The Food Nannies Are Coming to Protect You from Hamburgers and Soda

Dehumanizing market decisions is key to patronizing nanny-state policies.

In a report published in The Lancet at the end of January, lead author Boyd Swinburn makes the case for greater government intervention in order to reduce the public health effects of malnutrition.

The 56-page report is a long list of known policy prescriptions to increase public health, including increased taxation and reduced means of marketing. Most of all, the researchers seem very worried that Big Food is meddling in the debate around nutrition and believe that the industry is, indeed, unilaterally organizing the global “syndemic,” as they call it.

Take this extract:

Some government measures, including regulations for the marketing of unhealthy food and beverage products to children, front-of-pack warning labels, fiscal policies such as soda taxes, and consumer protection laws can help to constrain this supply-driven consumption of unhealthy foods.

Did you notice the term “supply-driven?” This implies that the consumption of unhealthy food isn’t the result of actual market demand, but rather that of clever marketing wherein consumers are seen as mindless drones under the influence of Big Food, not as individuals.

The reason is clear: Were you to accept that people make responsible individual choices, then you couldn’t make the argument that large-scale government intervention is necessary as a measure of protection. Dehumanizing market decisions is key to patronizing nanny-state policies.

The report is a lengthy but worthwhile read if you’re interested in a first-hand look at the sinister mindset of public health policy advocates. We are familiar with the usual measures of heavily regulated packaging, higher taxation, and constant government campaigns regarding food. The report, however, takes it a step further.

The researchers also recognize that some of their measures will fail and therefore claim that some efforts need to be made by individuals through government guidance. This is demonstrated in the desire to see these ideas proliferate through individuals as food activists. This is how they describe the opportunity:

People live in networks of influence. Their influence is greatest at the micro level with family and social circles, but people also interact in and influence many settings— e.g. workplaces, schools, universities, shops, recreational settings, villages, and local communities. Even at the macro level, being a consumer, using mass media, or working in government or other macro systems provides an opportunity to create influence.

There is nothing wrong with people arguing for change at the personal/family level. What is disconcerting is that these authors will be key actors in advising public policymakers.

Imagine the scenario: people are briefed by government bureaucrats on how to convince their friends and family to sign up to become “food ambassadors,” or whatever they would be called, leading to a dystopian and intrusive interference with people’s personal choices.

One of the prescriptions is also that there should be an international conference that can assess the necessity and effectiveness of new policies.

The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) is the first global health treaty enacted by the World Health Organization (WHO). It has been ratified by 181 countries and forms the basis of a number of national laws across the globe, including tobacco taxes, advertising restrictions, and plain cigarette packaging.

Brace for expensive food and sterile supermarkets if these people get their way.

Each biannual meeting is dominated by various health ministries and anti-tobacco organizations like the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and the Framework Convention Alliance, which are not only granted “observer status” but also intervene in the large plenary debates and use their platform to shame the delegates of any country that doesn’t adopt a prohibitionist attitude toward tobacco.

The FCTC excludes media organizations and NGOs it deems unhelpful from its meetings and discusses its policy recommendations for billions of people behind closed doors. The fact that this is all very expensive and taxpayer-funded should go without saying.

Presumably, only a minority of readers here are smokers and could, therefore, shrug off this particular example. However, the FCTC is constantly used as an example of how to regulate myriad other areas of consumption, as well. An FCTC for food would come up with similarly draconian measures as those for tobacco: increased sin taxes, decreased access, and plain-packaged labeling.

If you don’t believe it, check out this tweet from public health nutritionist Jennifer Browne (which has since been deleted as a result of backlash):

Brace for expensive food and sterile supermarkets if these people get their way.

If you don’t defend the liberty of smokers, drinkers, and gamblers, regardless of how repulsive you may find their life choices on a personal level, then you’re condemned to be next. Liberty and consumer choice are best defended if done consistently. That’s because the argument for a food FCTC will be: “When we did it for tobacco, you agreed with the same principles of taxation, limited access, and banned branding.” Will you say that “this is different”? How so, exactly?

Hamburgers aren’t exactly the healthiest of all nutritional options, yet we still eat them. It’s because we recognize that some vices aren’t good for us, but we choose the associated risks of consumption over the prospect of never enjoying anything we eat. This is not to say that vegetarian diets cannot be tasty; simply that they just aren’t for everyone. Respecting individuals’ choices without elevating our own to a pretended higher moral standard is what it means to live in a free society.

