By JR on Sunday, June 26, 2011
Banning is supposed to be an extreme policy, used in severe circumstances with great caution. Today, however, it seems to be the first tool politicians reach for amid public protest. Our representatives are banning everything – from live cattle exports to cigarette advertising, from mortgage exit fees to swearing in public. In the time of focus group politics and governance by poll, the ‘ban’ is the new ‘in thing.’
While some may think this is harmless, the real economic and social ramifications of knee-jerk policies are repeatedly underestimated.
The recent ban on Spanish cucumbers thought to be contaminated with E. coli cost Spanish farmers $306 million per week. The suspension of live cattle export to Indonesia has already cost $10 million to the Australian Agriculture Company and threatens to shut down many smaller Aussie farmers. Melbourne’s 2am lockout trial in 2008 cost many bars and clubs thousands in lost revenue with no reduction in violence.
Of significant concern is the estimated $3 billion in lost revenue to be borne by pokies if Independent MP Andrew Wilkie gets to put limits on gambling, not counting the flow-on effects.
Apart from the retrospective economic costs of wrongheaded restrictions, there are social costs to individual liberty. Discussions of whether Ban A will reduce smoking or whether Ban B will reduce gambling ignore the fundamental issue of individual rights.
The real question is whether Australia is committed to a free society or whether we are prepared to have the government decide for us what we can advertise, how we may do business, how we manage risk and health, what mistakes we may make, and how we speak to each other.
The more the public offloads individual decisions and responsibilities to the state, the less say we have in governing ourselves.
The above is a press release from the Centre for Independent Studies, dated 24 June. Enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org. Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590.