Two days ago I blogged about the radio contest where the prize was a free breast augmentation surgery. Since then, I have been doing some additional thinking.
I agree with the National Organization for Women that breast augmentation surgery is a bad thing. An unnecessary medical procedure obviously brings needless health risks to the person undergoing the surgery.
Being a libertarian, I believe that people should be allowed to do whatever they want provided no one else is harmed. But does breast augmentation surgery harm others? I believe the answer is yes.
Breast augmentation surgery is a negative sum game. The surgery increases the recipient's attractiveness (because men are so stupid), but only at the expense of other women whose natural breasts become less attractive in comparison to the increasing population of surgically augmented women.
If every woman got breast augmentation surgery, it would not change the overall female attractiveness of society (because men would quickly become desensitized to seeing bigger breasts), but would have negative health effects because large numbers of women would suffer from post-surgery complications.
The typical liberal response might be the desire to make the surgery illegal. But I disagree. If a woman wants the surgery badly enough, she should be allowed to obtain it, but only if she pays back the externality she causes.
So I call for the implementation of a breast implant tax. Four thousand dollars for a pair of implants seems like an arbitrarily acceptable amount. With about a quarter of a million surgeries performed every year, the breast implant tax would raise a billion dollars of revenue annually. (Of course, demand for the procedure would decline after the tax was implemented, so we would raise somewhat less than a billion--but the whole purpose of the tax is to discourage the procedure, so this would be the desired effect.)
I wrote more on this subject: breast implant tax revisited.