Live and let live. It’s really not that hard.

Originally published at

DEBATE: Should we slash post-Brexit tariffs on food imports to offer consumers cheaper goods?

Should we slash post-Brexit tariffs on food imports to offer consumers cheaper goods?

Bill Wirtz, policy analyst at the Consumer Choice Center, says YES.

Contrary what the protectionists will tell you, tariffs don’t only hurt the country upon which they are imposed.

If the government decides to maintain import tariffs on food post-Brexit, it is British consumers who will foot the bill for these duties in the form of higher prices. This is particularly devastating for low-income households, which spend the largest proportion of their income on food.

The UK should remember its bad experiences with tariffs on food. History buffs will recall the 19th-century corn laws, which were introduced to protect local producers against corn from France or Germany. The result of this isolated trade policy quickly became visible: while the British producers profited, the price of grain exploded in the 1830s.

The same economic principles apply today.

Remainers and Brexiteers alike should make it their mission to offer cheaper food and more choices to the British consumer. Tariffs just help farmers, whereas free trade benefits everyone.


Let consumers make informed choices about fur

Wearing fur is becoming more and more taboo. The issue is increasingly fraught and some large brands and fashion shows have decided to opt out of fur altogether.

It isn’t just firms and consumers making the choice to ditch fur. Fur farms are outlawed in many European countries, such as the UK, Austria, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, or Croatia. Some countries are in the process of phasing out fur production before a complete ban. Those include Belgium, Bosnia, the Netherlands, and Norway.

It’s perfectly fine not to like fur. And yes, in a free society you can yell at people in the street, telling them that their fur is evil. But for all your freedom to do so, you should also accept some realities about fur. For much of the campaign against fur is built on misapprehensions.

First, fake fur, which looks about the same for the non-expert consumer and which doesn’t necessitate animal farming, is not the harmless solution many take it to be. In an age in which every plastic bottle cup is demonised and outlawed, the environmentalist answer to fur is polyester. The same polyester decried as a major ocean pollutant. Fur on the other hand is a product with a long, yet circular approach: the fur on your winter coat is biodegradable. This is not a call to throw last year’s collection into the woods, but adding hair to compost is something you can indeed do.

In many countries, a large amount of fur is the by-product of meat production or hunting. In Germany, red fox hunting produces large amounts of fur as a by-product.

Yes, the fur and leather industry has an interest in selling their product, but the trade surrounding animal-derived fashion products affects millions of others in the supply-chain, including those working directly with animals involved. Be it indigenous Aborigines in Australia, pashmina (i.e. cashmere) producers and entire families involved in goat farming and fibre collection in the Kashmir region, or the 150,000 people associated with the python industry in Indonesia: people and animals are hurt when a ban is introduced, or companies drop fur products. These producers are the conservation specialists needed to maintain a population.

In a powerful recent op-ed, four conservation experts made exactly this point. They also argue: “Apparently, many millennials prefer to buy products that are “ethically sourced.” But the irony is that the economic use of wild animals is far more ecologically sustainable (i.e. ethical) than domestic animal production.”

And there are instances in which countries have failed on a regulatory level without imposing outright bans. Often, existing consumer and retail regulations are not been applied so consumers can make informed decisions about their purchases. Consumers are misinformed or outright lied to on the description of their clothing. Some producers have been negligent about this, others have sought to dupe consumers. However, responsible representatives of the industry itself have called for mandatory precise labelling of fur products and adequate enforcement in parliamentary hearings. Both law enforcement and producers have their role to play.

It is easy to demonise all consumers, but blatant bans will hurt both responsible farmers and consumers in their choice of buying fur products. Initiatives such as Furmark, an industry-led labelling system which uses independent and recognised experts from Baltic Control and NSF for animal welfare checks or ChainPoint as traceability systems, is an effective and logical solution that would help producers and consumers in the fur industry.

The idea that all fur is evil is a myth, and it doesn’t help consumer choice, wildlife protection, or responsible industry behaviour. Consumers should ask for responsible industry-led initiatives in order to have fruitful interaction between those who produce responsibly and those who wear. Screaming at customers won’t do anyone any good.C

Bill Wirtz is a Policy Analyst at Consumer Choice Center.

