Month: March 2020

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Laws Passed in Wake of the Coronavirus Pandemic

It’s now springtime in the northern hemisphere, and we’re now several weeks into the COVID-19 pandemic.

As consumer advocates, our job has never relinquished: we’re there to closely monitor regulatory trends in major capitals to inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice.

With governments scrambling to protect its citizens, we’ve seen an unprecedented push to both pass and repeal laws in order to better fight against the virus. Some have been greatly beneficial to consumer choice, while others leave us scratching our heads.

Here’s a list of some of the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly laws we’ve seen around the world.

Providing Healthcare

The Good

Massachusetts and other American states are removing regulations that prohibit medical professionals from practicing in other states

The United Kingdom has removed regulations that limited the quick production and shipping of medical supplies for its health professionals.

The U.S. relaxed rules on what can constitute a hospital, as makeshift healthcare facilities have sprung up around the country. It also has allowed more telemedicine, which was previously severely limited.

New York State has opened up its recommendation process for prescription drugs, allowing patients to have more choice.

The Bad

Early on, the Centers For Disease Control and Food and Drug Administration monopolized and centralized all testing, slowing down the initial response to the growing number of cases in multiple jurisdictions.

The Ugly

The Chinese Communist Party and its affiliated companies sold tests later determined to be faulty to countries including Spain and the Czech Republic. In the Czech Republic, for example, 80% of the tests were found to not work in the slightest.

Alcohol Delivery

The Good

Many U.S. states and Canadian provinces legalized alcohol delivery and takeout options for restaurants and bars, helping to keep these stores in business while they’re forced to shut down their physical presence. This includes jurisdictions that previously did not allow for alcohol delivery.

The Bad

The Commonwealth of Pennslyvania closed all liquor stores in response to the coronavirus. Because the state maintains a monopoly on liquor, that means no Pennlsyvania residents are able to acquire liquor at this time. This has pushed thousands to visit neighboring states to purchase their booze.

In New Jersey, several liquor stores have been totally emptied by Pennsylvania residents alone!

The Ugly

South Africa has banned all alcohol sales until at least April 16th. Greenland followed the same blanket ban until the same date.

Surveillance and Technology

The Good

The FCC’s Keep America Connected Pledge has garnered the support of more than 60 companies committed to raising broadband speeds, removing all data caps, and providing better service during the pandemic. That means there will be no forced reduction of quality as is being mandated in the European Union via its net neutrality rules.

Germany will soon issue coronavirus “immunity certificates” to indicate who has recovered from the virus and is ready to re-enter society.

The Bad

Israel passed an emergency measure to allow the government to track mobile phone data in order to track the spread of the coronavirus.

Dozens of other countries are using mobile phone data secured from ad agencies to track the movements of citizens and to enforce social distancing. Over 500 U.S. cities are now tracking its residents.

The Ugly

South Africa will allow 10,000 field workers to “check up on people in the homes” if they have coronavirus.

Countries such as Bangladesh, Ethiopia, India, and Myanmar have resorted to shutting down the Internet in the wake of the pandemic.

When the crisis first began in China, its forces shut down and jailed journalists and doctors who warned about the spread of the disease. It has been labeled a cover-up.

Rule of Law

The Good

In the Netherlands, Prime Minister Mark Rutte has reluctantly passed some restrictions, but wants to keep citizens free to come and go to ensure their freedoms during this time.

“And even if that were possible in practice – making people stay in their homes unless they have permission to go outside, for such a lengthy period – the virus could simply rear its head again once the measures were lifted. The Netherlands is an open country.”

The Bad

The Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was set to be tried on corruption charges, but due to the coronavirus, he shut down all courts and thus will still avoid a verdict.

The Ugly

In Hungary, Prime Minister Viktor Orban won a vote that will allow him to rule by decree, without opposition nor elections, with no end date. This effectively erases the rule of law.

Do you have other examples? Write to us at info@consumerchoicecenter.org.

LES ENFANTS D’ABORD!

Alors que la chloroquine a relancé le débat sur les protocoles et les publications médicales, une prestigieuse revue scientifique s’intéresse à tout autre chose…

Un récent rapport de la revue scientifique The Lancet, « A Future for the World’s Children? » [« Un avenir pour les enfants du monde ? », NDLR.], est une fois de plus une apologie en faveur de l’Etat-nounou. Ne souffrant aucune remise en question, cette publication en devient une véritable parodie.

