Month: January 2022

Canadian Justice | A Dispute in the New NAFTA Agreement

Christine welcomes a panel of legal and policy experts for a discussion on the new NAFTA agreement, whether or not Canada breached its dairy obligations, and what it could mean for future trade.

Is Now the Time to Improve Canada’s Healthcare System?

Guest Host David Clement welcomes economist Ash Navabi and secondstreet.org President Colin Craig for an honest assessment of Canada’s fragile front line healthcare system and whether a private healthcare option might actually help.

Олександр Квіташвілі став радником з питань охорони здоров’я Consumer Choice Center

Міжнародна організація з захисту права споживачів на вибір оголосила про призначення Олександра Квіташвілі радником з питань охорони здоров’я. Про це повідомила прес-служба Consumer Choice Center.

Коментуючи своє призначення, Олександр Квіташвілі зазначив:«Я надзвичайно радий приєднатися до CCC як радник з питань охорони здоров’я. Я слідкую за роботою CCC з моменту їх створення, і я вражений їхніми досягненнями. Дискурс у сфері громадського здоров’я часто переповнений догмами та односторонніми поглядами, а тому CCC є справді єдиною у своєму роді організацією. У ССС блискучий досвід, глобальна перспектива та відданість захисту права споживачів на вибір. Я з нетерпінням чекаю активної співпраці з CCC у сфері охорони здоров’я».

Read the full article here

“Crypto” vs Bitcoin and Why It Matters for Policy

By Yaël Ossowski

One frequent social media criticism against our consumer organization is that we discuss smart policy on “crypto” more broadly rather than just Bitcoin.

Realistically, that means we focus on the significant regulatory hurdles to the general “crypto” economy rather than focusing solely on the merits of Satoshi’s invention of Bitcoin and a path to its universal adoption.

Whatever our thoughts on Bitcoin as the one and true asset, the political narrative is about a category of digital assets and digital cash. Regulators don’t care if you’re stocked up on DOGE or BTC, they just know that you have it, it has value, and they want a cut.

At this moment, there are thousands of online crypto services, wallets, and apps that are only available to you based on your passport or your street address.

And this only gets worse if we don’t push smart and innovation-friendly solutions that will keep the confiscatory and bureaucratic tendencies of national and supranational governments at bay.

That’s because the greatest impediment to any growth in the crypto economy, “hyperbitcoinization”, or whatever you want to call it, is the on and off-ramps. Fiat to crypto, crypto to fiat.

Until people independently charge and get paid in crypto, or create mining collectives in their communities, the on-off ramps will shape adoption, and because these ramps are governed by financial regulators, there will always be a bottleneck.

Or a threat that only certain countries with more relaxed rules will allow on-off ramps, which will necessarily limit market penetration and any crypto future.

The lower we can make the transaction costs (as an economic principle, not dollars and cents) to on-off ramping, the closer we can get to broad crypto adoption. And that means treating crypto as a category in any policy debate or conversation, whatever our personal preference

The arguments of the best cryptocurrencies can and should be fought, and coiners already vote with their wallets, their code, and their clicks. But regulation matters.

If you’re interested in learning more, check out our principles for smart crypto regulation here, and support our efforts to promote these principles at the legislative level by supporting our Tallycoin campaign below:

Why Consumers Should Oppose the Latest Senate Antitrust Actions

By Yaël Ossowski

The U.S. Senate is considering two antitrust bills by Sen. Amy Klobuchar that would significantly harm both consumer choice and innovation.

Unfortunately, these bills have been co-sponsored by members of both political parties, creating what looks like a bipartisan consensus in the Senate chamber, but not one favored by the vast majority of American consumers.

Both the American Innovation and Choice Online Act and Platform Competition and Opportunity Act appear to be general antitrust regulations but are in fact targeted attacks on consumers who benefit from the services of a handful of tech companies.

While there are plenty of reasons to criticize certain tech companies and their business or moderation decisions, inviting the government to control, direct, or otherwise halt innovative goods and services from specific tech companies would create more problems for consumers than it would solve.

Don’t You Dare Sell Your Own Products

The first bill would aim to outlaw “discriminatory conduct” by the platforms targeted, mostly concerning their own products and applications. Think of the vast array of Amazon Basics products, Google’s services other than search, or even Facebook offering Messenger.

These goods and services are offered by companies because the firms have built up specialized knowledge and consumer demand exists for them. Even though these firms sell products and offer services from third parties, they also sell their own, similar to Walmart’s “Good Value” brand or even “George” clothing line.