Originally published at

Γιατί η Ευρώπη πρέπει να αφήσει τον Τραμπ να «κερδίσει» τον εμπορικό πόλεμο

Του Bill Wirtz

Η Ευρωπαϊκή Ένωση δηλώνει ότι είναι έτοιμη να ανταποδώσει τα νέα δασμολογικά μέτρα που θα προτείνει / εφαρμόσει η κυβέρνηση Τραμπ. Το να αφήσει όμως τον Τραμπ να “κερδίσει” τον εμπορικό πόλεμο θα ήταν πολύ εξυπνότερο.

Ο Τραμπ και οι δασμοί

Η αναφορά του ονόματος του Τραμπ στις Βρυξέλλες (την πρωτεύουσα της Ευρωπαϊκής Ένωσης) προκαλεί έντονες αντιδράσεις. Ο Τραμπ δεν είναι μόνο αντιδημοφιλής, αλλά και θεωρείται στην καλύτερη περίπτωση απληροφόρητος και στη χειρότερη κακόβουλος. Το αν αυτά είναι ακριβή είναι μια άλλη ιστορία, όμως η διαμάχη σχετικά με τον εμπορικό πόλεμο αποκαλύπτει το επίπεδο του αναστοχασμού στην Ευρώπη. Πολλά λέγονται για τους δασμούς που επιβάλλονται επί των ευρωπαϊκών προϊόντων, και η ρητορική των Βρυξελλών είναι πως οι Ηνωμένες Πολιτείες ξεκίνησαν πρώτες τον εμπορικό πόλεμο, υποχρεώνοντας την Ευρωπαϊκή Ένωση σε ανταπόδοση.

Το γεγονός ότι η Ευρωπαϊκή Ένωση ήταν αυτή που εφάρμοσε πρώτη τους σημαντικότερους φραγμούς στο εμπόριο δεν τους πέρασε από το μυαλό.

Στις 18 Ιανουαρίου, η Ευρωπαϊκή Ένωση υιοθέτησε μια εντολή διαπραγμάτευσης για τις εμπορικές συνομιλίες με τις Ηνωμένες Πολιτείες. Οι Βρυξέλλες ανακοίνωσαν ότι κάθε νέο μέτρο δασμών που θα λαμβάνεται από την Ουάσινγκτον, θα αντιμετωπίζεται με επιβολή ανταποδοτικών δασμών στην Ευρώπη.

Η Επίτροπος Εμπορίου της ΕΕ Cecilia Malmström προειδοποίησε πως αν ο Τραμπ αποφασίσει να τιμωρήσει τους Ευρωπαίους στο εμπόριο “έχουμε προχωρήσει την εσωτερική μας προετοιμασία ώστε να ανταποδώσουμε. Αν συμβεί αυτό είμαστε έτοιμοι, και θα έχει ένα ιδιαίτερα επιβλαβές αποτέλεσμα στις διαπραγματεύσεις” όπως δήλωσε.

Ο ρόλος των τροφίμων

Κατά το διάστημα 2010-2014, οι ΗΠΑ και η ΕΕ διαπραγματεύτηκαν τη Διατλαντική Εμπορική και Επενδυτική Σχέση (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership – ΤΤΙΡ). Οι διαπραγματεύσεις τερματίστηκαν μετά από έντονες διαμαρτυρίες στην Ευρώπη που πίεσαν τις Βρυξέλλες να διακόψουν τις συνομιλίες. Καταστροφολόγοι ακτιβιστές εναντίον της ελευθερίας του εμπορίου προειδοποίησαν τους Ευρωπαίους έναντι της απειλής της εισαγωγής αγαθών από τις Ηνωμένες Πολιτείες, όπως τροφίμων γενετικών μεταλλαγμένων οργανισμών.

Η εισαγωγή όμως τροφίμων που παρήχθησαν βάσει διαφορετικών προτύπων από τους κανονισμούς της ΕΕ δεν “υπονομεύει” κατ’ ελάχιστο τα ευρωπαϊκά πρότυπα. Εφόσον οι καταναλωτές γνωρίζουν την προέλευση των προϊόντων, η αμοιβαία αναγνώριση των προτύπων δεν απειλεί την νομοθεσία κανενός μέρους.

