Does paternalistic regulation work?

Coercive nanny state policies create a number of problems and costs. ‘Sin taxes’ raise the cost of living and hurt the poor. High prices fuel the black market and lead to corruption. Advertising bans restrict competition and stifle innovation. Smoking bans cause serious damage to the hospitality industry. Excessive regulation creates excessive bureaucracy and drains police resources.

Insofar as ‘public health’ campaigners acknowledge the damage done by their policies, they argue that it is more than offset by the benefit to health – the ends justify the means. But there is little evidence that countries with more paternalistic policies enjoy greater health or longevity. As Figure 1 shows below, there is no correlation whatsoever between Nanny State Index scores and life expectancy.

Life Expectancy

Figure 1.

 

Tobacco and Alcohol

Nor is there a correlation between tobacco control scores and lower smoking rates (Figure 2), or between alcohol control scores and lower rates of alcohol consumption (Figure 3).

Figure 2.

Figure 3.

 

Prosperity

But there is a strong relationship between health and wealth. Figure 4 shows the relationship between life expectancy and economic prosperity as measured by per capita GDP.[1] This suggests that pursuing economic growth would bring much greater benefits to health than coercive efforts to control personal behaviour with bans and taxes.

[1] Ireland and Luxembourg have been excluded from this graph as they are corporate tax havens whose exceptionally high per capita GDP figures do not accurately reflect the citizens’ incomes.

Figure 5: Life expectancy and per capita GDP scores

 

Thanks

The Nanny State Index could not have been compiled without the valuable assistance of our network of friends throughout Europe and the think tanks listed in the sidebar. While every effort has been made to verify the data from multiple sources, mistakes can happen so please notify us if you believe the Index contains any errors.

About

The Nanny State Index (NSI) is a league table of the worst places in the European Union to eat, drink, smoke and vape. The initiative was launched in March 2016 and was a media hit right across Europe. It is masterminded and led by IEA’s Christopher Snowdon with partners from all over Europe.

Enquiries: info@epicenternetwork.eu

Download the pdf here.


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Previous version: 2017

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About the Editor

Christopher Snowdon is the head of Lifestyle Economics at the Institute of Economic Affairs. His research focuses on lifestyle freedoms, prohibition and policy-based evidence. He is a regular contributor to the Spectator Health blog and often appears on TV and radio discussing social and economic issues.

Snowdon’s work encompasses a diverse range of topics including ‘sin taxes’, state funding of charities, happiness economics, ‘public health’ regulation, gambling and the black market. Recent publications include ‘Drinking, Fast and Slow’‘The Proof of the Pudding: Denmark’s Fat Tax Fiasco’‘The Crack Cocaine of Gambling?’‘The Wages of Sin Taxes’‘Drinking in the Shadow Economy’‘Sock Puppets: How the government lobbies itself and why’ and ‘Closing Time: Who’s killing the British pub?’. He is also the author of ‘Selfishness, Greed and Capitalism’ (2015), ‘The Art of Suppression’ (2011), ‘The Spirit Level Delusion’ (2010), ‘Velvet Glove, Iron Fist’ (2009) and Killjoys (2017).


Does paternalistic regulation work?

Coercive nanny state policies create a number of problems and costs. ‘Sin taxes’ raise the cost of living and hurt the poor. High prices fuel the black market and lead to corruption. Advertising bans restrict competition and stifle innovation. Smoking bans cause serious damage to the hospitality industry. Excessive regulation creates excessive bureaucracy and drains police resources.

Insofar as ‘public health’ campaigners acknowledge the damage done by their policies, they argue that it is more than offset by the benefit to health – the ends justify the means. But there is little evidence that countries with more paternalistic policies enjoy greater health or longevity. As Figure 1 shows below, there is no correlation whatsoever between Nanny State Index scores and life expectancy.

Life Expectancy

Figure 1.

 

Tobacco and Alcohol

Nor is there a correlation between tobacco control scores and lower smoking rates (Figure 2), or between alcohol control scores and lower rates of alcohol consumption (Figure 3).

Figure 2.

Figure 3.

 

Prosperity

But there is a strong relationship between health and wealth. Figure 4 shows the relationship between life expectancy and economic prosperity as measured by per capita GDP.[1] This suggests that pursuing economic growth would bring much greater benefits to health than coercive efforts to control personal behaviour with bans and taxes.

[1] Ireland and Luxembourg have been excluded from this graph as they are corporate tax havens whose exceptionally high per capita GDP figures do not accurately reflect the citizens’ incomes.

Figure 5: Life expectancy and per capita GDP scores

 

Thanks

The Nanny State Index could not have been compiled without the valuable assistance of our network of friends throughout Europe and the think tanks listed in the sidebar. While every effort has been made to verify the data from multiple sources, mistakes can happen so please notify us if you believe the Index contains any errors.

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