Ces dernières années, The Lancet a eu la réputation d’approuver certaines des politiques les plus interventionnistes et paternalistes qui soient. Des restrictions publicitaires à la taxation des boissons sucrées, pour The Lancet, il n’existe pas de sujet où l’Etat ne doit pas intervenir pour éduquer ou punir la population… pour son propre bien.

Dans un récent numéro, la revue médicale s’attaque à la publicité pour les enfants, qu’elle considère comme une menace majeure.

Jeune public

Dans ce rapport, le rédacteur en chef du Lancet, Richard Horton, s’adresse aux décideurs politiques dans un communiqué de presse en disant que le marketing pour les cigarettes, les cigarettes électroniques, l’alcool et la malbouffe aggrave les problèmes de santé publique.

Le rapport demande l’ajout d’un protocole facultatif à la convention des Nations unies relative aux droits de l’enfant, qui obligerait les gouvernements à réglementer ou à interdire la publicité des boissons sucrées et de l’alcool qui serait susceptible d’être vue auprès d’un jeune public.

Horton explique :

« Nous vivons dans une économie basée sur les énergies fossiles, la consommation et la production, qui crée les conditions qui vont nuire à la santé des enfants. […] Je pense qu’aucun d’entre nous ne souhaite que cela soit le monde que nous sommes en train de créer. »

L’affirmation du Lancet selon laquelle les entreprises commercialisent délibérément des aliments malsains et d’autres vices aux enfants est difficile à saisir. En lisant ce genre de commentaires, les lecteurs pourraient se demander si les compagnies de tabac ne chercheraient pas à glisser leurs cigarettes directement dans les poussettes. Rien de tel ne s’est évidemment produit jusqu’à présent.

Le Lancet condamne également le fait que les enfants soient soumis à la publicité pour l’alcool lors des manifestations sportives. Il explique que lors des spots publicitaires lors d’émissions sportives, il y a régulièrement des publicités pour la bière ou les spiritueux, qui sont vues par des enfants alors que ces produits leur sont interdits.

En substance, les chercheurs affirment que TOUTE publicité susceptible d’être vue par un enfant ne devrait pas contenir de produits dangereux. Ce qui signifie que mise à part quelques rares exceptions, comme les projections dans les salles de cinéma pour les plus de 18 ans, cette interdiction frapperait la quasi-totalité des publicités.

Stop à la condescendance

Il est également absurde que The Lancet s’oppose à la publicité pour les produits à risques réduits tels que les cigarettes électroniques.

En effet, les recherches de ce même journal ont montré que dans certaines régions du monde (comme la Nouvelle-Zélande) la vape a remplacé le tabagisme chez les jeunes, pour un bénéfice sanitaire évident.

De plus, en dehors des nouvelles plateformes et des réseaux sociaux, les publicitaires ne peuvent guère discriminer leurs audiences. Ces interdictions n’auraient pour seul effet que de réduire grandement les revenus des supports publicitaires traditionnels (journaux, affiches, cinéma…), déjà en grande difficulté, au profit des grandes entreprises de l’internet.

Dans l’ensemble, les consommateurs ne devraient pas être traités avec condescendance par des interdictions de publicité. C’est le rôle des parents et des services scolaires d’apprendre aux enfants à faire la part des choses et à devenir des êtres autonomes et responsables. L’idée de donner de tels pouvoirs au gouvernement revient à chercher à maintenir les citoyens dans l’enfance et l’irresponsabilité.

Suivre les conseils du Lancet, c’est avant tout suivre une position idéologique en faveur de la création d’un Etat paternaliste « omniscient », dont l’objectif est de réduire la liberté de choix des consommateurs.

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

L’Allemagne s’ouvre au génie génétique. Et la France ?

La ministre fédérale allemande de l’Agriculture a du flair et est du côté de la science lorsqu’il s’agit de la question des ciseaux génétiques. Et à juste titre.

En 2012, le professeur Thorsten Stafforst et son équipe de l’université de Tübingen en Allemagne ont découvert qu’il était possible de modifier les gènes, en combinant des enzymes avec des brins d’ARN manipulés.

Outre l’acide ribonucléique (ARN), d’autres méthodes sont désormais utilisées dans le domaine du génie génétique, la plus connue étant probablement les ciseaux à gènes CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats). Pour certains, il s’agit d’un simple casse-langue, pour d’autres, d’une avancée vitale pour la médecine et l’agriculture.

