On the plus side, this article, which deserves reproduction in full, describing the astonishingly illiberal nature of newly-passed anti-tobacco legislation in New Zealand, shows that we libertarian Brits are not alone in resisting quite astonishingly mendacious politicians.
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:Unfortunately, while we aren't alone in objecting, so does this prove that other countries aren't alone in being bullied by the same alliance of mendacious politicians and their rent-seeking allies.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?
It's going to be quite a task to get our elected representatives to stop lying to us and actually act on their promises. On this issue alone, Labour UK in 2005 reneged on their manifesto commitment to a partial smoking ban but have gone far, far further without any recognisable mandate. For a party to gain electoral success in New Zealand on a specifically anti-nanny state agenda, only to then kick their voters and workers in the teeth, surely has to be a damning and worrying development for any country which purports to embrace democracy.
Time to look outside the big parties for electoral inspiration, methinks.