Let Them Eat Cake . . . And Pay Taxes: France Government Proposes “Nutella” Tax

If Arnhem was the “bridge too far” for General Montgomery, Nutella may be a tax too far for President François Hollande. I have been admittedly critical of the massive tax increase by the Hollande government on the top earners in France. I just do not believe it makes economic sense. However, the latest tax is not simply designed to acquire more revenue but to fight the fat in France — part of a trend inside and outside the United States. The French Senate tripled the tax on palm and some other vegetable oils — a move that will significantly raise the cost of such French favorites like Nutella.

Nutella itself has defied the move and said that it would not change its recipe. Most French would sooner change Versailles into a duplex than change Nutella.

I strongly oppose these fat taxes and measures like the large soda ban in New York. We clearly do need to fight obesity in society. However, individuals should not be denied choice or penalized financially for not yielding to the demands of their government about what they eat or cook.

The appearance of a fat tax in France is particularly bizarre. Paris rests on a bedrock of marzipan and spun sugar. This is like the Italian tripling a pasta tax. Paris is one of the great food centers of the world and perhaps the greatest in history. Indeed, we have a LuLu poster in our kitchen from one of our fat-saturated trips to France. Had Marie Antoinette known that this was coming, she would have rushed to the guillotine at the Place de la Révolution.

Source: Washington Post

41 thoughts on “Let Them Eat Cake . . . And Pay Taxes: France Government Proposes “Nutella” Tax”

  1. I gave up trying to label myself a long time ago.

    I think I’m a mix of SwM, Tony C., and Gene because I agree with two or three points each of them makes but not in 100% agreement with any of them.

    I don’t approve of this tax because I consider it over-reaching, intrusive, and an excellent example of specious governmental reasoning.

    On the other hand, it’s France, and thus none of my da*m business.

  2. I’d like to know the reason behind it all.

    Is it health?

    Is it environmental?

    If it’s health, its ridiculous. I was in support of the soda ban, until I realized I’m against prohibition because it typically does not work and can make a singular problem issue a multi-problem issue.

    That being said, Palm Oil is one of the products that rainforest destruction can be attributed to as rain forests are slashed and burned to make way for the trees which produce the Palm fruit that the oil comes from…

    If they are saying we’re raising taxes on palm oil to help stop the destruction of the rain forest, I’m all for it…if just because it’s unhealthy, I am not.

  3. @Gary: As I stated (and perhaps you overlooked) I do believe in supporting social programs, like welfare, social security, unemployment benefits, free vocational training, nationalized health care and massive government spending on infrastructure (for energy, communications, transportation of all kinds, schools, etc). I do not believe in free markets, I believe in regulated markets, because I think free markets are predatory and exploitive.

    But I do not believe in a nanny state. I believe the government can be a servant in all of these areas, the government can build roads and bridges without telling us how to live our lives; the government can finance energy research that will benefit everybody, the government can finance health research that will benefit everybody.

    As a servant, government can manage and direct communal action, at cost, that will benefit essentially everybody, and they can do that cheaper than any for-profit agency ever could. Essentially by definition; since their goal can be zero profit for anybody involved, and just covering costs.

    I believe in societies taking cooperative action without profit; I believe in a mix of socialism and capitalism. Libertarians tend to demand small government, I do not. I do not care how big or small government is, or how heavy or light taxes are. What I care about is the specifics of what government does, whether it benefits us all or just a few, whether it is fair, and so forth.

    It should be precisely as big as it needs to be to maximize its benefit.

    I think of that as an efficiency in engineering perspective. There is a job to be done by a part and it is designed to be as big and strong as it needs to be. Too little and it breaks; too much and it breaks something else or is just a waste of space and money.

  4. Far more likely to run into a real socialist in France than a libertarian. I find that preferable to the “freedom fries” crowd.

  5. “Government is tasked with the job of a servant like a bodyguard, it is their job to protect citizens from predation and harm by other people, foreign and domestic, not to protect people from themselves.”

    So on point it bears repeating, Tony.



    Before you use the L word on me, there are some Libertarian principles that makes sense and are good ideas. There are some, especially the magical thinking about the “wisdom of the market” and the party’s stand on anti-discrimination laws and willingness to inject religion into policy, that are not just nonsense but dangerous nonsense.

  6. You won’t find too many libertarians in Europe, and they function just fine without them.

  7. Tony C said:
    “I do not think it is just libertarians that reject the idea of the Nanny state deciding what is good for us and what is not; it is the entire idea of having the freedom to live your life as you wish.”

    Tony, just about everything you said in your post is exactly a libertarian argument.
    As they say, you may be libertarian, and not even know it.

  8. Gary – when your personal choices affect society your damn right society should put their thumb on the scale. Obesity has social costs that we all bear with or without universal healthcare.

    I do not think that is moral superiority (though you seem to think it is) just smart use of resources. Nice way you assume lots of things about me that fit your narrow view of ‘reality’. As a matter of fact I am well aware that, at the moment, my world view is not that of that majority. We have this thing called democracy here & like it or not the majority of voters make decisions for us all the time. If the majority of voters decide something should have an additional cost or not have an additional cost they often make that happen. They are sometimes right & other times not. Morality has nothing to do with it, never has.

