Acton Institute Powerblog

Would You Like A Tax With Those Fries?

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On this date in 1955, Ray Kroc starts the McDonald’s chain of fast food restaurants in Illinois.

On a related note, Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick is the latest political figure to float the idea of a “fast food tax,” the newest incarnation of the “sin” tax. The reasoning is that fast foods, which tend to be higher in fat and cholesterol than other types of food, are unhealthy, and therefore worthy of special government attention.

The Detroit Free Press editorial page goes Kilpatrick one better, however, suggesting that the government “tax take-out food statewide — but by calories, not cost.”

Now of course the Christian tradition views gluttony as a sin. But as Thomas Aquinas writes, “Gluttony denotes, not any desire of eating and drinking, but an inordinate desire.” And in this case, it is worth asking which is more gluttonous: the fast food consumer who orders a combo meal, or the State which constantly seeks new ways to feed its ever-voracious appetite.

Jordan J. Ballor Jordan J. Ballor (Dr. theol., University of Zurich; Ph.D., Calvin Theological Seminary) is a senior research fellow and director of publishing at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion & Liberty. He is also a postdoctoral researcher in theology and economics at the VU University Amsterdam as part of the "What Good Markets Are Good For" project. He is author of Get Your Hands Dirty: Essays on Christian Social Thought (and Action) (Wipf & Stock, 2013), Covenant, Causality, and Law: A Study in the Theology of Wolfgang Musculus (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2012) and Ecumenical Babel: Confusing Economic Ideology and the Church's Social Witness (Christian's Library Press, 2010), as well as editor of numerous works, including Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology. Jordan is also associate director of the Junius Institute for Digital Reformation Research at Calvin Theological Seminary.

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