This blog post isn't about atheism. Once again I'm using this as the closest thing I have to a place where I can post things of a philosophical, social, or political nature. This is quite an off the cuff idea and there could be plenty of mistakes in it (in rationale and in history, in this case).
So why don't we tax food? Is taxing food likely to break you? Probably not, but if you're limited to affording the bare necessities that can make a difference. Along those lines aid for the needy is often in the form of food and a few basic necessities only. Of note prepared food isn't exempt from taxes and benefits are not provided for prepared food. Of course we don't want to risk helping people any more than we have to, and poor people shouldn't get to have nice things (sarcasm).
But recently a couple bits of trivia hit me. I remember seeing some pictures of apartments from the 1800s and what stood out was there were no kitchens. Surely in what we could consider a poorer time period people weren't just always eating out. The poor must be cooking their own food. But the more I was thinking about this the more a certain narrative made sense.
They wouldn't have refrigeration, so it's not like they could store a lot of food. What equipment would they have for cooking? Surely it'd be less safe than what we have now, and the buildings more susceptible to fire as well as it being more difficult to fight fires. It would seem to me landlords in the 1800s wouldn't want their tenants doing any cooking or storing any food whatsoever, vermin and all. If that's the case then it was only the well off, maybe middle class, who did their own cooking. Those above had others to do their cooking for them and those below had to eat at establishments that got fresh ingredients and cooked them into food daily.
This reminded me of another bit of trivia I'd heard, from QI I think. Supposedly during WWII Britain was encouraging its citizens to eat out. It was a much more efficient use of limited food supplies to employ economies of scale in the cooking and serving of food. It also meant less food waste than individual families preparing individual meals for just their family. Also for a nation trying to get every ounce of production they could it meant fewer people cooking larger quantities of food freed up more worker time for other production. I'm realizing this must've been way more efficient.
So I'm stuck again wondering why we're taxing prepared food and not providing aid to be used freely for cooked or uncooked foods. Out of touch people on the right seem to decry poor people having such luxuries as refrigerators. If poor people aren't supposed to eat out how are they going to prepare all their own food without the equipment to do so? If this was really about spending the least amount of money for need then it really ought to be all about the economies of scale and not the ineficciencies of each poor person/family having their own kitchen, shopping for their own ingredients, and cooking their own food. It seems like such a waste of time, effort, and resources that could be better spent by struggling people than being forced to do everything inefficiently.
As I thought about this a bit more I realized this would make for some significant societal changes. Apartment style housing would become cheaper without the need for a true kitchen. Places that serve prepared food would wind up having to be integrated closely into the same areas people live. This got me thinking about the USA's urban spread and zoning. It seems like there's no reason the environment might not be this way naturally. It seems like there could be other designed/purposeful factors preventing this sort of layout. Zoning comes to mind. I also can't help but wonder if there are forces opposed to the effects of a more socially integrated society in this way.