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Amy Klobuchar’s Journalism Bill Wants Bad Media Cartels

People will share this article on social media channels, which will drive traffic to the Newsmax website. More traffic on a website means more users likely to click on and consume content on that same website, driving ad revenue.

In this sense, Facebook or Twitter act as multipliers of exposure to media companies. But that is not how Sen. Amy Klobuchar sees it.

Her Journalism Competition and Preservation Act of 2021 (JCPA) claims to protect local media outlets by allowing broadcasters to band together to negotiate terms on content distribution. In essence, it would allow media firms to fix prices on something they benefit from: social media companies allowing links to be shared.

The bill exempts media companies from antitrust laws for four years, even though social media companies would continue to be affected by those laws. According to Klobuchar, this would divert profits of social media giants to those media companies that have struggled in recent decades — not least because of their inability to adapt to the online model.

Klobuchar’s bill doesn’t go quite as far as some rule-makers in Europe have been willing to go. In 2018, the European Commission (the executive arm of the EU) put forward new copyright legislation that would impose a link tax. This would require social media platforms to either pay the publisher for the use of snippets (thumbnail and short excerpt text) or not allow the link to be posted at all.

This proposal sparked wide-scale protests across Europe, arguing that it would reduce access to information, limit freedom of expression, and boost fake news. In the end, the EU watered down the proposal, and to this date, many EU member countries are dragging their feet on implementing aspects of the copyright reform.

The JCPA is a less refined argument than Europe’s copyright approach. To Amy Klobuchar and her bipartisan co-sponsors, it is simply about redistributing financial means from one economic player to another, not by means of taxation but through the creation of cartels. This would create a myriad of problems.

Exempting one economic sector from antitrust rules creates a precedent that other sectors will lobby to access. After all, if media companies can band together to fight Meta and Twitter, why can’t hotel conglomerates collude to limit the availability of Airbnb?

The government picking winners and losers never has a good ending and exposes lawmakers to undue influence. Ultimately the question may very well be: Doesn’t Amy Klobuchar seek to benefit from positive media coverage through this bill and its effects?

Those concerned about market concentration in the media realm should see this bill very critically. While some may benefit from cartels, citizens and consumers never do.

Klobuchar’s bill would also be unlikely to effectively help struggling media companies. Many platforms generate a majority of their website traffic, and so their revenue through social media clicks — thus, a link tax would need to be prohibitively high to yield results.

This could lead social media companies to simply block the sharing of links to news sites, which happened in Australia when it implemented similar rules. When Spain attempted link taxation, Google News shut down its services in the country (and only recently reopened after the EU watered down the local legislation).

The underlying premises of Klobuchar’s bill are twofold. On the one hand, she assumes the plight of companies is due to social media giants like Meta or Twitter. The fact that Facebook shut down news link sharing in Australia last year proves that the platform does not need news content to survive; media outlets need Facebook far more than Facebook needs them.

The other assumption is that the economy is static. Facebook and Twitter, unless they innovate, are unlikely to remain the most prominent players in the social media realm. They know better than anyone to what extent they can become redundant in the eyes of their users: think MySpace.

While this is something we accept for social media companies, we don’t apply the same thinking to the media space. Why shouldn’t newspapers and broadcasters be expected to adapt to the digital space in a financially sustainable way without intervention from the government?

Originally published here

GEG Will Impact Fundamental Rights of Consumers

The highest law in Malaysia is the Federal Constitution, which recognizes the fundamental rights of all Malaysians. If we do not focus on this matter, the validity of the law will be questioned, says R. Paneir Selvam

The Consumer Choice Center (CCC) recently organized an online webinar titled Ending Generation Endgame, Rules of Law and the Constitution.

The aim of this webinar was to examine and evaluate the Federal Constitution’s rule of law regarding the essence of the generation endgame.

According to the representative of the Malaysian Consumer Choice Center, Tarmizi Anuwar, individual freedom for consumers in the Federal Constitution was not given serious attention in the implementation of this generation endgame.

“Very little was discussed about fundamental rights or individual freedom in this matter. Until recently, Tun Zaki, the former Chief Justice, also touched on the issue of individual freedom in his statement. We can have many laws enacted, but what is more important is whether the law aims to achieve the goal of justice and equality”, he said.

The main panel for this webinar was R. Paneir Selvam, the principal consultant for the think tank Arunachala Research & Consultancy Sdn. Bhd. (ARRESCON).

In the discussion, Paneir said that the validity of the law could be questioned if the drafting of the law does not take into account the basic rights of consumers.

