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My wife and I have different approaches when it comes to the kids and dessert. She, in some attempt to instill “discipline,” rations out the sweets as if we were under a medieval siege. I — being a liberty-minded person, as well as a spineless spoiling squish — play the part of Willy Wonka without the army of creepy Oompa Loompas. There are good reasons for my approach. For one, I figure there is only going to be enough money for one of us in our old age and I don’t want the kids voting me into the government-run home. Second, my childhood meals were a bit like Lord of the Flies (without the bloodthirsty murders) and I was allowed to consume Pixy Stix as a palate cleanser in between courses of Fun Dip. This contributed to my juvenile cavities, but has turned me off to sugar to the point that I’ll opt for an after-dinner drink over any sort of sweet (though this comes with its own risks, as quickly-ordered slices of cake are less likely to run to $65 each than certain kinds of cognac).
Even as someone who passes on dessert, however, I can’t help but have my blood sugar boil over America’s sugar tariffs. These ridiculous taxes began in the late 18th Century — talk about a government program we can’t get rid of! — and have resulted in U.S. sugar prices often being twice what the rest of the world pays. Now, you might think, “Who cares, Pants? I can see the size of those pleats, and you don’t need any additional cheap carbohydrates in your diet.” Fair enough. But in typical government fashion, this market distortion causes inefficiencies and makes artificial winners and losers. The winners are the roughly 5,000 U.S. sugar producers ,while the losers are the remaining 319,995,000 or so of us. The worst hit are U.S. candy manufacturers and those who they’ve laid off since moving their factories overseas, where sugar can be purchased at market rates. Add to this all the bakers, corner candy stores, Dunkin’ Donuts franchisees, and kids who just want to enjoy a Twinkie between their extremely low-calorie, public school-sanctioned lunch and their fifth period class on historical grievances, and you can see how the losers in this game pile up.
Not to mention the unintended consequences. Thanks to stupid policies that jack up the price of sugar and subsidize the costs of corn production, we end up with unholy products like high fructose corn syrup added to our soda instead of sugar — the way the Good Lord intended it to be sweetened. The other side may like to talk about income gaps, but the sugar protections they support prop up the income of a privileged few at the expense of millions of working Americans.
Is sugar so vital to our national interest that we must artificially inflate its price to support a few domestic producers? If we cannot tell several thousand sugar plantation owners that they are on their own, what hope do we have of returning to a liberty-minded republic consisting of individualists?
In the immortal words of Homer Simpson, “In America, first you get the sugar, then you get the power, then you get the women.”