Μια έκθεση της Foodwatch, μιας γερμανικής ΜΚΟ που υποτίθεται ότι υπερασπίζεται τους καταναλωτές, αντιμετωπίζει ομοίως την ιδέα του ελεύθερου εμπορίου με περιφρόνηση. Αυτό καταφαίνεται με σαφήνεια σε ένα κεφάλαιο που αφορά τις εμπορικές σχέσεις του Μεξικού στη σελίδα 47. Οι ερευνητές γράφουν:

“Το 2001, το Μεξικό εισήγαγε έναν φόρο επί όλων των αναψυκτικών που χρησιμοποιούν γλυκαντικά εκτός της ζάχαρης από ζαχαροκάλαμο (πχ με ζάχαρη από τεύτλα, ή ισογλυκόζη, ένα σιρόπι που κατασκευάζεται από άμυλο καλαμποκιού ή σταριού). Η εξαίρεση των αναψυκτικών που χρησιμοποιούν ζάχαρη από ζαχαροκάλαμο προστάτευσε την παραγωγή ζαχαροκάλαμου της χώρας”.

Στη συνέχεια, εξηγούν ότι αυτού του είδους οι φόροι απειλούνται από τους εμπορικούς κανόνες του ΠΟΕ και ότι οι λομπίστες του κλάδου αντιτάσσονται σ’ αυτούς υποστηρίζοντας ότι αποτελούν “μια μορφή εμπορικής αρνητικής διάκρισης”. Η ΕΕ βεβαίως είναι γνωστή για τις πρακτικές εμπορικής διάκρισης που εφαρμόζει και έχουν ως στόχο την προστασία των δικών της παραγωγών, όπως τη διαβόητη απαγόρευση του βοδινού κρέατος που έχει υποστεί επεξεργασία με την ορμόνη 17β-οιστραδιόλη. Αυτού του είδους ο γεωργικός προστατευτισμός είναι πάντα ένα μείζον διαφιλονικούμενο σημείο στις εμπορικές διαπραγματεύσεις, οπότε είναι σίγουρα παράδοξο να αναδεικνύεται από τους ακτιβιστές εναντίον του εμπορίου.

Ο τόνος της έκθεσης υπογραμμίζεται από την παρακάτω δήλωση ενός από τους συγγραφείς της, του Thomas Fritz κατά τη συνέντευξη τύπου της Foodwatch: “Το συμπέρασμά μας είναι ότι λόγω αυτών των Συμφωνιών Ελεύθερου Εμπορίου, το εμπόριο τροφίμων όντως πιθανότατα θα αυξηθεί και μαζί μ’ αυτό θα αυξηθούν και οι κίνδυνοι για τους καταναλωτές και το περιβάλλον”.

Ξεχάστε τις ανησυχίες για τη δημοκρατία, τις δικαστικές διαδικασίες ή ακόμη και τα πρότυπα των τροφίμων: αυτοί οι ακτιβιστές αντιτάσσονται στο ελεύθερο εμπόριο ούτως ή άλλως, γιατί αυξάνει το εμπόριο τροφίμων. Για ποιον ακριβώς “κίνδυνο για τους καταναλωτές” μιλάμε; Τον κίνδυνο των περισσότερων επιλογών; Και σε ποιον ακριβώς “κίνδυνο” εκθέτουμε τους παραγωγούς της Νότιας Αμερικής; Στον κίνδυνο να αυξηθεί η παραγωγή και η οικονομική τους ευημερία;

Να αφήσουμε τον Τραμπ να “κερδίσει”, αψηφώντας τους ακτιβιστές που αντιτάσσονται στο ελεύθερο εμπόριο

Τι θα χρειαζόταν να γίνει για να “κερδίσει” ο Ντόναλντ Τραμπ τον εμπορικό πόλεμο; Ουσιαστικά, ο Τραμπ υποστηρίζει την εξάλειψη όλων των δασμολογικών και μη δασμολογικών φραγμών. Το μόνο που χρειάζεται να κάνει η Ευρωπαϊκή Ένωση είναι να πει στον Τραμπ “κέρδισες” και να ανακαλέσει τα ανταποδοτικά μέρα που εισήγαγε στο παρελθόν. Αυτό θα ανοίξει την αγορά προσφέροντας φθηνότερα προϊόντα στους Ευρωπαίους καταναλωτές και θα επιτρέψει στον Τραμπ να προσεγγίσει τον στόχο του μιας βάσης μηδενικών δασμών.