Read the full text here

Generation End Game policy will impact fundamental rights of consumers

THE validity of the law can be questioned if the drafting of the law does not take into account the basic rights of consumers.

A case in point is the Tobacco and Smoking Products Control Bill 2022 which culminated in the Generation End Game (GEG) has somehow curtailed the right of consumers to choose with the state apparently controlled consumer choices and actions.

“(If this happens), it is not impossible that the way we cut our hair and wear it will also be controlled in the future. This is a dangerous precedent and a wrong move by the Government,” opined Arunachala Research & Consultancy Sdn Bhd’s principal consultant R. Paneir Selvam.

“The highest law in Malaysia is the Federal Constitution which recognises the fundamental rights of all Malaysians. If we do not focus on this matter, the validity of the law will be questioned.”

According to the think tank founder who was the main panellist at the online webinar entitled Ending Generation End Game, Rules of Law and the Constitution organised by the Consumer Choice Centre (CCC) Malaysian chapter, the law enacted must uphold the principle of equality and consumer rights must be prioritised.

Read the full text here

President Biden Must Waive the Jones Act Immediately to Help Hurricane Victims

In the aftermath of the devastating Hurricane Fiona in Puerto Rico, a ship containing 300,000 barrels of desperately-needed diesel fuel is waiting offshore until it can secure an exemption to the 1920 Jones Act, mandating only US ships can ship goods between US ports, among other protectionist restrictions.

Puerto Rico Governor Pedro Pierlusi has called on the federal government to grant the waiver immediately.

The Consumer Choice Center calls the Biden Administration’s indecision a “crippling example of the harms of restricting trade and commerce for nationalistic and political gain, and why the Jones Act must be immediately waived and then repealed.”

“President Biden’s Administration can immediately waive the Jones Act to speed rescue and recovery operations in Puerto Rico and along America’s coasts. The fact that desperate people, in the wake of hurricanes and natural disasters, must continuously ask the federal government to temporarily waive this law demonstrates it is no longer fit for purpose and should be repealed altogether,” said Yaël Ossowski, deputy director of the Consumer Choice Center, a global consumer advocacy group.

“For too long, the Jones Act has acted as a protectionist racket, benefiting shipbuilding union leaders at the expense of American consumers and entrepreneurs. The OECD estimates that a repeal of the Jones Act would benefit the American economy by up to $64 billion, lowering prices for consumers and offering new opportunities for investment and innovation.

“The fact that we are in a time of economic uncertainty, high gas prices, and rising inflation, and the Biden Administration and its agencies are more focused on protecting their labor union constituents, rather than citizens in need, is a crippling example of the harms of restricting trade and commerce for nationalistic and political gain, and why the Jones Act must be immediately waived and then repealed,” said Ossowski.

“The Consumer Choice Center supports the efforts of Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) to do just that with the Open America’s Water Act. Congress can do its part to support these bills and give people relief today and going forward. “Consumers and citizens deserve better,” added Ossowski.

On our syndicated radio program Consumer Choice Radio, we interviewed Colin Grabow, a policy analyst at the Cato Institute’s Herbert A. Stiefel Center for Trade Policy Studies, on how the Jones Act is making people poorer. WATCH HERE.

The trouble with King Charles’ unorthodox views on modern farming

During his long tenure as the successor to the throne, then-Prince Charles was a defender of the environment. The Prince of Wales website underlinesthe use of “his unique position to champion action for a sustainable future.”He testifies to having made changes in his own lifestyle that made him more eco-friendly: running his Aston Martin luxury car on surplus white winenot eating meat or fish two days of the week and forgoing dairy products one day a week. When the monarch was in charge of Highgrove farm in southwest England, all production was only organic farming.

King Charles didn’t discover his penchant for sustainability all by himself. After Charles met the Indian anti-globalization activist and environmental advocate Vandana Shiva, his focus shifted from raising awareness about climate change to advocacy for more extreme measures. Shiva has repeatedly come under fire for her unorthodox claims and methods, most recently when over 50 biotechnology experts wrote an open letter to the University of Missouri Kansas City regarding an upcoming lecture. The letter attacks her support for hand-weeding — a labor-intensive farming practice used in developing countries because of a lack of pesticides; banned in the state of California — her claim that fertilizers should never be allowed in agriculture, or a tweet in which she likened the use of genetically engineered crops to rape.