LE GÉNIE GÉNÉTIQUE DANS LE DOMAINE MÉDICAL

D’un point de vue thérapeutique, le génie génétique est prometteur dans la lutte contre le cancer.

Des scientifiques américains ont combiné deux approches innovantes : le CRISPR, qui implique la réécriture de l’ADN, et la thérapie des cellules T, qui utilise les cellules dendritiques (les cellules tutélaires) du système immunitaire pour détruire les tumeurs.

Trois patients ont reçu des versions modifiées du CRISPR de leurs propres cellules l’année dernière. Malheureusement, les patients ne pouvaient pas être soignés avec succès, mais la recherche vaut son pesant d’or. Surtout, il a été démontré que le CRISPR peut être utilisé en toute sécurité comme traitement. Aux États-Unis en 2017, deux nourrissons de 11 et 18 mois ont été traités avec succès grâce à la thérapie cellulaire moderne.

LE GÉNIE GÉNÉTIQUE DANS LE DOMAINE DE L’AGRICULTURE

Le génie génétique dans le domaine de l’agriculture est tout aussi prometteur.

L’année dernière, des chercheurs de l’université de Wageningen aux Pays-Bas ont réussi à produire du blé sans gluten en éliminant les gènes responsables du gluten grâce au CRISPR.

C’est une nouvelle prometteuse pour des millions d’Européens souffrant de la maladie cœliaque.

LE GÉNIE GÉNÉTIQUE DANS LE DOMAINE ALIMENTAIRE

Entretemps, des bananes résistantes aux champignons ont été créées en Belgique, mais le projet a perdu son financement à la suite d’une décision de la Cour de justice de l’UE à Luxembourg (CJE).

La CJCE a décidé en 2018 que le génie génétique relève de la définition des organismes génétiquement modifiés (OGM) et est donc de facto interdit par la directive OGM de 2001. Cette décision a été, et continue, à être constamment critiquée.

Depuis, des étudiants de l’université de Wageningen ont fondé une initiative citoyenne européenne pour modifier la législation, mais avec de tels sujets scientifiques et un faible intérêt médiatique, les signatures nécessaires manqueront probablement à la fin et le quorum ne sera pas atteint.

Des suggestions positives de changements et de contributions nous parviennent des pays germanophones. L’initiative citoyenne européenne elle-même a été lancée par une Autrichienne et une Allemande, entre autres.

Au sein de l’Autorité européenne de sécurité des aliments (EFSA), c’est l’Autrichien Bernhard Url qui souligne qu’en science, il existe une différence entre danger et risque :

  • le danger décrit la possibilité qu’un événement négatif se produise
  • le risque quantifie la probabilité qu’un événement négatif se produise

Par exemple, l’eau est inoffensive en soi, mais si vous en buvez trop, vous pouvez en subir des effets négatifs. Les rayons du soleil sont tout aussi inoffensifs, mais si vous ne vous en protégez pas correctement, c’est-à-dire si vous en consommez en quantités malsaines, vous pouvez vous brûler. Mais l’affirmation selon laquelle le soleil est cancérigène est fausse.

Cela est important dans le débat sur la sécurité alimentaire, car le principe dit de précaution s’applique dans l’Union européenne. Les opposants au génie génétique affirment que ce principe doit fonctionner car il existe un danger, c’est-à-dire la possibilité que quelque chose de négatif se produise.

La vérité est qu’il s’agit de découvrir dans la pratique la probabilité que cet événement se produise et de décider ensuite au cas par cas. Si le principe de précaution devait être appliqué de manière cohérente à l’eau et au soleil, par exemple, ces deux éléments vitaux devraient être interdits.

La ministre fédérale allemande de l’Agriculture, Julia Klöckner, est ouverte au génie génétique dans l’agriculture. Elle a déclaré à l’agence Reuters :

Mettre le génie génétique vert classique dans le même tiroir que le CRISPR/Cas est, à mon avis, incorrect sur le plan des faits.