Αυτό όμως δεν πρόκειται να συμβεί καθώς η έννοια της “νίκης” είναι στον ίδιο βαθμό πολιτικοποιημένη στις Βρυξέλλες όσο και σε μια πολιτική συγκέντρωση του Τραμπ. ¨Ετσι, την επόμενη φορά που θα δείτε να γυρίζουν τα μάτια στην Ευρώπη όταν αναφέρεται ο εμπορικός πόλεμος, έχετε κατά νου ότι κι εδώ στη Γηραιά Ήπειρο, η κατάσταση δεν είναι στην πραγματικότητα καλύτερη.

Ο Bill Wirtz είναι Young Voices Advocate και εργάζεται ως αναλυτής πολιτικών στο Consumer Choice Center.

Legalizzazione cannabis:il Lussemburgo si propone come apripista in Europa

A sottolineare questo aspetto è stato Bill Wirtz, analista politico del gruppo Consumer Choice Centre, un gruppo per i diritti dei consumatori con sede in Lussemburgo, che ha dichiarato:” il Lussemburgo diventerà il primo paese dell’UE a legalizzare la cannabis, perché la Repubblica Ceca, il Portogallo, la Spagna o i Paesi Bassi tollerano o hanno solo depenalizzato. Questo invia un messaggio forte agli altri Paesi nell’UE. Il ghiaccio è rotto”.

Infatti come fa notare giustamente Wirtz, questa decisione è molto strategica e potrebbe far nascere un mercato creativo legato alla cannabis, come ha provato a fare la Svizzera, anche se quest’ultima ha posto dei limiti alla percentuale di Thc all 1%.


Rice tariffs who are we kidding on the EU’s free trade

The European Union introduces tariffs on rice from Cambodia and Myanmar in an effort to protect Italien farmers. Another example of “free trade” à la European Union.

It was announced last Wednesday that tariffs on rice from Cambodia and Myanmar were being re-introduced, in order to fulfil safeguard clauses. The terminology here is telling. European farmers are supposed to be “safeguarded” from foreign competition. It was at the request of Italy the Commission already suggested structural tariffs in November, those starting at €175/tonne in the first year and then progressively dropping to €150 in the second year and €125 in the third year.

Back then, the proposal didn’t find a majority in the Council, and therefore bounced back to Berlaymont, which now confirmed its initial intention. Until now, Cambodia and Myanmar benefitted from the EU’s Everything But Arms (EBA) trade scheme, which unilaterally grants duty-and quota-free access to the world’s least developed countries (apart from arms and ammunition).

Italian MEP Tiziana Beghin said, according to Politico, that she had been fighting for a safeguard to protect Italian farmers since 2014, and said that the news was a “relief” for more than 4,000 enterprises and families.

The Five Star Member of the European Parliament surely completed a smart political move for her constituants, which benefit from new tariffs, or who have been misled into supporting them. More misled however have been those who for the longest time have believed that the goal of the European Union was to be in favour of free trade. What a disappointment that must be.

The European Commission writes in its press release:

“The initial request for trade safeguards on rice imports was tabled by the Italian government in February 2018 and supported by all other EU rice growing Member States (Spain, France, Portugal, Greece, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria).”

It is written in this way because either the Commission has absolutely no notion of what it means to have a vested interest, or because it realises itself that free trade does not exist in the European Union.

While rice-producing member states are naturally lobbied by their local rice farmers, consumers have nobody to speak on their behalf. Too many of the established consumer organizations have nothing to say on tariffs. In fact, it seems all too often that they back the protectionist far-left and far-right positions, in order to “protect jobs” and “support local production”.

To them, consumer prices seem irrelevant. In fact, the European consumer organization BEUC has nothing to say at all about the EU’s re-introduction on rice tariffs. Does it not matter to them that it is low-income consumers who will be hit the hardest by this form of indirect taxation?