When it comes to tech offerings, as noted by Adam Kovacevich of the Chamber of Progress, this would basically halt Amazon Prime, it would block Apple from pre-loading iMessage and Facetime, and require Apple and other phone makers to allow third-party apps to be “sideloaded” outside the traditional app store. Not only would this be inconvenient for consumers who like and use these products, but it would also make it harder to innovate, thus depriving consumers of better goods and services that could come down the line.

Don’t You Dare Acquire Other Companies

The second bill more radically alters existing antitrust law by basically baring large-capitalization tech firms from acquiring or even investing in other firms. Again, this

The rise of Silicon Valley has been an unadulterated success for American consumers, owing to the entrepreneurship of startups, companies and investors who see value in them, and the unique pollination of both talent and capital that has made American technology a dominant global player.

This bill purports to ensure consumers are protected from the “evils” of Big Tech, but in reality, it would put American entrepreneurs at a significant disadvantage globally, inviting companies from illiberal countries to offer products to consumers and reducing the options and choices for anyone who enjoys technology products.

Why Consumers Should Oppose

Rather than protect the consumer, these bills would have serious impacts on the overall consumer experience and consumer choice: 

  • They would restrict the innovative growth of US platforms while giving tech firms abroad an advantage
  • They would degrade the consumer experience by reducing the options and services firms could offer 
  • They would empower the federal government to pick the winners and losers of technological innovation rather than consumers
  • They would limit the potential for small businesses to use these platforms to provide goods and services to their customers
  • They would increase the cost of regulatory compliance with federal mandates, which would raise prices for consumers

The American people benefit from a competitive and free market for all goods, services, and networks we use online. Weaponizing our federal agencies to break up companies, especially when there is no demonstrated case of consumer harm, will chill innovation and stall our competitive edge as a country.

If Congress wants to update antitrust for the 21st century they should:

  • Establish more clear penalties for breaches of data or consumer privacy and empower the Federal Trade Commission to act where necessary
  • Punish companies that violate  existing antitrust provisions that harm consumers
  • Better define the scope of the consumer welfare standard in a digital age

The internet is the ultimate playground for consumer choice. Government attempts to intervene and regulate based on political considerations will only restrict consumer choice and deprive us of what we’ve thus far enjoyed.

The overwhelming majority of users are happy with online marketplaces and with their profiles on social platforms. They’re able to connect with friends and family around the world, and share images and posts that spark conversations. Millions of small businesses, artists, and even news websites are dependent on these platforms to make their living.

Using the force of government to break apart businesses because of particular stances or actions they’ve taken, all legal under current law, is highly vindictive and will restrict the ability of ordinary people to enjoy the platforms for which we voluntarily signed up. 

We should hold these platforms accountable when they make mistakes, but not invite the federal government to determine which sites or platforms we can click on. The government’s role is not to pick winners and losers. It’s to ensure our rights to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness, as the Declaration of Independence states.

Usa, dopo venti anni torna a salire il tasso dei fumatori

Molto male. Poco piacevole inversione di tendenza negli Stati Uniti d’America.
Negli States, infatti, per la prima volta dopo circa venti anni, si sta assistendo ad una risalita nei numeri dei fumatori.
Questo quanto emerge nel raffronto tra i dati dei consumi di sigarette relativi all’anno 2020 e quelli dell’anno precedente.
Il numero complessivo di bionde vendute nel territorio Usa, ovvero 203,7 miliardi di pezzi nel 2020, è cresciuto di 0,8 miliardi di unità (corrispondente allo 0,4%) rispetto al 2019.

Ed è, come detto, la prima volta che ciò si verifica da vent’anni a questa parte.
“Gli americani – fa presente Yaël Ossowski, numero due del Consumer Choice Center –
potrebbero aver fatto uso di un maggior numero sigarette per una moltitudine di motivi che potrebbero coincidere con lo stress causato dalla pandemia, con le risposte del Governo alla pandemia o, ancora, con la perdita di posti di lavoro.
O, forse, tutto questo si spiega perché è stato detto loro ripetutamente, da prestigiosi fonti di salute pubblica e organi di stampa, che lo svapo, un’alternativa che milioni di consumatori adulti stanno ora utilizzando per smettere di fumare, è altrettanto pericoloso del fumo.
Qualunque sia la motivazione, è certo che la tendenza di calo si sia arrestata.
E questo è un problema che non può che riguardare tutti noi”.