Shiva also regards GMOs as “patriarchal” and “anthropocentric,” a view seconded by Charles who referred to them in 2008 as a big environmental disaster. The fact that the royal takes advice that translates to his own ideas became apparent when he published his book “Harmony: A New Way of Looking at Our World” in 2011. In it, he bemoans that the industrialized world has turned its back on God and the harmony of things — that we divorced from the “sacred geometry” by implementing global capitalism at the expense of the environment.

One review of the book states, “He regards opposing views as cynicism or blindness. He likes to overlook complexity.”

Whether or not Charles used to run an organic farm that practiced hand-weeding ought not to matter in British politics, except that it does. The new king, despite being a constitutional monarch, is influential in all nations where he serves as a sovereign, and does have the ability to lobby for his views. 

Just last year, the British press revealed the extent to which Queen Elizabeth had been able to use opaque back channels of legislative procedure to influence laws. Publicly expressed political views are also on the table. When a Canadian radio broadcaster tricked the Queen into a prank call with a pretend Jean Chrétien, then prime minister of Canada, it became apparent to what extent the sovereign was willing to go to publicly announce her opposition to Québec’s attempt at gaining independence.

The policies that Charles supports would fundamentally change the global farming system, causing significant disruptions. Despite innovation in the field of organic agriculture, the practice yields less food than conventional methods, an average 43 percent to 72 percent less. When researchers modeled a 100 percent adoption scenario of organic practices in England and Wales, and they found that it would actually increase carbon dioxide emissions because more natural resources are required to produce the same amount of goods.

Charles’ views on farming stand in contrast with the UK Parliament’s priorities. The House of Commons is considering a bill that would allow genetic engineering in crops. Such a move would be one of the more notable breaks from EU policy, in which legislation prevents the use of modern gene-editing technology. The UK has also shied away from more radical agriculture reforms the EU is embracing: while the EU “Farm to Fork” strategy plans for a considerable reduction in farmland use, the UK government promises plans that help British farmers become more productive. The fact that the “Farm to Fork” legislative packages now face delays in Brussels over concerns of food shortages further underlines the point that Charles’ preferred model of sustainability could lead to disaster.

Whatever your views on the royal family, it’s clear that we excuse irrational policy prescriptions from Buckingham Palace. It’s high time the monarch abandon his advisers and unfounded views on modern agriculture. 

Originally published here

Free up the cannabis market

Removing CBD products from the Cannabis Act would have several immediate benefits for consumers

Last week Ottawa announced that the Cannabis Act, passed in 2018, will finally get its long-overdue mandatory review, which was supposed to take place in October 2021.

Regulators will have to answer some tough questions regarding Canada’s legalization experiment. As Liberal MP Nathanial Erskine-Smith conceded: “We didn’t get it perfect, or exactly right the first time, and this is an opportunity to make sure we get it right going forward.” One of the core priorities of the expert panel reviewing the act is better understanding how the legal market can stamp out the illegal market, which is still prominent.

According to the Ontario Cannabis Store’s own report, the legal market has made significant gains since 2018 but still only accounts for 59 per cent of all cannabis consumed. So what can be changed in the Cannabis Act to target the 41 per cent of cannabis that continues to be supplied by the illicit market?

First, CBD products, those containing cannabidiol but either no or very little THC, which is what produces the high, should be removed from the cannabis act altogether. Products that are not intoxicating and have a significantly lower risk profile shouldn’t be treated the same as cannabis products that include THC.

Removing CBD products from the Cannabis Act would have several immediate benefits for consumers. The first is that it would exempt CBD products from the heavy-handed marketing, branding and plain packaging restrictions set out in the Cannabis Act. Regulating cannabis the same way as tobacco is regulated was a mistake, given the important differences in risks among the various cannabis products. But regulating CBD products like tobacco is downright comical. To end the joke, we should treat any CBD product with a THC concentration of less than 0.3 per cent (the U.S. legal standard) as a natural health product and exempt it from the rules and regulations of the Cannabis Act.

On the producer side, removing CBD products from the Cannabis Act would help licensed producers make use of the glut of cannabis that ends up being destroyed as a result of oversupply — an oversupply that fails to lower prices because excise taxes create an artificially high price floor, while the excise tax stamp regime landlocks finished product within provincial boundaries. Fully 26 per cent of the legal cannabis produced in Canada in 2021, 426 million grams, ended up being destroyed because of oversupply. If CBD were removed from the act, this excess cannabis could be used to create CBD products, which could be sold at other retail outlets, not just licensed cannabis stores, thus significantly expanding buying opportunities for consumers.