This is not the first time this happens. The European Union constantly introduces new tariffs, and many have been added since the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. The reasons are diverse: often it is because the producing country is accused of subsidizing their local economy (which the EU does also through the Common Agricultural Policy), but a safeguard measure can be as blatantly protectionist as in the example of rice imports from Cambodia and Myanmar.

If you were to suggest something similar on a national level, you’d be accused of nationalism. If done on a Brussels-level, it is merely a safeguard.

Protectionism is purely ideological because it is based on sentimental beliefs. If we were to take nationalism out of the picture, it would be difficult to argue that international free trade would be disadvantageous while domestic free trade (say, between cantons or provinces) is advantageous. This is particularly true in large trading blocs such as the European Union. Aren’t French farmers also hurt by imports from Bulgaria?

And if internal subsidization processes of the EU are working to eliminate those differences within the bloc, then how is Bulgaria supposed to rise out of its economic hardships, if nobody can ever compete with Western Europe, make a profit and innovate? And what is the big threat anyway, when cheap food for our consumers is the result?

The price for the economic illiteracy of this entire process is footed by the European consumer, who is told that the Trump’s of the world are the problem with free trade. And while Washington D.C’s trade politics have indeed changed for the worse, they’re unparalleled in their doublespeak by an EU pretending to stand for free trade in the world, while catering to local interests in order to keep the bloc together.

Why Europe Should Let Trump “Win” on Trade

All the European Union needs to do is to tell the administration “you won” and drop the retaliatory measures.

The European Union says it’s ready to retaliate against new tariff measures proposed/instituted by the Trump administration. However, letting Trump “win” the trade war would be far smarter.

Trump and Tariffs

Mentioning Trump’s name in Brussels (the capital of the European Union) produces a lot of eye-rolls. Trump is not only unpopular, but he is also regarded as being uninformed at best and having malicious intent at worst. Whether or not those things are accurate is a story for another time, but the trade war debate reveals the level of self-reflection in Europe. Much is said about the tariffs imposed on European goods, and the narrative in Brussels is that the United States started the trade war, forcing the European Union to retaliate.

The fact that the European Union initiated the most important trade barriers didn’t occur to them.

On January 18, the European Union adopted a negotiating mandate for the trade talks with the United States. Brussels announced that every new tariff measure by Washington, DC, would be met with retaliatory tariffs in Europe.

EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström warned that if Trump decides to punish Europeans on trade, “we are very advanced in our internal preparations” to retaliate. “Should that happen, we are ready, it would have a very damaging effect on the negotiations,” she said.

What’s Food Got to Do with It?

Between 2010 and 2014, the US and the EU negotiated the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). The negotiations ended after considerable public protests in Europe pressured Brussels to break-off the talks. Fear-mongering anti-free trade activists warned the public about the threat of importing goods from the United States, such as GMO foods.

However, importing goods produced to different standards than EU norms does not in the least “undermine” EU standards. Provided consumers are aware of the origin of their products, mutual recognition of standards poses no threat to anyone’s legislation.

report by Foodwatch, a German NGO pretending to stand for consumers, also treats the idea of free trade with contempt. This is well illustrated in a chapter on Mexican trade relations on page 47. The researchers write:

In 2001 Mexico introduced a tax on all soft drinks flavoured with sweeteners other than cane sugar (e.g. with beet sugar or isoglucose, a syrup made from corn or wheat starch). The exception for drinks sweetened with cane sugar protected the country’s own sugar cane production.

They continue by explaining that such taxes are being challenged under WTO trade rules and that industry lobbyists oppose them through the claim of “a form of trade discrimination.” The EU, of course, is well-known for trade discriminatory practices aimed at protecting its own producers, including its famous ban on beef treated with the estradiol-17β hormone.These activists would oppose free trade no matter what because it increases food trade.

Such agricultural protection is always a major sticking point in trade negotiations, so it is certainly an odd point for anti-trade activists to bring up.

The report’s tenor is exemplified by this statement from one of its authors, Thomas Fritz, during the Foodwatch press conference:

Our conclusion is that due to these FTAs [Free Trade Agreements], food trade is indeed likely to grow, along with the risks posed to the consumer and the environment.

Forget concerns about democracy, judicial procedures, or even those of food standards: these activists would oppose free trade no matter what because it increases food trade. “The risk to the consumer”—what risk are we talking about? The risk of falling food prices and increased quality? The risk of expanded choice? And to what “risk” are we exposing the producers in South America to? The risk of increased production and economic prosperity?