    I don’t assume I know whats best for everyone. I have ideas, just like you do, about how things should run and I will offer those ideas & allow them to be considered.

  9. @Frankly: It [tax] is used to encourage or discourage certain behaviors that might not be illegal but do have an impact on society.

    If society believes a behavior affects it negatively (like, say, speeding) then society can get together and pass a law to outlaw that behavior and punish it, preferably with imprisonment or community service for some period of time (as opposed to fines, for reasons I will now relate).

    If society just taxes or fines a behavior, it forms a class society in which the rich do what they want but the poor cannot, for lack of money. Time, boredom, forced labor and interrupted plans may not affect everybody equally, but they are at least something the rich will fear more than a few extra percent in tax or a few hundred dollars in fines.

    I do not think it is just libertarians that reject the idea of the Nanny state deciding what is good for us and what is not; it is the entire idea of having the freedom to live your life as you wish. When it comes to medicine, many studies have shown time and again that medical “wisdom” has been wrong, especially on dietary guidelines (which are still misguided) and their definition of a “healthy weight,” which has been shown to be more unhealthy than packing an extra two points of BMI.

    The entire philosophy that adults need a parent is logically ridiculous, if we all need parents then any public official is equally in need of parenting and is not qualified to be my parent.

    We are all going to die sooner or later from something or other. My life is a finite resource, and although I believe I owe some of my resources to society to maintain and repeat the investments in infrastructure that past generations have made that have allowed me to thrive, I do not believe that government officials have any advantage in intelligence or morality to be my parent, control my diet, or workout, career choices or anything else.

    Government is tasked with the job of a servant like a bodyguard, it is their job to protect citizens from predation and harm by other people, foreign and domestic, not to protect people from themselves.

    Giving the government the power of a parent is a step in the direction of enslaving the populace and controlling all of their choices. It is immoral. It is not the job of the government to define some ideal level of physical activity, body mass index, work / play balance, mental states or belief system. Freedom is about the pursuit of happiness in your own way, as long as you pay your way and do not harm others. Government is there to ensure the latter, not define the former.

  10. At one time I kept it in the pantry, but then I looked at the amount of palm oil in it and threw it out. It is okay to eat occasionally but in some countries in Europe, they use it as regularly as the Irish use jam. My local authentic Italian pizzeria has a nutella pizza for desert. Nutella crepes are pretty good. Not really much of an obesity problem in France so maybe the tax is aimed at the palm oil industry.

  11. I had no idea what nutella was. What I found on the Nutella USA site:

    “Nutella is a delicious hazelnut spread that contains quality ingredients, such as skim milk and a hint of cocoa, that moms can serve as part of a balanced breakfast.”

    It sounds like it should help everyone slim down. So what’s the big deal?

    Oh, yes, the tax. So what’s new? Aren’t there high taxes on gasoline and cigarettes and alcohol?

  12. It really boils down to taxation without representation. It needs to be put to a vote of the Fatfraulein Caucus from the Rhineland. This is a group of legislators from around Culmar who get together over dinner and decide how to vote as a group. They are clearly visible during the long evening dinner hours at an outdoor cafe near the Parliament in Paris.

  13. Unless an ingredient is prime facie toxic in doses found in the products or somehow damaging to the environment in a substantive manner?

    Government should find something better to do.

    This is busybody nonsense.

  14. Frankly:

    You’re damned right it drives the libertarians nuts, as does your presumptive attitude that you have the moral superiority to make personal decisions for other people.
    What you probably perceive as your big picture philosophy about society and what is good for it, comes from the small minded perspective that your personal worldview is actually what represents the real world, and
    because you esteem your own opinion so highly about other people’s habits, that your decision (and others like you) must be the true one.

    That is a slippery slope, because everyone thinks they know better about what is good for others to do; the truly mature and self-disciplined approach is to keep hands off of other people’s lives, personal choices and decisions, regardless of what one’s own morals are.

  15. You mean the Italians don’t ALREADY have a pasta tax?

    That sounds to me like it might be an Italian joke.

    Do you know why they no longer have any ice in Italy? Because the old woman who had the recipe died.

  16. MIght they not be doing this to collect more money, and just doing it where they’re sure people will pay it, instead of doing it to discourage obesity? I thought France was supposed to be a fairly healthy nation, and part of it was because of it’s natural fat usage (i.e. real butter). Leastways, I read a book once of someone who had lived there and done a diet developed around their eating style. But then, that was preNutella days!

  17. Taxation has always had a social component to it. It is used to encourage or discourage certain behaviors that might not be illegal but do have an impact on society. I know that will drive the libertarians nuts but there is a real need in a society as large, close and crowed as ours to encourage people to do things or discourage them from doing things that may be short-term easier/more fun/cheaper but long-term bad for that individual and the society they belong to. The question becomes where do we draw the lines.

    If Nuttella is more expensive people will eat less of it. Thats bad for Nuttella’s bottom line. If its bad enough they may review their choice not to alter their formula.

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