The Key Speech

John Key’s speech to parliament today hardly signalled the commitment to reform he has been talking up. Summaries of the speech here and here, with commentary with which I largely agree here.

There’s unlikely to be much in the way of tax reform.  With only the possibility of a 2.5% increase in GST, probably some minor tinkering with depreciation rules, and no indication of spending cuts, there could only be very minor reductions to income and corporate tax rates.  The rejection of the introduction of new taxes, notably on land, is good, though for public choice rather than public finance reasons. There was some empty rhetoric about welfare reform, but major changes to the god-awful Working for Families were ruled out.

One thing really pissed me off though: the suggestion of unspecified reforms to liquor licensing rules to address the Problem of Binge Drinking. This means that beer is likely to get more expensive and less conveniently available so the government seems like they’re doing something. Not cool, John.

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Yandle on Tobacco Regulation

Bruce Yandle, author of the wonderful paper “Bootleggers and Baptists: The Education of a Regulatory Economist,” applies the logic of that paper to FDA regulation of tobacco in the latest issue of The Freeman:

No, there is no evidence to suggest that tobacco has until now been “an industry that has gone basically unregulated.” But there is ample evidence that tobacco regulation has served the interests of the industry and the politicians that broker favors to the industry. Meanwhile, consumers of tobacco products, who are generally a lower-income population, have been denied the benefits of competitively determined product information; they also have unwittingly become major sources of revenue for state politicians, who generally provide more benefits to higher-income than lower-income consumers.

One can only speculate about what might have happened had the FTC not outlawed health-effects advertising and had the industry not become one of the more regulated industries in America.

Read the whole thing.

Regulation Will Kill Millions

A good point from the Fight Aging blog:

I have said in the past that, from a pure research timeline perspective, by 2040 we’ll plausibly have all the technologies needed to repair and reverse aging. Unfortunately when we look beyond the laboratory, the field is strewn with roadblocks of legislation, slowing everything down. Even the time taken for new businesses to raise capital, try, fail, and try again is less than the delays imposed by the ball and chain of regulation.

Apparently, around 100,000 people worldwide die per day from age-related diseases. If regulation postpones the achievement of acturial escape velocity by even a year, it will have killed 36.5 million people. Not quite the biggest act of democide in history, but it will be if the delay is much more than two years. In opportunity cost terms, slowing anti-aging technology is in fact much worse than was killing someone born too early to have the prospect of a radically extended lifespan. If you kill a 30 year old destined to die by the age of 90, you’re robbing him of 60 years of life. If you deny a 60 year old anti-aging technology, you could be robbing them of a thousand years of life.

This is why I get so angry at the bioconservatives wringing their hands over the intrinsic value of human nature: they are killing more people than Hitler  ever dreamed of. Of course, regulators have been mass murderers for some time.