Le ministre de la CDU, le parti d’Angela Merkel, a adressé des propos chaleureux au sujet de la CRISPR lors de la Semaine verte à Berlin. Les agriculteurs devraient avoir accès à des méthodes progressistes. Lors du Forum mondial pour l’alimentation et l’agriculture (GFFA) qui s’est tenu à Berlin en janvier, les représentants du ministère fédéral de l’Agriculture ont ouvertement soutenu le nouveau génie génétique, tandis que les représentants de l’Organisation des Nations unies pour l’alimentation et l’agriculture (FAO) se sont concentrés sur l’agro-écologie et le retour à l’agriculture de base.

Pendant ce temps, les pays comme la Belgique se contentent de rêver d’une agriculture 100 % bio, qui n’est ni soutenable au niveau des ressources ni bonne pour l’environnement. En réalité, l’agriculture biologique émet 58 % de plus de CO2 que l’agriculture conventionnelle. À travers le génie génétique, nous pourrions aussi réduire les ressources nécessaires afin de nourrir le monde. Cette technologie est une occasion à saisir.

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

Nový vyhledávač informací pro editaci genomu

Nástroj shrnuje právní předpisy pro editaci genomu v oblasti zemědělství, medicíny a tzv. gene drives technologie, která se zaměřuje na boj proti škůdcům.

Nedávno spatřil světlo světa ucelený zdroj informací o editaci genomu – „The Global Gene Editing Regulation Tracker and Index“.

Jde o interaktivní nástroj, který umožňuje přehledně sledovat, jak je v jednotlivých částech světa právně upravena editace genomu a do jaké míry jsou země v tomto směru konzervativní. Tento nástroj vytvořila nezisková organizace „Genetic Literacy Project (GLP)” ve spolupráci s organizací „Consumer Choice Center“.

Nový nástroj shrnuje právní předpisy pro editaci genomu v oblasti zemědělství, medicíny a tzv. gene drives technologie, která se zaměřuje na boj proti škůdcům (např. projekty na eliminaci komárů nebo myší a potkanů). O technikách „gene drives“ jsme mj. psali v  článku „Gene drives, ano či ne?“.

Současně platforma poskytuje přehled, kdy právní předpisy vznikaly, a ukazuje, na kterých produktech a terapeutických metodách státy pracují.

Jelikož se GLP snaží uživatelům poskytnout komplexní informaci, u jednotlivých zemí lze nalézt postoje nevládních organizací, vědců i kritiků k editaci genomu.

Tyto informace snadno napoví, zda je v dané zemi vývoj moderních technologií podporován nebo spíše upozaďován.

Nový vyhledávač informací pro editaci genomu můžete vyzkoušet ZDE.

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

Covid-19 will help us identify which regulations are holding back productivity and innovation

At a time like this, those of us who believe in free markets and limited government face challenges in justifying adherence to those principles. It is hard to argue against governments doing “whatever it takes” to combat the spread of the disease and save lives and livelihoods. In fact, as my colleague Christopher Snowdon set out in the Daily Telegraph last week, there is no need to make such arguments. There no inconsistency insupporting individual freedoms in normal times and acceptingcoercive measures by the state in a public health emergency.

Similarly, the massive expansion of the state comprised in the chancellor’s rescue package is broadly welcome for giving people the assurance they need that their homes, incomes and businesses will have some protection in highly unusual circumstances. However, there are many areas where reductions in government intervention should be urgently pursued. 

The New York Times reported that a biotech lab had carried out tests and identified cases of Covid-19 in the Seattle area, well before it was known that the virus had taken hold in the United States. The lab did not have the correct accreditations for this activity from the FDA and was ordered to cease testing. The regulators in the US have since relaxed their position on this, but the question must surely be asked, what was the purpose of the restriction in the first place and how can it be right that it applied so strictly that it actively worked against important research at a vital time?

Europe is also suffering under the burden of pointless bureaucracy in healthcare: the Consumer Choice Center has highlighted that 20 countries in Europe don’t allow online ordering of prescription medicines and 18 require even non-prescription medicines like paracetamol to be sold in pharmacies only. Thankfully the UK is not in the guilty groupof countries in either case, but we still have many regulations that are holding people back from getting the support that they need.

Some steps in that direction are being taken here. The Coronavirus Bill, published yesterday, gives the government emergency powers, but it also suspends various regulations, like the ban on recently retired doctors from returning to work more than 16 hours per week. It reduces the administration tasks and paperwork that health and care workers have to carry out – surely welcome at any time and not something that should take a global crisis to enact.