Read the full article here

The CCC welcomes Lord Wharton and Alexander Kvitashvili as Advisers

The Consumer Choice Center (CCC), the global consumer advocacy group, has announced the appointment of the Right Honourable Lord Wharton of Yarm as Strategic Adviser and of Alexander Kvitashvili as Public Health Adviser.

Lord Wharton took his seat in the House of Lords in September 2020. In 2021, he was appointed the chair of the Office of Students (OfS). Prior to that, Lord Wharton served as Boris Johnson’s Campaign Manager in a Conservative leadership race in 2019 and as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for International Development from July 2015 to June 2017. He was elected a Conservative Member of Parliament for Stockton South in 2010 and served two terms.

Commenting on his appointment, Lord Wharton said:

“I’m extremely excited to be joining the Consumer Choice Center as Strategic Adviser. The CCC’s work in free trade, lifestyle, innovation, and agriculture is outstanding and timely. Evidence-based policies of which the CCC is a passionate advocate have helped improve consumers’ lives in the UK and globally. I look forward to working with the CCC on raising the voice of consumers in the policy process.”

Alexander Kvitashvili is an independent consultant at the World Health Organisation (WHO). He served as the 19th Minister of Healthcare of Ukraine from 2014 to 2016. Kvitashvili also served as Minister of Health of Georgia from 2008 to 2010. Kvitashvili was also the rector of Tbilisi State University (TSU) from 2010 to 2013.

Commenting on his appointment, Alexander Kvitashvili said:

“I am extremely delighted to be joining the CCC’s as a Public Health Adviser. I have been following the work of the CCC since their start, and I am astounded by its achievements. The public health discourse is often riddled with dogma and one-sided views, and the CCC is truly a one-of-its-kind group. The CCC brings brilliant expertise, global perspective, and dedication to preserving consumer choice. I look forward to advising the CCC on public health matters.”

Commenting on the appointments, Fred Roeder, the Managing Director of the CCC said:

“I’m thrilled to welcome Lord Wharton as our new Strategic Adviser and Alexander Kvitashvili as our Public Health Adviser. As the CCC continues to expand, Lord Wharton’s exceptional knowledge of the UK’s domestic scene will be instrumental in helping us elevate the voice of consumers. Alexander’s valuable public health insights will be critical in taking our work to the next level. I am confident that with Lord Wharton and Alexander Kvitashvili onboard, the CCC’s impact will blossom.”

Expect empty shelves, higher food costs due to truck vax policy: Experts

As trucking companies begin to feel the effects of vaccine mandates at the U.S.-Canada border, experts are sounding the alarm about the looming ramifications for consumers across the country.

Over the weekend, new directives from the federal government kicked in that eliminated exemptions for truckers at the U.S. border, who were previously not required to be vaccinated to enter the country because of their “essential worker” status.

Bison Transport Inc. Chief Executive Officer Rob Penner said Monday that his company has already lost nearly 10 per cent of its fleet as a result of the vaccine requirement. 

Read the full article here

On pesticides, “all or nothing” approaches are unhelpful

A Belgian NGO attacks crop protection products that keep food safe and affordable

“Alternatives to sulfoxaflor exist, what are we waiting for?” titles a blog post on the website of the Belgian environmentalist NGO Nature&Progrès.

The post argues that given the available alternatives to modern insecticides, it should be reasonable to phase them out indefinitely. It claims that we are facing an insect apocalypse caused by crop protection tools – however, both statements are untrue.

The warnings of a so-called “insect apocalypse” date back to 2019, when a study titled “Worldwide decline of the entomofauna: A review of its drivers” by Francisco Sánchez-Bayo, from the School of Life & Environmental Sciences at the University of Sydney, predicted a spiralling decline of insect populations worldwide.

“It is very rapid. In 10 years you will have a quarter less, in 50 years only half left and in 100 years you will have none” Bayo told The Guardian in February.

This study has since been debunked by researchers at the University of Oxford, who point out that out of the 73 studies Bayo reviewed, he highlights only those that show significant reductions in insect populations, and that he made “false statements on the lack of data for ants”.

The critiques go further. The premise of the insect apocalypse Bayo describes rests on the “red lists” – the presumably growing list of extinct species. However, the red lists contain insects that have regionally disappeared, not those that are globally extinct. In certain regions of the world, due to weather changes, certain insects displace to find more suitable living conditions. While on a case-by-case basis we can identify if human involvement, notably habitat loss, was the cause, this doesn’t mean that the insects are globally extinct.