On marketing and branding, the rules should be re-written to mirror what Canadians accept for alcohol. Cannabis is no more and arguably much less dangerous than alcohol, so its sale to adults shouldn’t be more strictly regulated. This wouldn’t just be for consistency’s sake, either. People who buy their cannabis in the illicit market need to be aggressively marketed to if the government wants to keep growing the legal market. Marketing and branding rules that are far less paternalistic than those currently in place would be a huge step forward in allowing retailers and producers to reach consumers still buying outside the legal regime.

Regarding product and price, some simple steps would go a long way. First, the 30-gram limits on both purchase and possession in public should be scrapped. There are no such purchase restrictions for alcohol: an adult of legal age can walk into a liquor store, more often than not owned by the government, and buy as many bottles of liquor as they please. If consumers can buy more than a lethal dosage of alcohol from a government store, they should be able to buy more than 30 grams of cannabis from legal retailers.

Regarding edibles and beverages, the act should either remove the 10mg THC restriction or significantly increase it. This restriction gives a leg-up to the illegal market, where edibles are often 10 to 20 times more potent. If legal edibles are to compete, they have to be comparable products.

Finally, as far as price regulation goes, the legal market needs to be much more competitive. Significantly simplifying and lowering the excise tax would help cannabis to be produced at lower costs and sold at lower prices, thus making it more attractive for those still buying illegally. Replacing the $1/gram minimum tax with a flat percentage would give a significant competitive boost to the legal market.

It is worth celebrating that 59 per cent of the cannabis market is now legal but serious changes are needed to crack down on the remaining 41 per cent. If the Cannabis Act is not amended to make the legal market more consumer-friendly, efforts to grow the legal market may fail.

Originally published here

Temperance makes a comeback

Dramatic shift in alcohol consumption guidelines could undermine the ultimate goal of harm reduction

More than 100 years ago temperance organizations promoting total abstention from alcohol and ultimately prohibition were a force to be reckoned with in Canada. Luckily for Canadians, sanity ultimately won out and alcohol was legalized in all provinces in the 1920s. Temperance societies may now seem like a thing of the past but there is a growing movement of lobby groups carrying the same banner under a different name.

Take, for example, the Canadian Centre for Substance use and Addiction (CCSA). Just this month it released a new report on alcohol that concluded that consuming more than two alcoholic beverages per week could seriously jeopardize your health. Yes, according to the CCSA, anything more than two beers in a seven-day period is cause for concern.

The CCSA’s new proposed alcohol guidelines are a radical departure from existing guidelines, which state that adults can consume upwards of 15 drinks per week for men and 10 drinks per week for women without serious danger to their health. Based on pre-pandemic data, upwards of 85 per cent of Canadian drinkers consume responsibly, according to these guidelines. Fifteen per cent of drinkers do not, however, and their problem drinking is obviously cause for concern.

The CCSA’s drastically lower guidelines for alcohol consumption will target many more than the 15 per cent of drinkers who regularly exceed the current standards. In terms of realistic public outcomes, it would be far better to focus on the relatively small number of people who struggle with serious alcohol abuse rather than to shift the goalposts so much that virtually all alcohol consumers in Canada become problem drinkers overnight.

In fact, shifting the standard so dramatically could undermine the ultimate goal of harm reduction: guidelines so divorced from the everyday experience of Canadians likely will be ignored by alcohol consumers across the country.

Another CCSA suggestion is a new “standard drink” label for alcohol. Different types of alcoholic beverage would carry labeling indicating how many such standard drinks were in each container. At first glance, this may seem to make sense, especially if the pandemic has warped many consumers’ views of what qualifies as one drink.

On the other hand, a drink’s impact will vary from person to person and situation to situation. Even for the same individual, alcohol’s impact can vary depending on how tired they are, their hydration or whether they have eaten recently. A standardized drink metric might well provide many drinkers with a false sense of security, especially regarding impaired driving. Consumers might believe that consuming two drinks at a bar leaves them able to drive when in fact the impact of those two drinks varies significantly depending on circumstances. Moreover, alcohol sold in Canada already indicates the volume and percentage of alcohol, which are clearly defined scientific metrics, on the bottle.

Beyond the merits of CCSA’s recommendations, there are obvious problems with the policy model in which government funds organizations whose purpose is to lobby government for policy changes. The CCSA is almost entirely funded by the federal government. How strange it is, in this post-Prohibition age, that the government funds a group whose mission is to discourage even moderate alcohol consumption. As Professor Sylvain Charlebois has pointed out, it’s like giving vegan organization PETA money to do a report on beef consumption in Canada. There’s not much suspense regarding what the report will say.