The Department for Housing Communities and Local Government has announced that planning rules will be relaxed so that pubs and restaurants can operate as hot food takeaways. These are the kind of rules that inspired the hashtag #NeverNeeded, urging Twitter users to identify regulations that are holding back efforts to counter the virus and were surely never needed in the first place. 

Health Secretary Matt Hancock tweeted that people and organisations should not feel restricted from doing what they need to do to help people because of data protection laws. This is an example of a regulation (the GDPR) that has been shown to be so badly formulated and poorly understood that people are not able to make decisions with certainty as to what is permitted without an ad hoc intervention from the secretary of state.

In my recent paper for the IEA, Rules Britannia, I noted that regulations are often put in place based on quite dubious cost/benefit analysis, and then not reviewed to see if they actually achieved their objective. The way in which regulations have been relaxed as a matter of urgency by governments around the world, in some cases after they have caused serious barriers in battling the spread of the virus, has highlighted this in stark terms. This is also why calls to impose ‘emergency legislation to remove “morally unacceptable” conspiracy theories’ from social media platforms should be resisted. Misinformation at this is time is deeply damaging, but a perception that government is controlling the media to hide things from citizens could be even worse. Knee jerk responses that unnecessarily curtail freedoms run the risk of being counterproductive, and such measures have a history of being be retained long after their original purpose has been forgotten.

When this public health emergency is over, we will need all of the productive capacity and innovation that free markets can provide to ensure that the economy recovers and there are jobs for people to go back to. Wealth is the strongest predictor of health in a society and free economies grow the fastest. If dealing with Covid-19 allows us to identify regulations that are holding back productivity and innovation in healthcare and across the economy as a whole we must not waste the opportunity to re-examine whether they were in fact ever needed.

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

COVID-19 gives us the opportunity for legal reform

Public life is now at a standstill in the United States.

Millions are social distancing and staying at home to avoid further community spread of the novel coronavirus known as COVID-19.

It’s important to remain positive, but times are tough. Nearly 18% of American households are facing reduced hours or layoffs at work, according to a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll. Plugging into the 24-hour news cycle and its doomsday predictions doesn’t give many good vibes either.

That said, some government institutions remain on the clock. Legislatures in New Jersey, Wisconsin and dozens of other states still have open sessions to piece together legislation to alleviate their constituents; police officers and mail carriers are still on the job; and hospitals and clinics are working overtime to heal the sick.

All these institutions have had to pivot to the situation at hand and focus on how to react to the effect of the pandemic.

Police officers in cities such as Philadelphia and Lansing, Mich., have been instructed to not pursue low-level nonviolent crime to concentrate resources on the coronavirus. District and federal courts have been shuttered across the nation to do the same, leaving criminal, civil and immigration cases hanging in the balance.

With a huge pause button pressed, what will be the effect on our legal system?

While judges and lawyers have been sent home, there remain thousands of major lawsuits on the docket that could shape much of our lives once all this ends. And that’s important to remember.

Perhaps during this time, we can evaluate what we’d like our nation’s courts to prioritize once they return to normal.

That’s especially important because for every bogus lawsuit about Amazon “price gouging” toilet paper or hand sanitizer companies overstating their claims for killing germs, there are other major trials featuring outright hysteria and moral panic that deny scientific evidence and could lead to sweeping negative changes.

Currently, there are dozens of lawsuits related to the tenuous connection between nicotine pod vaping devices sold by companies such as Juul, and the outbreak of lung illnesses that took place last year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention came out in December and clarified the injuries were caused by vitamin E acetate found in illicit cartridges, but tort lawyers have not been dissuaded. They hope juries will buy emotional arguments over the science.

The same can be said for cases considering whether Johnson & Johnson baby powder contained talc products laced with asbestos, a carcinogen.

One trial in New Jersey is reviewing whether one testimony claiming such will be considered credible scientific evidence, known as the Daubert standard. Multiple scientific studies have yet to prove a link between talc in modern baby powder and any cancer, but previous cases have awarded as much as $4.7 billion to plaintiffs and their attorneys.

Will the judge listen to existing scientific evidence or hired court “experts” who stand to gain from huge payouts?

These are the types of perverse incentives that exist in today’s legal system.

Talk of reforming both criminal justice and tort law have been top of mind for many legal researchers and policy advocates for the past few years, and for good reason.

Much like the anti-scientific tort cases outlined above, too many people have had their lives ruined by nonviolent offenses that have stunted their careers and limited their successes. This legal abuse swarms our legal system and leaves legitimately injured consumers and citizens locked out of the courts.

