Why bother? After all we all know that any report on costs will be filled with wild conjecture and pointlessly misrepresented by the public.
Well it turns out the Dr Nana felt the report has been too heavily misrepresented and wanted to clear some things up, so I guess that’s fine.
Except that there are two significant ways that his reply leaves me wanting:
- His criticism of rational choice is nonsensical,
- He refuses to admit that BERLs own work was the result of wild value judgments in the same way as the Crampton-Burgess reply.
On the first issue he states “We would suggest that it is nonsense to argue that a drunk driver who wraps themselves around a power pole has made a fully informed, rational choice that is consistent with their long-term welfare”.
However, this is ridiculous. Crashing your car is a suckful outcome – agreed. But the drunk driver doesn’t make the choice to crash their car – they make the choice to drive their car drunk given some probability of crashing. Ex-ante the choice to drive (following the choice to drink) may have been optimal, even if the ex-post outcome sucked.
This suggests that saying that it is nonsense illustrates either a lack of understanding regarding the 1st year difference between ex-ante and ex-post or that the author simply tried to frame an issue to make other people agree with them. Given Nana is an economist, and therefore must be extremely intelligent, it must be because of the second reason.
On the second issue he states “It is for readers to make their own judgments about the benefits of harmful alcohol use. It is for policy makers as well as the New Zealand society, not BERL, to judge what set of values they use in this assessment.”.
Now this seems true. Matt and Rauparaha loves to bang on about this rubbish all the time. But this isn’t what the BERL report does.
Doesn’t the BERL report actually work out some costs, and it requires value judgments to figure out these costs right.
So instead of banging on about how “such a value judgment would not have been appropriate for an independent study such as ours” Dr Nana should admit they made a different set of value judgments and defend them.
I mean, for gods sake, if the two sides involved spent more time clarifying the differences in their value judgments and less time scoring points in the media (or delivering “smack downs” as Dr Crampton eloquently describes it), then we might have a clearer idea of what the policy relevant issues are.