We know that the pandemic — specifically being home-bound for the better part of two years — shifted Canadians’ patterns of alcohol consumption. But the response to a 100-year pandemic is hardly justification for caving in to the new temperance lobby. Expanding the nanny state and infantilizing responsible drinkers is not the answer to any problem.

Originally published here

Vape dan RPP No. 109 Tahun 2012

Industri vape saat ini merupakan salah satu industri yang semakin berkembang di berbagai negara di dunia, termasuk juga di Indonesia. Kita, khususnya yang tinggal di daerah urban dan perkotaan, pasti bisa dengan mudah menemukan berbagai orang yang menjadi pengguna vape dan rokok elektrik, dan juga berbagai toko yang menjual berbagai produk-produk tersebut.

Tidak bisa dipungkiri, sebagai salah satu dampak yang tidak terelakkan dari perkambangan industri vape yang pesat ini di Indonesia, timbul berbagai pro dan kontra terhadap fenomena tersebut. 

Di satu sisi, ada pihak yang menentang dan beranggapan bahwa fenomena semakin meningkatnya industri vape sebagai sesuatu yang sangat negatif.

Bagi sebagian pihak, vape atau rokok elektrik merupakan sesuatu yang sangat berbahaya bagi kesehatan, sama seperti atau bahkan lebih berbahaya, dengan rokok konvensional yang dibakar. 

Untuk itu, fenomena semakin meningkatnya industri vape dan juga meningkatnya para konsumen rokok elektrik merupakan sesuatu yang sangat berbahaya bagi kesehatan publik, dan harus dapat segera diatasi.

Mereka yang memiliki pandangan seperti ini umumnya akan mengadvokasi berbagai kebijakan yang ditujukan untuk melarang, atau setidaknya membatasi melalui regulasi yang sangat ketat, peredaran dari berbagai produk-produk rokok elektrik. 

Hal ini dapat berupa berbagai kebijakan, seperti pembatasan peredaran, mengenakan pajak dan cukai yang tinggi, hingga berbagai kebijakan lainnya.

Di Indonesia sendiri, tidak sedikit pihak-pihak yang memiliki pandangan tersebut dalam melihat fenomena semakin meningkatnya jumlah pengguna vape. 

Mereka melihat fenomena semakin meningkatnya para pengguna vape, yang banyak didominasi oleh kalangan muda yang tinggal di perkotaan, Untuk itu, diperlukan berbagai aturan yang ditujukan untuk membatasi masyarakat untuk bisa mendapatkan dan mengkonsumsi produk-produk rokok elektronik.

Beberapa waktu lalu misalnya, peemerintah melakukan revisi terhadap Peraturan Pemerintah No. 109 tahun 2012, yang merupakan perturan yang meregilasi produk-produk tembakau yang dijual kepada masyarakat, salah satunya adalah rokok. 

Dalam revisi tersebut, dicantumkan juga produk-produk yang termasuk dalam Hasil Pengolahan Tembakau Lainnya (HPTL), di mana mencakup juga produk-produk rokok elektrik.

Salah satu poin yang tercantum di dalam peraturan tersebut adalah, setiap produsen produk-produk tembakau, termasuk juga HTPL seperti rokok elektrik, harus mencantumkan bahwa produk tersebut “mengandung lebih dari 7000 zat kimia berbahaya serta lebih dari 69 zat penyebab kanker.” 

Adanya poin ini tentu merupakn sesuatu yang tepat untuk menggambarkan produk rokok konvensional yang dibakar, nemun tidak relevan untuk mendeskripsikan kandungan yang terdapat dalam produk-produk rokok elektrik (ekonomi.bisnis.com, 28/7/2022).

Sudah menjadi rahasia umum bahwa rokok konvensional yang dibakar merupakan produk yang sangat berbahaya untuk dikonsumsi, dan bisa meneyababkan penggunanya untuk terkena berbagai penyakit kronis, seperti kanker dan serangan jantung. Hal ini dikarenakan terdapat ribuan zat kimia berbahaya yang terkandung di dalam rokok konvensional yang dibakar.

Dengan demikian, regulasi untuk mencantumkan dampak bahaya kandungan yang terkandung dalam produk rokok konvensional merupakan sesuatu yang tepat. Hal itu dilakukan sebagai upaya untuk menanggulangi dampak bahaya rokok terhadap kesehatan publik melalui pengurangan jumlah perokok yang ada di Indonesia.

