Nanny’s agenda exposed

Christian Kerr has a magnificent piece in the Australian on the nanny state.

THE cigarette companies, public health activists believe, will slowly bleed to death thanks to tobacco plain packaging. Now they are going in search of other beasts to slay. But threats may not be as fearsome as they say.

“Tobacco,” Nicola Roxon, who indulged the activist brigade with a bureaucracy all of their very own during her time as health minister, the Australian National Preventative Health Agency, said back then, “is the only legal product sold in Australia which if used as intended will kill you. No other product is in that category.”

Her words have not discouraged the public health lobby. Alcohol — and food — are in their sights. And they are moving.

He also has great coverage of Eric Crampton – I discovered yesterday that some Cats were unfamiliar with this freedom fighter.

Last November University of Canterbury economist Eric Crampton dissected in Australasian Science Magazine a 2008 study commissioned by our Department of Health and Ageing that estimated the social costs of alcohol abuse in Australia at $15 billion.

Crampton began with a joke. “A mathematician, an accountant and an economist are bidding for a bit of consulting work,” he said. “The sponsor wants to know what two plus two yields. The mathematician says it’s four. The accountant says it’s four, give-or-take 10 per cent. The economist closes the door and whispers to the sponsor: ‘What do you want it to be?’ ”

Crampton also made it clear that the set of costs the report’s authors had counted as “social” was also a joke. It even included “the now superfluous cooking and cleaning that a regrettably deceased bachelor had performed for himself, which was valued at the cost of hiring in the services. Excising double-counting and focusing on the costs that drinkers impose upon others yielded a more plausible $3.8bn in social costs from harmful alcohol use.”

Why do the activists play this game? There is considerable public funding and academic prestige at stake. Small and often overlapping teams of researchers at the University of Sydney received well over $2 million for projects beginning between 2009 and last year looking at smoking, “What is influential public health research” and “Corporate influences on media reporting of health”.

He blogs at Offsetting Behaviour – see the blog roll – and tweets @EricCrampton. Eric will be in Sydney for the Australian Libertarian Conference in April.

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