Careful with regulation

Here is an article I wrote for the fine people over at Idealog on regulation.  The primer is:

Tobacco prices must be higher, alcohol availability is going to be limited, and even Coca-Cola has come in for a lashing for being an addictive substance. But this obsession comes with a cost that policymakers need to face before they impart harm on innocent Kiwis.

Feel free to go over to the site to see what I said and comment 😉

  • And now you’re just trolling your co-blogger James, aren’t you?

    • James and me have taken opposite sides on this issue since the very first blog post was written nearly 5 years ago – I have a post mentioning that coming up next week.

      Potentially I have more faith in individuals ability to come up with mechanisms to help put them on a time consistent path – or at least that their refusal to do so implies that the cost of time inconsistency is low – relative to James’s intuition/knowledge on the issue.

    • How? All he said is that commitment mechanisms are a good idea. How could anyone disagree with that? I guess there was a little bit of wild, libertarian moralising mixed in there but I take that with a pinch of salt 😉

      • Libertarian moralising?  I merely worked from a starting point of having choice, and discussed trade-offs associated with limiting choice.  This is appropriate no matter where I am on the political spectrum 😉


        • Your last sentence clearly implies a libertarian view of social welfare. It rejects the notion that paternalistic interventions could be justifiable and goes far beyond discussing trade-offs. That is a political statement!

        • “Your last sentence clearly implies a libertarian view of social welfare.”

          Isn’t my last sentence “This is appropriate no matter where I am on the political spectrum” …

          If it is the middle sentence then I disagree.  Paternalistic interventions have to be justified in a way where the benefits of intervention exceed the costs – that is a practical analytical statement, not a political one as I am not working on quantifying or classifying what the costs and benefits are!

        • Sorry, I mean the final sentence of your Idealog article. 

        • Ahh I see – that probably was libertarian moralising, as I was running low on space and wanted to say something punchy.

          I can’t see the article atm – what did I say?

        • if we offer this pill and no-one uses it, then this reveals that the time inconsistency justification we’ve used for our paternalistic policies does not hold any water – suggesting that all these government regulations to control our consumption of alcohol are actually just harmful to the individual.

        • That makes sense to me – if we are offering a costless commitment device and it isn’t taken up, time inconsistency doesn’t hold water.

        • Sure, but you’re going a lot further than that. For example, you implicitly assume that interventions are based on time inconsistency arguments and are otherwise invalid. I’m sure the first of those isn’t true and many people would question the second.

      • I am definitely assuming that interventions that we have stated are based on arguments of time inconsistency are invalid.

        Sure, we could assume other things (eg stupidity), and if they want to come out with those justifications for policy, I’ll look at them on those grounds 😉

  • Link isn’t working…I reckon all the traffic on your article has crashed the idealog website….be careful when you link things from TVHE!

    • I’m sure the six people that had looked at this post today caused the site to crash 😉

    • Link still works for me. Oddly, I sent the TVHE address to someone yesterday and they said they couldn’t access the site.

  • Oh, do note that that anti-alcohol pill is now contra-indicated most of the time. Fair few side effects. They’ll come up with something else though.