Tidak bisa dipungkiri bahwa, kebijakan regulasi ini merupakan kebijakan yang memiliki tujuan awal yang baik. Rokok konvensional yang dibakar merupakan salah satu musuh terbesar kesehatan publik, yang telah menimbulkan berbagai penyakit kronis terhadap jutaan orang di seluruh dunia, termasuk juga Indonesia.

Namun, kebijakan yang didasari oleh tujuan yang baik tidak berarti menjadi kebijakan tepat dan akan menghasilkan dampak yang positif. Kebijakan regulasi yang mengharuskan produk-produk HTPL seperti rokok elektrik untuk mencantumkan kandungan 7.000 zat kimia berbahaya seperti rokok konvensional yang dibakar adalah sesuatu yang keliru.

Vape atau rokok elektrik misalnya, merupakan produk yang jauh lebih tidak berbahaya bila dibandingkan dengan rokok konvensional yang dibakar. 

Pada tahun 2015 lalu misalnya, lembaga kesehatan publik asal Inggris, Public Health England, menerbitkan laporan mereka yang menyatakan bahwa rokok elektrik 95% lebih tidak berbahaya bila dibandingkan dengan rokok konvensional yang dibakar (gov.uk, 19/8/2015).

Hal ini dikarenakan, vape atau rokok elektrik memiliki kandungan yang berbeda dengan rokok konvensional yang dibakar. Dua bahan utama yang terkandung di dalam cairan rokok elektrik adalah apa yang disebut dengan propylene glycol (PG) dan vegetable glycerin (VG), yang berfungsi sebagai penambah rasa dan pembuat uap. 

Kedua bahan tersebut juga merupakan bahan yang umum digunakan sebagai perasa kue dan makanan lainnya, dan telah dinyatakan aman oleh lembaga regulasi makanan dan obat-obatan Amerika Serikat, Food and Drugs Administration (fda.gov, 24/10/2019).

Di berbagai negara, seperti di Britania Raya, vape atau rokok elektrik justru digunakan sebagai alat yang dapat membantu para perokok untuk menghentikan kebiasaannya yang berbahaya. 

Pemanfaatan vape atau roko elektrik sebagai alat yang dapat membantu seseorang berhenti merokok tentu merupakan hal yang sangat penting, terlebih lagi mengingat Indonesia merupakan salah satu negara dengan jumlah populasi perokok aktif tertinggi di dunia.

Dengan demikian, aturan regulasi yang mewajibkan seluruh produk hasil olahan tembakau, salah satunya vape atau rokok elektrik, untuk mencantumkan kandungan 7.000 zat kimia berbahaya adalah sesuatu yang tidak tepat. 

Dengan demikian, konsumen akan berpikir bahwa rokok elektrik sama bahayanya dengan rokok, dan bisa mengurangi insentif para perokok untuk mengganti kebiasaan mereka yang sangat berbahaya ke produk yang jauh lebih aman.

Sebagai penutup, rokok merupakan produk yang sangat berbahaya bagi kesehatan publik. Untuk itu, dibutuhkan berbagai kebijakan yang ditujukan untuk memberi disinsentif bagi seseorang untuk mengkonsumsi produk tersebut, salah satunya yang paling penting adalah memberikan produk alternatif lain yang jauh lebih aman.

Originally published here

PROHIBITION 2.0

Une initiative européenne propose la fin des produits à base de nicotine, avec une restriction définitive pour ceux nés depuis 2010. Autant de clients potentiels pour les futurs contrebandiers…  

Une nouvelle initiative citoyenne européenne, lancée par une organisation espagnole à but non lucratif, demande l’interdiction de la vente de tabac et de produits à base de nicotine aux personnes nées après 2010. Si la pétition recueille un nombre suffisant de signatures dans l’UE, elle devra être examinée par la Commission européenne.

Cette proposition est frappante à plus d’un titre. Les objectifs fournis par le militant espagnol NoFumadores sont plutôt courts et ne permettent pas d’établir si les règles qu’il propose seraient efficaces:

« La pandémie de tabagisme est la première cause de décès évitable. Les mégots sur les plages causent des dommages environnementaux à l’océan et à sa faune, dans les forêts ils provoquent des incendies et contaminent le sol et l’eau. 

Pour éviter aux nouvelles générations de tomber dans le tabagisme, en plus d’agir avec force contre les dangers environnementaux causés par les mégots et de lutter contre le tabagisme, il est nécessaire de : promouvoir la première génération européenne sans tabac d’ici 2028, en mettant fin à la vente de tabac et de produits à base de nicotine aux citoyens nés depuis 2010. »

En fait, il n’existe guère de modus operandi d’un point de vue politique aussi brutalement simpliste que la prohibition, tant dans sa motivation que dans son exécution. On pourrait penser qu’après des décennies de tentatives ratées pour restreindre la vente et l’utilisation du cannabis, les décideurs politiques et les militants comprendraient enfin que ces interdictions non seulement ne fonctionnent pas, mais sont même contre-productives.