Defy Anti-Free Trade Activists, Let Trump “Win”

What would it take for Donald Trump to “win” the trade war? In essence, Trump supports getting rid of all tariff and non-tariff barriers. All the European Union needs to do is to tell the administration “you won” and drop the previously introduced retaliatory measures. This would open the market and provide cheaper goods for European consumers and enable Trump to approach his goal of a zero-tariff basis.

But that isn’t going to happen because the notion of “winning” is as politicized in Brussels as it is during a Trump rally. So next time you receive eye rolls at the mention of the trade war in Europe, recognize that over here on the old continent, we aren’t really any better.

Originally published at

Sin taxes are taxes on the poor

Nanny-state types know this. They just don’t care.

In Britain, Europe and across the world, taxes on tobacco, alcohol and sugar are used by governments to try to push people into what they deem to be healthier lifestyles.

Indeed, nanny-state policies are infesting Europe through its political institutions. In a recent memo, the European Commission set out plans to get rid of unanimity voting within the European Council on matters of taxation, and introduce qualified-majority voting ‘as a useful tool to progress tax measures’ regarding ‘fighting climate change, protecting the environment or improving public health’.

But ‘improving public health’ is all too often a cover for simply raising taxes on the poorest in society. That so-called sin taxes are regressive isn’t even disputed, as the Institute of Economic Affairs made clear in a report last year. And public-health advocates know this.

The investor and former mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg (net worth: $47 billion), is now ‘global ambassador for noncommunicable diseases’ of the World Health Organisation. He is a vocal advocate of sin taxes on an international level. Last year, his organisation Bloomberg Philanthropies announced a task force to promote lifestyle regulations across the globe, including, among others, the Norwegian minister of health, Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon, and Tabaré Vázquez, president of Uruguay.

In a panel at the International Monetary Fund last year, Bloomberg addressed the question of regressive sin taxes. ‘Some people say, well, taxes are regressive’, he said. ‘But in this case, yes they are. That’s the good thing about them because the problem is in people that don’t have a lot of money.’

IMF managing director and chair Christine Lagarde chipped in at the end of the clip: ‘So it’s regressive, it is good. There are lots of tax experts in the room… And they all say that two things in life which are absolutely certain. One is death, the other one is tax. So you use one to defer the other one.’

‘That’s correct. That is exactly right. Well said’, adds Bloomberg.

Whenever sin taxes are introduced, so-called public-health advocates will always be among those least affected by them – they will still be able to afford as much tobacco, chocolate or alcohol as they like.

That is not the case for the poorest in society: like any other consumption tax, it’s the poor who are most affected by sin taxes, since they spend a larger proportion of their income on these goods, in comparison to higher earners.

Not only are sin taxes deeply patronising, a case of the rich deciding what it is acceptable for the poor to consume; they are also, simply put, socially unjust.

Consumers should be allowed to enjoy themselves. Yes, we should all be made aware of the health risks associated with our lifestyles. But, ultimately, it should be up to each of us to choose for ourselves what we consume.

We need to stick up for this right more than ever. Public-health advocates are now even pushing for taxes on red meat. And they won’t stop there. Nanny-state types always find a new angle through which they might ruin everything that is enjoyable.

Bill Wirtz is a policy analyst for the Consumer Choice Center. Follow him on Twitter: @wirtzbill

Originally published at

Für die Freiheit der Konsumenten: Ein Interview mit Bill Wirtz

Bill Wirtz, ein Policy Analyst des Consumer Choice Center, spricht über die Gefahren, die vom Nanny State ausgehen.

Bill, Du arbeitest für den Consumer Choice Center (CCC). Kannst Du uns einen kurzen Überblick, darüber geben, was Euer Ziel ist?

Klar! Das Consumer Choice Center ist eine weltweit aktive Gruppe von Verbrauchern die sich für Wahlfreiheit einsetzt. Verantwortungsvolle Verbraucher soll man nicht bevormunden. Wir wissen, dass es Produkte gibt die gewisse Risiken haben, doch überbesteuern oder gar verbieten sollte man sie deswegen nicht. Unsere Mission ist es, Gesetzgeber davon zu überzeugen, evidenzbasierte und nicht-paternalistische Verbraucherpolitik zu betreiben.