Not everything deserves to rise to the level of our courts and our legal instruments if there isn’t legitimate harm to our people and communities. It’s the same principle as police officers in Philadelphia and Lansing being instructed to avoid low-level arrests of nonviolent offenders.

When life picks up again, and we deconstruct how our institutions fared in a time of crisis, we will need to ensure important reforms are implemented.

We need tools and reforms to avoid abuse of our nation’s courts by overzealous attorneys and prosecutors alike. That’s a noble goal we can all agree on.

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

Embracing free trade during a pandemic

Whether we will be able to get back on track on globalisation and economic liberalisation will be one of the most important tests for the post-coronavirus world. While lockdowns introduced by some governments are hopefully not going to stay there indefinitely, the perception of the role of international cooperation is likely to undergo some substantial shifts in the long run. International trade as a key instrument of promoting peace and prosperity will be a first casualty.

The EU-Mercosur agreement and the UK government’s ambition to become a global champion of free trade have become some of the most recent exciting developments. Despite a popular belief that free trade has been in decline for a couple of years, the number of new interventions implemented each year globally has sharply dropped. On the other hand, It would, of course, be desirable to see more liberalising policies instead but sometimes the absence of damaging action is sufficiently good in itself.

Graph Number of Interventions
Source: globaltradealert.org

The outbreak of COVID19 which has shattered the very roots of international cooperation also threatens this dynamic. One after another, countries have turned inwards to deal with the pandemic and shut themselves down from the rest of the world. Lockdowns are a timely reminder that in spite of globalisation – or even hyper globalisation in case of the EU – nation-states remain the driving force of global order. Where does this leave international trade?

International trade has lifted billions out of poverty and benefited consumers of all nations, races, and genders. More importantly, it has encouraged states to look beyond their borders to improve things at home through an increase in choice and lower prices as well as more export opportunities. By facilitating and sustaining integrated supply chains, the success of international trade made states mutually dependent. For better or worse, the concept of the all-producing nation-state was dissolved in international trading relationships.

Trade protectionism originated as an aspiration to achieve self-sufficiency and reduce reliance on foreign supplies. At the outset of trade interventionism, uncontrollable factors such as the possibility of crop failure in other countries were used to justify import restrictions and the subsidising of domestic agriculture. The inconsistency of such a worldview was that countries that promoted self-reliance were in no way immune to bad harvests themselves and hence had to turn to others in their hour of need. 

China is currently being affected by 6490 harmful trade interventions, the highest in the world. Ironically, the origin of COVID19 also comes from the city of Wuhan in China. President Trump – known for his extremely hostile attitude to trade with China – even called it the “Chinese virus”. It sounds like an excellent excuse to introduce more tariffs in the future, doesn’t it?

Graph Harmful
Source: globaltradealert.org

The idea of national self-sufficiency sounds great on paper but it is very hard to achieve now that we have progressed so far with globalisation. From iPhones to agriculture and vital drugs, we are dependent on other countries, and especially on China. 

Even in the EU, lockdowns and travel restrictions imposed on national levels have resulted in new border checks causing traffic jams and supply delays. “All our food is getting to the warehouses — with delays — but it’s getting there,” said Bart Vandewaetere, vice president for government relations at Nestlé. In the worst-case scenario, we would be left without food on our shelves. Hence why the first thing governments should do before imposing emergency measures is ensuring the unrestricted and smooth flow of goods. 

We will wake up to a totally different world once the pandemic is over. More countries will likely want to move the needle away from globalisation and mutual dependency to avoid the spread of new viruses in the future. Though trade cannot halt the pandemic, it can help us get through it by ensuring that essentials make it to us thus mitigating some of its consequences. At all times, we need more trade, not less.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

No crisis unused: Eurocare argues for a ban on alcohol sponsorship in sports

While the world is battling the Coronavirus crisis, the European Alcohol Policy Alliance (EUROCARE) is facing a different goliath: alcohol sponsorship… in sports? A head-scratcher of sorts, especially given that the sports industry will fall on hard times this year if COVID-19 drags on. With cancelled events and games, cutting the sports industry off from vital sponsorship income is cruel at best.

In the press release from EUROCARE, the group says:

“Millions of people – including children and young people – are exposed to alcohol sponsorship. The evidence is clear that alcohol marketing exposure is a cause of binge drinking and drinking onset among young people. It also influences their attitudes and increases their likelihood of developing problems with alcohol later in life.”