L’ère des criminels

L’ère de la prohibition aux Etats-Unis est surtout remarquable par sa capacité à créer certains des plus grands réseaux criminels de l’histoire de l’humanité. La contrefaçon et la contrebande d’alcool ont enrichi des criminels bien connus comme Al Capone, John Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson ou encore Bonnie et Clyde, qui, malgré leur réhabilitation cinématographique, ont été responsables du meurtre et de l’extorsion de milliers d’innocents.

L’Espagne elle-même a connu une ère de prohibition sous le gouvernement fasciste de Franco. Le dictateur lui-même, qui était un abstinent qui considérait que le vin n’était utile qu’à des fins sacramentelles, a introduit des contrôles stricts sur l’alcool, les drogues et les fêtes – tous considérés comme susceptibles de perturber l’harmonie religieuse et familiale de la nouvelle Espagne nationaliste.

Ce n’est que depuis les années 1970 que l’Espagne a retrouvé son goût pour les vices, sans se soucier de savoir s’ils sont conformes à une vision conservatrice de la façon dont ils devraient vivre leur vie.

Dans l’Europe d’aujourd’hui, alors que les gouvernements tentent de rendre le prix du tabac et des produits à base de nicotine prohibitif, le marché noir est florissant. Pas plus tard que fin août, une action conjointe de la police fédérale belge, du service de contrôle des gardes-frontières polonais et du bureau de police criminelle lituanien a permis de découvrir deux chaînes entières de fabrication de cigarettes destinées à produire diverses marques connues, pour une valeur marchande de plus de 73 M€. Selon Europol, 274 millions de cigarettes, 88 tonnes de tabac coupé, 65 tonnes de tabac pour pipe à eau et 40 tonnes de tabac brut ont été saisis.

De nouveaux clients pour les contrebandiers

En mai, les douanes françaises avaient déjà saisi 40 tonnes de cigarettes de contrefaçon. Tandis que, début août, les autorités belges ont arrêté 45 personnes et saisi 28 millions de cigarettes. En 2021, toutes les autorités européennes réunies ont saisi 430 millions de cigarettes illégales.

Alors que les douanes cherchent des aiguilles dans des bottes de foin, essayant de traquer les contrebandiers, elles luttent contre un marché noir qui fournit des produits du tabac à ceux qui trouvent que fumer est tout simplement trop cher. Quiconque s’est rendu à la gare du Nord, à Paris, a pu constater la myriade de revendeurs qui ne vendent pas de drogues dures, mais qui sont capables de vous fournir des paquets de cigarettes, pour une fraction du prix que vous payeriez chez un marchand de journaux.

Cependant, une interdiction générationnelle créerait une interdiction stricte basée sur l’âge du consommateur, sans tenir compte de son pouvoir d’achat, et donc beaucoup plus de clients potentiels pour les gangsters inconnus du commerce illégal de cigarettes.

Tout cela soulève la question suivante : parmi ceux qui ont étudié la question, qui regarderait les leçons de la prohibition et tenterait de la répéter ? Les législateurs peuvent interdire un produit, mais ils ne peuvent pas interdire la demande – et là où il y a une demande, l’offre suivra rapidement.

Cela ne veut pas dire que les effets du tabagisme sur la santé ne sont pas réels ; ils le sont. C’est pourquoi il est d’autant plus regrettable que la pétition mette sur le même plan les produits à base de nicotine tels que les cigarettes électroniques ou et les cigarettes classiques.

Il est prouvé que les produits de vapotage sont beaucoup plus sûrs que les cigarettes et servent d’outil de sevrage tabagique. Si les gommes ou les patchs à la nicotine aident certains fumeurs à arrêter, c’est le vapotage qui permet aux fumeurs actuels de se défaire de cette habitude. Ces choix doivent rester à leur disposition.

Originally published here

Why Political Interference in Big Tech Continues To Be a Big Mistake

little common sense and a little historical context make it relatively easy to see that monopoly power concerns for Big Tech are blown out of proportion, since internet incumbents don’t last forever and even the greatest industry leaders can be beaten at their own game. Take for instance AOL’s AIM, which despite having immense market powercouldn’t maintain its dominant position indefinitely – and the same is true for others within the tech sector.