„Consumer Choice“, also die freie Wahl für Konsumenten, hört sich ja generell ganz gut an. Doch kann es nicht auch nur ein Vorwand von großen Lobbykonzernen sein, ihr Eigeninteresse gegenüber der restlichen Bevölkerung durchzusetzen?

Manche unsere Positionen überschneiden sich ganz klar mit den Interessen von Unternehmen, und andere gar nicht. Ich kann mir beispielsweise schwer vorstellen, dass Taxiunternehmen besonders verzückt sind über unsere Befürwortung von Ride-Sharing-Unternehmen wie Uber. Wir arbeiten etwa auch mit Cannabis-Unternehmen zusammen, um Cannabis international legal und für Erwachsene erhältlich zu machen. Es geht also immer um die freie Wahl.

Gibt es bestimmte Produkte oder spezifische Gesetze, die Ihr besonders in den Vordergrund stellt?

Wir arbeiten auf mehreren Ebenen: Transport, digitaler Binnenmarkt, Diesel, Handelspolitik, Marken, Nutzung von Wissenschaft auf Politikebene, Weltgesundheitsorganisation und allgemeine Verbaucherartikel. Da ist jeweils viel Politik drin, die wir mit verschiedenen Interessengruppen, darunter auch Politikern, besprechen oder zu denen wir Veranstaltungen organisieren.

Was ist falsch daran, dass der Staat Produkte wie Alkohol, Tabak oder Schokolade verbietet beziehungsweise versucht, zu regulieren? Diese Produkte sind ja immerhin klar gesundheitsschädlich.

Ob es nun Alkohol, Zucker oder Tabak ist: Klar, verschiedene Produkte sollte man mit Vorsicht genießen, und im Wissen, dass sie schädlich sein können. Wir haben kein Interesse daran Verbrauchern zu sagen, diese wären gesund, denn das stimmt natürlich nicht. Zu sagen, dass man als informierter Verbraucher das Recht haben soll eigene Entscheidungen zu treffen ist nicht das gleiche als den Konsum selbst zu unterstützen. Mein Heimatland Luxemburg legalisiert demnächst Cannabis: Nur weil es legal ist, heißt das ja nicht, dass die Regierung zum Konsum aufruft. Bei Alkohol, Zucker und Tabak ist es das gleiche: Risiken kennen, individuelle Freiheit respektieren.

Wie versucht das CCC also, gegen diese Nanny State-Regulierungen und -Verbote vorzugehen?

Wir haben verschiedene Tools:

  • Öffentliche Statements: Pressemitteilungen, Meinungsartikel, Recherchearbeiten, Interviews, Videos, soziale Medien
  • Veranstaltungen: Rundtischgespräche und Vorlesungen
  • Politische Arbeit: Meetings mit Politikern und öffentliche Anhörungen

Was ist Eure größte Erfolgsgeschichte?

In den USA planten mehrere Senatoren eine Gesetzesänderung einzuführen, die Billigflüge praktisch unmöglich gemacht hätte. Der Vorschlag beinhaltete ein Verbot mit hinzukommenden Gebühren, also Extra-Services. Grundsätzlich hätte das bedeutet, dass jeder Fluggast immer ein Recht auf 20kg Gepäck, WLAN, oder rundum Stornierungsmöglichkeiten hätte haben können, was die Preise in die Höhe getrieben hätte. Innerhalb einer wenigen Wochen ist es uns gelungen, dem Vorschlag entgegenzuwirken und der Änderungsantrag wurde abgelehnt.

Danke für das Interview!

Originally published at

UK supermarket meals could face calorie limits to combat obesity

Bill Wirtz, policy analyst for the Consumer Choice Center, said: “The intentions of PHE are understandable, but rectifying the bad nutritional habits and lack of exercise of some with outright bans for others is just blatantly unfair.”

He added: “Nobody is denying that we could all lose weight by only living on water and crispbread, but being a free society means being able to enjoy a pizza, a burger or an ice cream when you like. Educating rather than banning should be our aim.

“Ultimately it’s the government that needs to make the decisions regarding these proposed bans on food items. Even a simple execution of PHE’s recommendations would be [a] clear message that this government does not believe in informed and responsible consumers.”