Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Human Right to Mass Transit or A Useful Sin Tax

My thoughts for this post were really sparked by the disucssion of the Sin Tax, so I will start from there (Thanks to Liz Fieser):

First, we cannot forget the huge benefit to a Sin Tax - It produces the revenue for a government to deal with the negative consequences of human vices.

Just look at these statistical problems with drunk driving:

"In 2007, nearly 13,000 people were killed in drunk driving related crashes (NHTSA, 2008)."
"Each year, approximately half a million people are injured in crashes where police reported that alcohol was present—an average of one person injured approximately every minute. (Blincoe, Seay et al., 2002)"

If those numbers don't seem to please your economically driven minds look at these dollar ammounts:

"Research shows that alcohol-related crashes cost the public an estimated $114.3 billion annually—this includes an estimated $63.2 billion lost in quality of life due to these crashes. (Taylor, Miller, and Cox, 2002)"

But here in lies a problem with the Sin Tax look at New Mexico and more generally the fact that alcohol hurts all of society:

According to the report [ in the November 2009 issue of New Mexico Epidemiology], the costs of alcohol abuse in New Mexico amounted to $2.5 billion in 2006 – an amount 26 times greater than the $97 million in tax revenues collected that year from alcohol sales. Almost 1,000 deaths in New Mexico were attributed to alcohol in 2006, representing more than 27,000 years of potential life lost.

Enough said. Something that harmful needs to be taxed, and unlike buying cars, most the time it is the people driving them that makes the vice tax more reasonable. We can be a free society, but the right of someone to live should not be compromised by the need to drink and drive. But there is also damage done to people through disease and dependency, so logically we need to tax Alcohol more, right?

This lead me to two more choices that I will now discuss:

A. That we increase the sin tax until it meets at least 50% of the total societal cost, but that would certainly bankrupt the alcohol companies and people buying it. It might even start a new prohibition. Also, a HIGH (20-30%) Sin tax might be a way to shift behavior? But will people just go to other Drugs? Quite possibly. So if that occurs maybe we should just address the issue from the angle that American will continue to use some kind of substance to alter their reality. So if we think that is true, maybe drunk driving can be dealt with through a protection of human rights.

If we all can agree that one of the most important rights is to protect people from bodily injury or death, then we need to replace driving with mass transit. As I have stated if people will be reckless and kill each other through driving under the influence then we need to change how much influence they have on their mode of transit. If the above figure of loses of life and dollar cost of drunk driving is near the murder rate and totals nearly 114 Billion dollars, what if all that money or even half, the physical amount was spent building a network of buses, trams, subways and monorails that could give drunken Americans an Alternative?

Sounds like a utopia. People don't crash as much on a subway or bus, people don't need to pay insurance, and with fewer drivers it would be safer and the Human Right's of other is not infringed upon, as fewer deaths occur. I think mass transit should be a human right because it can help protect life and afford transport to even the poorest members of society.

BUT WAIT! There are even more benefits to mass transit, look at these exams of its benefits:

"Every $1 billion invested in the nation's transportation infrastructure supports approximately 47,500 jobs- proving that transportation continues to be an economic engine and job creator."
"Every $10 million capital investment in public transportation can return up to $30 million in business sales alone."

Look at this neat chart of some successful cities with Mass Transit showing the return on dollars invested in public transportation is far greater than the costs.


Overall, the point I am trying to make is that the Sin tax won't go far enough to change our abusive behavior of alcohol. If we increased it even to 25%, people would just buy more weed or cocaine and people would still crash. So in order to make a society more pollution free, economically sounds and protect people from their own reckless behavior - we need to invest in the community of mass transportation.


1 comment:

  1. Jon, I'm so pleased you were able to use my blog post to spark your own interest! I loved your different point of view on "sin tax." The attack you took on drunk driving was an interesting approach and I think it helps present a new idea to the old argument of "sin tax." I agree with your conclusion though. I think that the government really needs to invest in mass transportation. I think that this move would fix many of the problems that you mentioned in your article. Environmentally and economically the idea of mass transportation makes perfect sense. Why would we not invest in something that would benefit us to so many extents? Great post Jon!


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