Gen Xers remember when Facebook replaced Friendster and Myspace, just as younger audiences have now replaced Facebook with TikTok and Snapchat. And while TikTok is garnering quite a bit of media attention, Twitch and Discord are poised to be next as preferred platforms

Based on these examples, the pitching of proposals in Congress regarding who can or cannot tweet seems counterintuitive, especially since Twitter ranks rather low in usersanyway. 

Yael Ossowski, deputy director of the Consumer Choice Center, notes that “If Congress succeeds in changing antitrust laws to curb tech power, it will not be to the benefit of the typical user and consumer online. Rather, it would fulfill the political goals of a coalition that seeks to curtail much more than mergers and acquisitions: certain political speech, movements they view as hostile, and products to which they would rather consumers not have access.” Indeed, having the government determine who can post or what can be posted is a more concerning matter than that of a private organization.

Given that government oversight tends to grow overtime, and that regulations rarely get repealed once in place, competition serves a better means than government interference for curtailing Big Tech’s bad behavior. Even the best of the best in the business realm go by the wayside in due time, which is why calls for antitrust action against Big Tech should be squashed and claims for content moderation should also be put to rest – despite the detestable deleting of accounts and posts based on political grounds.

The market should be allowed to do what it does best – as conveyed by Joseph Schumpeter and those who advocate for his stance – incentivize competition via consumer interests and promote creative destruction through innovative processes. 

Government interference will only generate greater forms of technocracy, resulting in any entrepreneur in this realm to spend a greater amount of time and money navigating legal matters rather than on learning how to serve users best. And the amount of big bucks Big Tech is currently spending on lobbying fees could certainly be put toward better and more productive use.

Although politicians herald antitrust as being a means for mitigating the abuse of market power, the opposite is true. Antitrust results in nanny state stipulations that inhibit competition from new entrants and increases opportunities for regulatory capture – which, given Congress’s limited understanding of the tech space, is highly likely as the best of the best in the industry will be called upon to advise and consult on the rules being made.  

The aftereffects of antitrust have always been anti-producer, anti-consumer, and anti-progress. Ayn Rand rightly asserted that, “The Antitrust laws—an unenforceable, uncompliable, unjudicable mess of contradictions—have for decades kept American businessmen under a silent, growing reign of terror.” And according to a study for the Competitive Enterprise Institute, “Aggressive antitrust enforcement can create considerable economic uncertainty, which can have a chilling effect on long-term investment and innovation in both products and in business practices that benefit consumers.” 

It is important to remember that a monopoly in its truest sense is not occurring whenever the potential for an alternative to come about is present. And while some cry foul to how some in Big Tech are calling the shots on posting privileges, or how the creation of competing platforms has been hampered by restrictions of certain hosting sites, such asAmazon blocking Parler, the social media landscape is shifting. New entrants and options may not have come about as quickly as we’d like, but alternatives are gaining ground.

It should also be noted that even when there are limited options in a market economy, this does not always mean something is wrong, in fact it can actually mean that something is right. Consumers are creatures of habit, and so if value is being provided for and people are satisfied, other options may simply not be necessary nor desired. And for most of social media’s history, this was the case. Being able to interact online at no cost has been, and continues to be, a great benefit to many. 

Limited choice can also occur when consumers consist of a small or captive market – Milton Friedman noted how it would be inefficient to have more than one telephone poll producer in each town. Fortunately, unlike Friedman’s example, the World Wide Web is a limitless townsquare and so is our potential for contacts and queries – therefore one platform will never be enough. In fact, according to the Global Web Index, Gen Z and Millennials have, on average, 8.4 social media accounts and are known to gravitate toward other sites whenever something better comes along. 

Currently, image-based platforms are proving to be favored by younger audiences, while decentralized P2P platforms are also making waves. Online usage rates, and online offerings, will adjust to interests at hand, and given that network effects are diminishing through the consolidation of accounts, converting followers from one platform to another is getting easier. Perhaps no one knows this better than Mark Zuckerberg. As it turns out, after Meta acquired Instagram and WhatsApp, one of Facebook’s biggest concerns is competition coming from within. And when all three of these platforms became unavailable for roughly six hours, in October of  2021 due to a network outage, online audiences utilized other sites or simply logged off – proving people can pivot and adjust as needed.

Rest assured that Big Tech is more vulnerable than many realize, and competition isproving to be plentiful. The government’s meddling in social media matters is not only a waste of time and resources for both the public and private spheres, but also a big mistake for promoting the progress of user services and options.

Originally published here

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