Friday 23 September 2016

Adam Smith vs The Morality Police

The Adam Smith Institute has today published a pretty impressive report which will go down like a lead balloon in the ranks of blinkered trouser-stuffers in 'public health'.

You can read the whole thing here but there are some cracking highlights.
By stifling innovation, regulation may freeze products in a state that is far less safe than free-wheeling capitalism would otherwise provide. Given that most smokers or drinkers would prefer not to die young or suffer from chronic illnesses, there is a clear (and perhaps very strong) profit incentive for the firm that can replicate the experience of smoking a cigarette without producing the harm that cigarettes do. That products like this are finally making their way to market is evidence of the power of this incentive: they are replacing the more harmful original options in spite of, not because of, regulation.
Indeed. And they are being brought to market while those who pretend to be interested in our health are scrambling to ban them.
And it means that policymakers concerned about public health should draw back from the heavy-handed approach based on the precautionary principle that they currently take. The precautionary principle assumes that the status quo is acceptable – with so many people dying of smoking-, alcohol- and drug-related illnesses that is clearly not the case. A new drug or reduced-risk tobacco product that kills some users may still be a massive improvement if it kills one-twentieth as many users as the thing it’s replacing. Our rules go way beyond basic safety standards – they impose a massive burden of proof on anyone trying to market a product that competes with the existing vices that harm people every day. 
A ‘permissionless innovation’ approach may be the best way forward. In this framework, firms are free to innovate and markets anything they like to consumers, with the proviso that untested products must be explicitly marketed as such, with the firm forced to pay the price if and when things go wrong. A regulatory approach on this basis would create a pathway for new reduced-risk products that were, if not 100% safe (such a thing is impossible), a lot safer than the things they were replacing.
This, of course, is never going to fly with 'public health' professionals simply for the fact that thousands of them would instantly become redundant. They need the precautionary principle to exist or they'd have to forsake their annual trip to Tuscany and the Lexus would have to be pawned.

Where's the attraction to state-funded parasites if the state is absolved of its huge financial burden by free markets and regulated free choice of individuals, eh?

What's more, puritanism could be threatened. Those with irrational prejudices just don't like people enjoying themselves, and David Nutt draws a superb parallel with the idea of less harmful booze.
It is unlikely that these innovations would be wholly welcomed. There could be a negative reaction from some parts of the public health movement, just as there has been with e-cigarettes. For some in public health, the very idea that people want to consume nicotine for pleasure is an anathema. It would be unsurprising to see similar attitudes toward synthetic alcohol from campaigners who do not want to see a safer form of intoxication encouraged and who might claim innovations of this sort are a distraction from trying to reduce alcohol consumption or encouraging abstinence.
Isn't it interesting to see prohibitionism in reverse? For years we have seen tobacco control being used as a template for those who want to ban other pleasurable consumer products. Now we see e-cigs being cited as a template for pushing back against the increasing extremism of puritanical junk science-toting fucktards who just don't like the choices of others and pretend their pointless policies are to do with health rather than their own odious bigotry.

The ASI press release adds more policy to the study, and there's not a lot you can argue with unless you're a vested interest prohibitionist.
New study reveals discoveries in cigarettes and alcohol sector could have seismic effects on public health, but are currently blocked by “morality police”

The UK has the opportunity to be a world leader in reducing the risks of drinking and smoking following its exit from the European Union, a new paper from the Adam Smith Institute released this morning reports.

The new study reveals how heavy-handed EU and UK government regulations have held back the development of safer alternatives to drinking and smoking, with public health officials pursuing abstinence campaigns to the detriment of risk reduction products that could save thousands more lives every year. 
Despite slashing smoker numbers, e-cigarettes been hampered by regulation. Although they are 95% safer than combustible cigarettes according to Public Health England, e-cig companies are unable to market their comparative health benefits to the public, and the latest round of EU regulations will make the development of newer, better, and safer e-cigarettes for consumers much more difficult.

As the latest innovation of ‘heat not burn’ tobacco products is brought to market the report underlines the importance of fostering innovation and competition on safety. Regulators are becoming increasingly restrictive rather than fostering innovative and satisfying alternatives to smoking and drinking. 
Theresa May’s government would be wise to utilise Brexit to throw out regulation like the the EU’s Tobacco Products Directive and save thousands of lives a year. Replacing it with a system of ‘permissionless innovation’ where a regulatory pathway for safer products to be developed and marketed is created, both by big players and by new entrants to the market. 
Sam Bowman, Executive Director of the Adam Smith Institute, said:
“It’s innovation not regulation that got us e-cigarettes. They emerged and prospered in spite of regulation, proving to be the best way to get people to quit quickly that we know of. But despite this, misguided public health officials are trying to clamp down on them because of evidence-free and dangerous fears that they ‘normalise’ smoking.

“Other products like synthetic alcohol and reduced-risk tobacco products promise to repeat the success of e-cigs for new people, but only if we let them. It is crucial that the government does not stand in the way of hangover-free alcohol.

“Regulation must be flexible and encouraging of new products that are safer than the vices they’re competing with. Britain can be a world leader in safe alternatives to alcohol and cigarettes, but we need regulation that foster those things instead of stamping them out.”
Just imagine that! "World leader". 'Public health' do so like being the first to do something don't they? So surely they should embrace this with open arms!

Sadly, they all generally pursue only their own self-interest and would shun anything that the Adam Smith Institute ever suggests, even if it is perfect common sense like this which should have those interested in health salivating instead of withdrawing to their state-funded boardrooms to find a way of derailing it.

Which is all rather interesting seeing as it was Adam Smith who introduced the concept of self-interest being the motivator of economic activity. In the 'public health' sphere, the only self-interest is how much they can suck out of the state that funds them, so they will quite naturally reject these suggestions out of hand because - whether they are beneficial to public health or not - they will result in the loss of grant funding for a whole lot of highly-paid parasites in the "OMG, think of the children" profession.

When we talk about disruptive technology, we refer to modern innovations which sweep away indolence and entrenched and costly positions. These are the big burdens on progress, much like candle-makers objecting to the introduction of electricity.

'Public health' is now playing the role of the candle-peddlers, desperately clinging onto their own self-enriching snobbery instead of looking at alternatives which could deliver more benefit to the public than their antiquated restrict, tax and ban mentality could ever be remotely capable of.

Do go read the ASI report here, and let's hope it gains the much-needed column inches it deserves.

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