We are ruled by idiots


A crucial economic distinction is between a complement (no, not a compliment) and a substitute. For example, it is often asserted that more pornography leads to more sex crime: we are indeed primates and thus potentially subject to the "monkey see, monkey do" cause of action. That would mean that pornography is a complement to sex crimes: one aids in causing the other. However, as it happens, the rate of sex crimes has slumped in these past couple of decades as pornography, of ever greater detail and possibly vileness, has become ever more available. We must therefore conclude that the two are, generally and upon average, substitutes. Urges are expended upon the one meaning that less of the other happens. It is, of course, absolutely vital that public policy manages to make this distinction. For the problem is the sex crimes, not the pornography. Thus we should not ban the one in order to reduce the incidence of the other, the real problem. This has been violated by our rulers as this reduction in the real problem also applies to child pornography, as we've noted here before. Yet child pornography is highly illegal in order to reduce the number of sexual crimes committed against children.

Yes, we agree, it will be very difficult for any politician to get that across to people. However, we've another example of just this sort of mistake. We've just had a change in the law:

On 1 October 2015 it became illegal:

for retailers to sell electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) or e-liquids to someone under 18 for adults to buy (or try to buy) tobacco products or e-cigarettes for someone under 18

Are e-cigarettes a complement or a substitute to teenagers smoking cigarettes, the things which are actually the problem?

More than 40 states have banned the sale of electronic cigarettes to minors, but a new study out of the Yale School of Public Health indicates that these measures have an unintended and dangerous consequence: increasing adolescents’ use of conventional cigarettes.

Using data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the research finds that state bans on e-cigarette sales to minors yield a 0.9 percentage point increase in rates of recent conventional cigarette use by 12 to 17 year olds, relative to states without these bans.

A substitute not a complement, therefore e-cigarettes should not be banned for teenagers it might even be sensible to encourage their use.

And we must then conclude that we are ruled by idiots.

Those of us who do or have worked in and around Westminster have known this for a long time. It's why we expend so much effort in trying to bring the rest of the country up to speed on the matter.