Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Bloody Hands

The Legacy of Tariana Turia

Most politicians would like to leave a legacy.  Their ego requires it.  In New Zealand, Tariana Turia has wanted to leave one of the most ambitious legacies ever seen.  She decided she wanted to leave New Zealand tobacco-smoke-free by 2025.  It is now 2018: only seven years to go for the aspiring saviour to  be canonised. 

Turia's key technique to achieve this goal was to legislate progressive excise taxes upon tobacco in all its shapes and sizes.  In the December just passed, the price of a pack of 20's was NZ$26.00.  As of January 1st this new year, the excise tax went up by 10 percent, making the new price $28.60.  This annual ten percent increase will continue until 2020.  The present price target then will be over $30.

Does this stop smoking?  Yes and no.  During the time when the prices began to rise under this "stamp out" policy, those already inclined to stop smoking made an extra effort.   They were the "low hanging fruit" if you would.  Now, the price rise impact is having little to no effect on smoking.  It is causing terrible consequences, however.  Aspirant Saint Tariana is not deterred: a little bit of suffering is not a bad thing when you have the lofty goal of making New Zealand tobacco free by 2025.

What are the evil consequences of this utopian policy?

Firstly, the poor face greater hardships.

Rachel Korff, of Invercargill, said increasing tobacco prices would negatively impact families.  "Increasing [tobacco prices] will increase poverty."   Regular smokers would likely cut from the families food supply than give up or reduce smoking, she said.  [Stuff
Greater burdens pressed down upon the poor lead to calls for governments to increase welfare payments so the poor can subsist.  Consequently, government welfare rates eventually rise so people can afford to continue to smoke.  In other words, the state provides funds for a continuation of an addiction that the rising taxes were supposed to stamp out.  This is really smart stuff.  Saint Tariana will eventually be given a New Year's gong for her contribution to the welfare of New Zealand citizens and to an elegantly sophisticated government policy.

They say that a working definition of stupidity is to keep doing what is patently failing in the hope that the failure will disappear.  In New Zealand dope has been illegal since Saint Tariana was in diapers.  But, despite fines, imprisonment, relentless police actions, and a host of other "measures" marijuana is more widely available than it has ever been.  In fact, now, the call for legalisation of dope is growing louder by the day.

Experience, then, would teach us that under Saint Tariana's reckless, dumb policies the future of tobacco in New Zealand looks bright.

But the road to that future is not without a huge cost.  It is turning out to facilitate a  massive increase in petty and violent crime.  If Tariana had been smarter and less messianic in her aspirations, she would have schooled herself up on the evil consequences of prohibition.  One such consequence is always an increase in crime and criminals.  When something is prohibited, it becomes scarce and expensive.  If there is a market demand for the good or service, and it is "outlawed" criminals become interested.  By supplying the good or service they can end up incredibly wealthy and powerful.  Criminal gangs in New Zealand have grown fabulously wealthy on the marijuana trade--and the trade has now branched out into all sorts of designer and fashionable narco products.

The same is now beginning to be the case with cigarettes.
Cigarettes are often the prime prize of robbers targeting dairies [convenience stores]. But dairy owners are cautious about the calls to change their store design.

On a Monday evening in November, Hasumati and Nanu Patel were robbed for the second time in a month.  Dairy owners are concerned that their businesses will see an increase in aggravated robberies following the 10 per cent .  Dairy owners are concerned that their businesses will see an increase in aggravated robberies following the 10 per cent increase in tobacco tax.

Nanu was pulling down the roller door to close up for the night when two men carried out an attack. Her daughter sustained a broken jaw, and the couple who have owned the Opaheke Superette in Papakura south Auckland for 27 years were badly beaten.

Earlier in October, two teens entered the shop wielding a hammer and knife and stole cigarettes.  At a time when overall crime has been on the decline in New Zealand, aggravated robberies have remained at a steady pace.  . . .  In the year to June, 800 people were convicted of robbery, a large proportion were aged between 10 and 16.

. . . .  In Onehunga dairy owners are living on edge after a string of violent robberies.  The Pavan Dairy on Arthur St has been targeted several times, and the owner (who was too frightened to be named) fears he faces bankruptcy as a result.

Further down Arthur St, the Chhiboo family have run the Arthur St Superette for the past 20 years. Each member of the Chhiboo family has been the victim of an aggravated robbery.  Muneer was 13 years old when he had a shotgun pointed at his head, sister Samira only just escaped after robbers tried to drag her back in the shop.   "My sister carries a craft-knife with her and always has her phone ready to dial 111."

The latest robbery happened in November, with cash and cigarettes taken during the early morning incident. The family-run business has been robbed at least five times in the past five years.  After the last robbery, their mother is too frightened to open the shop alone, so Muneer sits on the street corner, keeping watch.

The family can only see harsher penalties deterring people from targeting dairies. Samira said a panic button was not much use if you were not near it when the robbery took place.   Both owners of the Onehunga dairies agree increasing the prices of cigarettes meant there was a higher chance of being robbed.  [Stuff]
They say that the road to sainthood is often paved with the blood of martyrs.  Only in this case, canonisation for Tariana is causing not just bloodshed.  She is making innocent people the sacrificial lambs of her quest for her version of nirvana.  It turns out the road to a smoke-free New Zealand is being paved with blood and suffering.

The unintended consequences of policies of prohibition are so common and so-well known that when politicians stubbornly persist upon prohibition, turning arguable sins into definite crimes, the guilt for the inevitable suffering and bloodshed rests firmly upon their heads.

Saint Tariana's religion requires violent and bloody sacrifice--of innocents, naturally. 

No comments: