Meet Dr. Margaret Chan. She is the WHO crusader helping to push Bloomberg-esque efforts to stop you doing bad things to yourself because if a UN subsidiary doesn't know what's best for you then who does? Honestly, they deserve to have more influence over domestic policy choices that are normally reserved for the citizens of a sovereign nation. And if they get to extract some funding for the WHO's efforts at the same time, then that's just icing on the cake, right?
In May of this year, the World Health Assembly met and, in addition to apparently concluding that universal health coverage is a must (lucky for them, we're well on our way), it also decided to develop a "global monitoring framework for the prevention and control of NCDs" (non-communicable diseases), "including indicators and a set of global targets." What are "non-communicable diseases," you ask? How about obesity, and illnesses caused/exacerbated by it (heart disease, diabetes)?
The assembly also "discussed ways… to reduce exposure to risk factors for NCDs, mainly tobacco use, harmful use of alcohol, unhealthy diet, and physical inactivity" (emphasis mine). In other words, they are trying to figure out how to regulate your bad habits because your bad habits cost the world money since the world decided they are responsible for you. This is Nanny 101.
So, it's not just your federal, state and/or local government and Nanny-in-Chief Bloomberg who are trying to make you stop drinking Big Gulps; the WHO wants you to consume less soda (and french fries, and ice cream), too.
The WHO is also pushing for a global tobacco tax, you'll be shocked to learn:
Currently the WHO is pushing for increased excise taxes on cigarettes, but with an important condition that they get a slice of the added revenue. The so-called Solidarity Tobacco Contribution would provide billions of dollars to the WHO, but with no ability for taxpayers or national governments to monitor how the money is spent.
And Dr. Chan has been using her position to push individual countries to increase tobacco tax rates, too.
WHO Director-General Margaret Chan called for more taxes on Wednesday after awarding Health Minister Chen Zhu a certificate in recognition of his efforts to combat smoking.
"There is still plenty of room for China to raise its tobacco tax and the government should take more action regarding this to help curb smoking," she told China Daily.
"Every time I have come to China and had the opportunity of speaking to Chinese leaders, I encouraged them to raise tobacco tax," she added.
New York likes its cigarette taxes, just like the WHO apparently does; currently, the tax on a pack of cigarettes in Nanny-in-Chief Bloomberg's fiefdom runs at over $6 per pack.
But New York's experience should point to one problem with the WHO scheme: The higher taxes on cigarettes go, the more smuggling of cigarettes and tax evasion becomes a problem (see stories like this and this, for example). As usual this presents the contradiction that nanny-staters love to ignore: if programs are funded by a tax on bad behavior, and the tax exists to stop that bad behavior, what happens to programs funded if people actually stop with the bad behavior? The usual answer? SQUIRREL!
Of course, the WHO's efforts here also risk undermining nations' sovereignty and handing taxing authority over to a subsidiary of an organization not exactly known for its accountability. If the WHO gets away with these things, it also sets a bad precedent for future efforts of this nature. In 2010, the WHO was considering pursuing a global tax on things like online bill-paying and a financial transaction tax. A global carbon tax was also proposed at a 2007 UN Climate Conference.
After hearing about all these taxes I really need a drink, but I'm too lazy to fill out the triplicate health form required to receive an alcohol consumption license.