Naturally, these activists are not referring to specific evidence that points to this phenomenon. With children at a young age picking up smoking, including cannabis – both not advertised in any way – points to the conclusion that sponsorship is hardly the origin of substance abuse.

In fact, when we look at this problem we quickly figure out that it is not sponsorship in sports, or sponsorship altogether that is the problem for these groups, but alcohol in itself. They are the new prohibitionists, unable to halt until they have banned every last drop of fun. 

Ultimately, what sponsorship cannot be seen by children? Be it public advertisement in public transport or bus stops, or any TV channel or radio show: children can technically hear and see all advertising that adults have access to. The channels that are children-only already don’t feature these ads, and online portals such as YouTube allow for parental control that blocks all age-inappropriate pop-ups.

We should also stress that it should first and foremost be the obligations of parents to protect their children from harm, by educating them about appropriate and safe alcohol use. Delegating this responsibility to government agencies will culminate in an avalanche of bureaucracy that is not in the interest of consumer choice.

Banning ads in the name of protecting children is a backdoor to blatant bans on advertising for products altogether. Other vices are also at risk, as the press release also reveals:

“This research comes at a time when the place of gambling in sport has been called into question and we need to consider the propriety of linking any addictive and health-harming product with sport.”

The reality is this: consumers want products, and they want to enjoy vices such as alcohol. We should aim for responsible and educated consumers, as opposed to blatant patronising bans. Substance abuse is a real problem, yet we need to recognise that there are underlying problems that explain it, going beyond mere sponsorship. 

Whether or not alcohol is advertised has no impact on unemployment or any other personal hardship that leads to excesses in alcohol use. These problems need solving through different educational and social institutions, and most importantly through improved personal relationships. We as a society have responsibility to our friends and family, more than any governmental institution may proclaim to own.

Advertising plays an important role for consumers: it informs them about new and better products and allows for competition. Advertising is the extended arm of consumer choice, and ought to be protected.

COVID-19 gives us the opportunity for legal reform

Public life is now at a standstill in the United States.

Millions are social distancing and staying at home to avoid further community spread of the novel coronavirus known as COVID-19.

It’s important to remain positive, but times are tough. Nearly 18% of American households are facing reduced hours or layoffs at work, according to a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll. Plugging into the 24-hour news cycle and its doomsday predictions doesn’t give many good vibes either.

That said, some government institutions remain on the clock. Legislatures in New Jersey, Wisconsin and dozens of other states still have open sessions to piece together legislation to alleviate their constituents; police officers and mail carriers are still on the job; and hospitals and clinics are working overtime to heal the sick.

All these institutions have had to pivot to the situation at hand and focus on how to react to the effect of the pandemic.

Police officers in cities such as Philadelphia and Lansing, Mich., have been instructed to not pursue low-level nonviolent crime to concentrate resources on the coronavirus. District and federal courts have been shuttered across the nation to do the same, leaving criminal, civil and immigration cases hanging in the balance.

With a huge pause button pressed, what will be the effect on our legal system?

While judges and lawyers have been sent home, there remain thousands of major lawsuits on the docket that could shape much of our lives once all this ends. And that’s important to remember.

Perhaps during this time, we can evaluate what we’d like our nation’s courts to prioritize once they return to normal.

That’s especially important because for every bogus lawsuit about Amazon “price gouging” toilet paper or hand sanitizer companies overstating their claims for killing germs, there are other major trials featuring outright hysteria and moral panic that deny scientific evidence and could lead to sweeping negative changes.

Currently, there are dozens of lawsuits related to the tenuous connection between nicotine pod vaping devices sold by companies such as Juul, and the outbreak of lung illnesses that took place last year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention came out in December and clarified the injuries were caused by vitamin E acetate found in illicit cartridges, but tort lawyers have not been dissuaded. They hope juries will buy emotional arguments over the science.

The same can be said for cases considering whether Johnson & Johnson baby powder contained talc products laced with asbestos, a carcinogen.

One trial in New Jersey is reviewing whether one testimony claiming such will be considered credible scientific evidence, known as the Daubert standard. Multiple scientific studies have yet to prove a link between talc in modern baby powder and any cancer, but previous cases have awarded as much as $4.7 billion to plaintiffs and their attorneys.

