Pigovian Tax on Sex

As I linked in an earlier article, Kevin Drum and his commenters are justifying the Obamacare tax on tanning salons based in part on the fact that tanning (via skin cancers) adds to future health care costs, which now (via Obamacare and Medicare) will likely have to be born by taxpayers.

Frequent readers will know that I have opposed government paying for health care for years in part due to the incentive it gives the government to micromanage individual behaviors to reduce its costs (I call this the health care Trojan Horse).

But here is the simple question for today.  If individual choices and behaviors should be taxed if they add to health care costs (a proposition Drum sees as so self-evident that Republicans are Neanderthals for opposing the idea), then why isn't anyone suggesting a tax on sex?   I can't think of any discretionary behavior that has more implications for health care costs than sex.  There's contraception, abortion, STD's, pre-natal care, birth, and at least 18 years of juvenile health care with no taxes being paid.  Not to mention a new future Medicare recipient who, by current law, will pay in far less to the system than he or she will take out.


  1. ErikTheRed:

    Never mind that such a study ignores every single other difference in lifestyle that applies to frequent tanners - I would imagine significantly higher consumption of alcohol, smoking, poor sleep habits, recreational drug use, etc.

  2. craftman:

    The lack of desire for this tax fits nicely with the story that everyone is entitled to have as many kids as they want, regardless of the financial implications, and how dare you suggest otherwise. Whenever I hear reports that "a family of four cannot get by on a minimum wage job" my thought is why is somebody with no skills starting a family? Other people get very uneasy and offended if you bring up this point.

  3. Eric Wilner:

    "Well, it'd certainly make chartered accountancy a much more interesting job." - Monty Python

  4. Earl Wertheimer:

    They only want to prevent behavior that they personally dislike. This is consistent with most nanny-state regulations. The Health Care issue is just an attempt to find another justification to ban an activity that they consider as frivolous. I would have to do some research, but I suspect tanning helps reduce Vitamin-D deficiencies, Seasonal Affective Disorder and can be used to prevent serious sunburn if done before going on vacation.

  5. jdgalt:

    Most sex doesn't result in pregnancy (and most people having it take the obvious precautions), so such a tax would be unfair. But I'd be all in favor of taking the exemption and credit for having children off the 1040 form, and replacing them with a nuisance tax.

    (As for the tanning tax, of course, it has nothing to do with the potential health costs of tanning salons, and everything to do with the fact that their customers -- like motorcycle riders and smokers -- are a small enough group that government can loot and pillage them without suffering for it at the polls.)

  6. marque2:

    Where do you get that? The tanners I know - other than getting tanned (if that is really bad) are health nuts.

  7. Fred_Z:

    Oh dear, you have missed the really expensive and risky "sex", namely, gay "sex".

    Does Kevin Drum cry out for a buggery tax? And who's to pay the tax, the bugger or the buggee?

  8. ErikTheRed:

    Heh... very different sample sets. The people I know who fake 'n bake party *very* hard.

  9. marque2:

    I guess the folks I know get tanned for special occasions and aren't the addicts like you see on the television shows.

    I wouldn't bother. I am too old to care how I look other than basic hygiene and maintenance.

  10. alanstorm:

    What about the racist aspect? How many black people go to tanning salons?

    (Hey, if the lefties can do it...)

  11. rst1317:

    I assume the NSA would be in charge of inventorying our sexual acts.

  12. Craig L:

    A tax on thingy?

  13. markm:

    How could you collect the sex tax? Few people will honestly self-report how many times they had sex, and it's impossible to prove fraud. I would be curious to see how many men will exaggerate even when it costs them money, but such a tax would be the biggest joke in the history of governments.

    So maybe you try to tax sex indirectly - Craigslist ads, dating services, singles bars... All of which would depend on vague definitions that would be simultaneously over-encompassing and evadable by changing superficial aspects of the taxed businesses. It would be a bonanza for lawyers, with very little net gain to the Treasury after litigation costs.

    So please don't mention it where that particularly noxious class of lawyers that inhabits Congress might find it!