The intellectual shortcuts in the Bayo study were striking, and not just based on an inaccurate reading of the data: three studies that he cites in support of pesticides being the only cause of insect decline do not actually say that.

Nature&Progrès goes beyond the claims made by Bayo, blaming all neonicotinoid insecticides and the neonics-alternative sulfoxaflor for insect deaths. It provides no data or link to a scientific study that underlines this argument. A hard task in any regard, namely because sulfoxaflor has not been shown to affect honeybee populations, even though this is regularly repeated.

Incidentally, Nature&Progrès dabbles in the same surface-level assumptions that lead the French National Front to demand a ban on sulfoxaflor in 2015 – an amendment rejected by the European Parliament.

Let’s not forget why European farmers use crop protection tools such as insecticides in the first place. Pests threaten crop output each year, to the extent that France has granted an exemption on its ban of neonicotinoids, as beet farmers were facing a complete wipe-out.

Meanwhile, in markets where neonic pesticides continue to be used, honeybee populations are actually steady or increasing. In short, a ban on crop protection tools threatens the livelihood of farmers, the food security of European countries, and can further increase food prices that are already affected by inflation.

Environmentalist NGOs are suggesting to move to an “agro-ecological” baseline of farming instead.

According to its original definition, agroecology is simply the study of ecological practices applied to agriculture. What started out as science, however, has morphed into a political doctrine that not only rules out modern technologies such as genetic engineering, advanced pesticides and synthetic fertilizer but explicitly extols the benefits of “peasant” and “indigenous” farming and in many cases discourages mechanization as a way of freeing the world’s poor from backbreaking agricultural labour. Add on to a hostility to international trade and intellectual property protections for innovators (“seed patents,” which are standard in all advanced crops, not just GMOs, are a frequent cause of complaint) and you can see why agroecology’s promoters so often talk about it as “transformative.”

We should remember that not all “transformations” are good. They can just as easily be bad, even catastrophic.

study by pro-agroecology activists found that applications of their principles to Europe would decrease agricultural productivity by 35% on average, which they considered a positive, as in their view Europeans eat too much anyway. It’s hard to see how a 35% drop in productivity would protect European from rising food prices, and how a complete phase-out of crop protection equipment would ensure adequate food safety.

Originally published here

Rokok, Vape, dan Perang Terhadap Nikotin

Rokok merupakan salah satu masalah kesehatan publik terbesar yang hingga saat ini masih terus dihadapi oleh berbagai negara di dunia, termasuk juga Indonesia. Negara kita merupakan salah satu negara dengan jumlah populasi perokok terbesar di dunia. Indonesia merupakan negara dengan jumlah populasi perokok ketiga terbesar di dunia setelah China dan India, dengan prevelensi 33,8%, atau 65,7 juta penduduk (jpnn.com, 29/4/2021).

Jumlah tersebut tentu merupakan angka yang sangat tinggi dan bukan masalah yang kecil. Tingginya jumlah perokok di Indonesia tentunya merupakan masalah kesehatan publik yang sangat besar. Tingginya angka perokok di Indonesia tentu menjadi penyebab berbagai penyakit kronis, seperti kanker, dan serangan jantung.

Rokok tidak bisa dipungkiri merupakan produk yang sangat berbahaya dan mengandung banyak bahan beracun. Untuk itu, tidak sedikit negara di dunia menerapkan berbagai kebijakan untuk menanggulangi konsumsi rokok, mulai dari kebijakan yang mengurangi insentif seseorang untuk mengkonsumsi rokok, hingga pelarangan total seluruh produksi dan konsumsi rokok.

Indonesia sendiri juga menerapkan beberapa kebijakan yang bertujuan untuk memitigasi dampak yang sangat negatif dari rokok. Salah satu kebijakan tersebut yang adalah melalui pengenaan cukai rokok yang tinggi terhadap produk-produk tembakau, untuk mengurangi insentif seseorang untuk merokok, karena harganya yang akan semakin mahal.

Salah satu aspek yang sangat berbahaya dari rokok yang tidak bisa kita pungkiri adalah rokok dapat menyebabkan para konsumennya mengalami kecanduan yang menyebabkan mereka sangat sulit untuk menghentikan kebiasaannya. Salah satu zat dalam rokok yang dikaitkan dengan perilaku kecanduan tersebut adalah nikotin yang terkandung di dalam rokok konvensional yang dibakar.