Will the judge listen to existing scientific evidence or hired court “experts” who stand to gain from huge payouts?

These are the types of perverse incentives that exist in today’s legal system.

Talk of reforming both criminal justice and tort law have been top of mind for many legal researchers and policy advocates for the past few years, and for good reason.

Much like the anti-scientific tort cases outlined above, too many people have had their lives ruined by nonviolent offenses that have stunted their careers and limited their successes. This legal abuse swarms our legal system and leaves legitimately injured consumers and citizens locked out of the courts.

Not everything deserves to rise to the level of our courts and our legal instruments if there isn’t legitimate harm to our people and communities. It’s the same principle as police officers in Philadelphia and Lansing being instructed to avoid low-level arrests of nonviolent offenders.

When life picks up again, and we deconstruct how our institutions fared in a time of crisis, we will need to ensure important reforms are implemented.

We need tools and reforms to avoid abuse of our nation’s courts by overzealous attorneys and prosecutors alike. That’s a noble goal we can all agree on.

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

COVID-19 gives us the opportunity for legal reform

Public life is now at a standstill in the United States.

Millions are social distancing and staying at home to avoid further community spread of the novel coronavirus known as COVID-19. 

It’s important to remain positive, but times are tough. Nearly 18 percent of American households are facing reduced hours or layoffs at work, according to a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll. Plugging into the 24-hour news cycle and its doomsday predictions doesn’t give many good vibes either.

That said, some government institutions remain on the clock. Legislatures in New Jersey, Wisconsin and dozens of other states still have open sessions to piece together legislation to alleviate their constituents; police officers and mail carriers are still on the job; and hospitals and clinics are working overtime to heal the sick. All these institutions have had to pivot to the situation at hand and focus on how to react to the effect of the pandemic.

Police officers in cities such as Philadelphia and Lansing, Mich., have been instructed to not pursue low-level nonviolent crime to concentrate resources on the coronavirus. District and federal courts have been shuttered across the nation to do the same, leaving criminal, civil and immigration cases hanging in the balance.

With a huge pause button pressed, what will be the effect on our legal system?

While judges and lawyers have been sent home, there remain thousands of major lawsuits on the docket that could shape much of our lives once all this ends. And that’s important to remember.

Perhaps during this time, we can evaluate what we’d like our nation’s courts to prioritize once they return to normal.

That’s especially important because for every bogus lawsuit about Amazon “price gouging” toilet paper or hand sanitizer companies overstating their claims for killing germs, there are other major trials featuring outright hysteria and moral panic that deny scientific evidence and could lead to sweeping negative changes.

Currently, there are dozens of lawsuits related to the tenuous connection between nicotine pod vaping devices sold by companies such as Juul, and the outbreak of lung illnesses that took place last year. The CDC came out in December and clarified the injuries were caused by vitamin E acetate found in illicit cartridges, but tort lawyers have not been dissuaded. They hope juries will buy emotional arguments over the science.

The same can be said for cases considering whether Johnson & Johnson baby powder contained talc products laced with asbestos, a carcinogen. 

One trial in New Jersey is reviewing whether one testimony claiming such will be considered credible scientific evidence, known as the Daubert standard. Multiple scientific studies have yet to prove a link between talc in modern baby powder and any cancer, but previous cases have awarded as much as $4.7 billion to plaintiffs and their attorneys. 

Will the judge listen to existing scientific evidence or hired court “experts” who stand to gain from huge payouts?

These are the types of perverse incentives that exist in today’s legal system. 

Talk of reforming both criminal justice and tort law have been top of mind for many legal researchers and policy advocates for the past few years, and for good reason. 

Much like the anti-scientific tort cases outlined above, too many people have had their lives ruined by nonviolent offenses that have stunted their careers and limited their successes. This legal abuse swarms our legal system and leaves legitimately injured consumers and citizens locked out of the courts. 

Not everything deserves to rise to the level of our courts and our legal instruments if there isn’t legitimate harm to our people and communities. It’s the same principle as police officers in Philadelphia and Lansing being instructed to avoid low-level arrests of nonviolent offenders.

When life picks up again, and we deconstruct how our institutions fared in a time of crisis, we will need to ensure important reforms are implemented.

We need tools and reforms to avoid abuse of our nation’s courts by overzealous attorneys and prosecutors alike. That’s a noble goal we can all agree on.

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

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