Tobacco Taxes

So, the New Zealand government has voted 118-4 to increase the sin tax on tobacco.  The funny thing is, the move was led by the Maori party, whose supporters contain a disproportionate number of smokers who probably don’t want a tax increase, and supported by the centre-right National party, who campaigned on an anti-nanny state platform.  I’m with Eric on this:

You know who I really feel bad for? The folks who voted National thinking they’d get less nanny-state as consequence. And, worse, the folks who campaigned for them on that basis. Think harder about it next time, guys.

While I know most politicians don’t feel the need to justify the passing of laws, surely there must be some among those 118 who think that there should be some sort of reason.

Do we need to increase tobacco taxes to pay for the costs of smoking on the health system? Nope: smokers pay more than their share. On that basis, we’d decrease the excise tax considerably.

Does ignorance among smokers as to the true health costs of smoking undermine the welfare-maximising tendency of free choice, meaning we need to force people to do what they’d do given full information. Nope. Even if you think ignorance justifies coercion, the fact is that people radically overestimate the health risks of smoking. If we wanted to encourage people to make the decisions they’d make if they were fully informed, we’d subsidize tobacco.

The real reason for increasing the excise tax on tobacco is a combination of arrogant paternalism and bigotry. Turia and Key think they know what’s best for you better than you do yourself and see smokers as disgusting deviants who must be punished. As Joseph Gusfield (writing about alcohol) says:

As his own claim to social respect and honor are diminished, the sober, abstaining citizen seeks for public acts through which he may reaffirm the dominance and prestige of his way of life. Converting the sinner to virtue is one way; law is another.

Anyone in favour of the increase care to offer another explanation?

Wiggling it Around in Excrement

Some family-values conservative explains how gay male sex works:

Hat tip: Xaq Fixx.

Healthists Say the Darndest Things

From the comments on this post on the dangers of third-hand smoke (bollocks):

Smokers should have to urinate in a separate system or something so as not to pollute the earth and harm others.

Hat tip: Chris Snowdon.

New Zealand Might Soon Need Border Angels

Immigration restrictions are about the most harmful policies around. Resulting almost entirely from the bigotry of voters (voters are much nastier than people) and a false Malthusian worldview , they prevent the poor and ambitious from seeking a better life in a freer country, while also depriving the host country of valuable new people.

Given that I think civil disobedience is an important way of limiting government power, I’ve always been a bit disappointed that nobody tries to sneak into New Zealand. Border Angels and others assisting illegal immigrants enter a country safely are putting themselves at great personal risk to do extremely valuable humanitarian work. I’d love to help out with such things, but there are no opportunities to do so on an isolated group of islands.

We do have “overstayers,” the object of inhumane crackdowns and brave resistance in the 1970s and ‘80s, but there’s nothing analogous to leaving water in the desert to help these people, since all they’re trying to do is live their lives and keep under the radar.

This might be about to change.

The government seems to think that more people will attempt to enter New Zealand illegally in the future as technology makes long ocean voyages cheaper. Apparently, the authorities are working on new ways of keeping the riff-raff out as New Zealand becomes increasingly “targeted” by the “global people-smuggling crisis.”

Sounds to me like decent New Zealanders unwilling to keep migrants out (i.e. forcibly prevent people from entering our patch of land to peacefully trade with the locals) need work on new ways of helping new migrants enter and settle in the country despite the inhumanity of government policy.

Well Done, Danish Sex Workers

Judoing bigotry for fun and profit:

Copenhagen Mayor Ritt Bjerregaard sent postcards to city hotels warning summit guests not to patronize Danish sex workers during the upcoming conference. Now, the prostitutes have struck back, offering free sex to anyone who produces one of the warnings.

Copenhagen’s city council in conjunction with Lord Mayor Ritt Bjerregaard sent postcards out to 160 Copenhagen hotels urging COP15 guests and delegates to ‘Be sustainable – don’t buy sex’.

“Dear hotel owner, we would like to urge you not to arrange contacts between hotel guests and prostitutes,” the approach to hotels says.

Now, Copenhagen prostitutes are up in arms, saying that the council has no business meddling in their affairs. They have now offered free sex to anyone who can produce one of the offending postcards and their COP15 identity card, according to the Web site avisen.dk.

Prohibition Cartoon of the Day

1376_victims_pile

 

By Winsor McCay, courtesy of DrugSenseBot. For a few of the victims of contemporary prohibition, see here.

The Most Disturbing Statistic I Found Today

In 1988, at the height of the HIV/AIDS panic in the States, the GSS asked a bunch of questions about AIDS. At that time, 63.7 percent of respondents favoured a policy of “requir[ing] people with the AIDS virus to wear identification tags that look like those carried by people with allergies or diabetes.”

Any kind of requirement for unpopular groups to identify themselves publicly reminds me a bit too much of this:

starofdavid

Update: Even more disturbingly, most people who personally knew AIDS victims supported compulsory IDs. Here’s the breakdown (as an image, since I can’t work out how to do tables in wordpress; click for larger):

gss-aidsids-aidsknow

gss-aidsids-aidsknow-chart

Disturbing. On the one hand, knowing someone with AIDS is likely to make the risk more salient. On the other, you’re supporting the branding of someone you know. The number of people surveyed with three or more acquaintances with AIDS is tiny, so it doesn’t tell us much; but I suspect knowing lots of people with AIDS is a good proxy for being well-integrated into the gay activist community, which should decrease support for tagging.