Untuk itu, berbagai pemerintah di dunia banyak mengeluarkan kebijakan yang bukan hanya dalam bentuk “perang terhadap rokok”, tetapi juga “perang terhadap nikotin” secara umum. Dengan demikian, produk-produk yang kerap menjadi sasaran dari kebijakan yang ditujukan untuk “memitigasi” dampak yang sangat berbahaya dari rokok tersebut bukan hanya dikenakan terhadap rokok konvensional yang dibakar, tetapi juga produk-produk alternatif lain yang mengandung nikotin, salah satunya adalah rokok elektronik atau yang juga dikenal dengan nama vape.

Tidak sedikit pula negara-negara yang menerapkan kebijakan “perang terhadap vape” secara keras, bahkan lebih keras daripada terhadap rokok konvensional yang dibakar. Australia misalnya, melarang kegiatan jual beli rokok elektronik tanpa resep dokter. Ini berarti, sebagian besar masyarakat Australia tidak akan bisa untuk mengkonsumsi rokok elektronik (abc.net.au, 8/9/2021).

Indonesia sendiri menerapkan kebijakan vape atau rokok elektronik tidak seketat dengan aturan yang diberlakukan di Australia. Salah satu bentuk kebijakan regulasi terhadap rokok elektornik atau vape yang diberlakukan di Indonesia adalah pengenaan cukai terhadap produk-produk rokok elektronik tersebut.

Namun, bukan berarti lantas tidak ada pihak-pihak yang memiliki keinginan untuk mengetatkan aturan tersebut. Beberapa kelompok dan organisasi di Indonesia misalnya, menginginkan agar produk-produk vape atau rokok elektronik untuk dilarang secara total di negara kita. Beberapa organisasi tersebut diantaranya adalah Ikatan Dokter Indonesia (IDI) dan juga Lembaga Perlindungan Anak Indonesia (LPAI) (mediaindonesia.com, 26/9/2019).

Tetapi pendekatan tersebut bukanlah sesuatu yang tepat. Menyatakan perang terhadap rokok elektronik merupakan langkah yang kontra produktif untuk mengurangi dampak negatif dari rokok. Tidak bisa dipungkiri bahwa rokok merupakan produk yang sangat membahayakan kesehatan karena mengandung bahan beracun, namun bukan berarti melarang total produk-produk alternatif seperti rokok elektronik menjadi solusinya.

Salah satu aspek yang membuat sebagian kalangan menganggap bahwa rokok elektronik dengan rokok konvensional yang dibakar tidak jauh berbeda adalah kedua produk tersebut sama-sama mengandung nikotin. Padahal, yang membuat rokok konvensional sangat berbahaya bukan semata-mata karena nikotin yang terkandung di dalamnya, melainkan berbagai zat beracun yang bisa menyebabkan berbagai penyakit kronis, seperti kanker dan serangan jantung (Consumer Choice Center, 2021).

Oleh karena itu, melarang produk vape, atau juga produk-produk nikotin lainnya seperti permen karet nikotin, justru akan sangat merugikan khususnya para perokok rokok konvensional yang dibakar. Hal ini dikarenakan mereka menjadi tidak memiliki alternatif produk-produk lainnya. Nikotin memang dapat membuat kecanduan, dan orang-orang yang tidak merokok memang sebaiknya tidak memulai untuk mengkonsumsi rokok. Tetapi, mereka yang sudah terlanjur kecanduan merokok harus diberikan kesempatan untuk memilih produk lain yang bisa membantu mereka untuk menghentikan kebiasaannya tersebut.

Selain itu, sangat penting juga bagi kita untuk kembali berkaca kepada sejarah, bahwa kebijakan prohibisi produk-produk apapun niscaya akan menemui kegagalan. Kebijakan pelarangan produk-produk tertentu, sepeerti minuman beralkohol dan termasuk juga produk-produk nikotin, akan memunculkan pasar gelap yang tentunya akan menguntungkan berbagai organisasi kriminal.

Sebaiknya, nikotin diperlakukan sama dengan hal-hal lain seperti kafein, yang banyak digunakan oleh konsumen untuk rekreasi. Yang dibutuhkan adalah regulasi yang tepat, yang dapat meminimalisir dampak negatif dari zat-zat tersebut, dan bukan pelarangan total yang sangat kontra produktif.

Originally published here

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