Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Regulation - The NZ Way

The Law Commission, that sometimes intelligent, purportedly independent crown entity has yet again failed to surprise me with their paper on the public consultation on liquor laws

I confess I have not read the behemoth of a document in its entirety. I completely lost interest early on when I noticed the emotive side boxes detailing how particular people had been ruined or lost their lives through the consumption of alcohol (in one particular act of editorial desperation, the case is detailed of a liquor shop owner who was shot dead by thugs who were trying to steal alcohol from his premises). So, as any sensible person would do, I chose to flick to the end of the document and read their recommendation.

And, honestly, what was I expecting from an organisation that's headed up by a socialist former-PM? Why, pray tell me, did I hope to read policies that were intuitive, intelligent, and that recognised that the majority of people who consume alcohol do not impinge on the wellbeingof others?

No, naturally the recommended policy options, all of them, jump to the tired, worn old NZ logic that regulation will fix all problems. I can almost hear the brainstorming that went into this one. "OK, fellow Law Com brains. We all know that, based on largely exaggerated media reports and one sided submissions from addiction charities that alcohol harms some people - no, make that ALL people, even if that's an invalid assertion. Now, we also know that some people die having consumed alcohol. Therefore alcohol is bad and its sale must be REGULATED!!! YES!!! If we REGULATE and TAX alcohol, all the problems that have destroyed 'society' will end! We will all live in peace, comforted in the knowledge that we are safe from the evils of alcohol because it will be taxed and sold with age restrictions. Whoa! What a brilliant piece of policy development here! Pats on backs, everyone."

Ummm. No, actually. It's a dreadful paper and the policy development and recommendations are amateur, judgemental, and, dare I say it, probably ineffectual. They do nothing more than rehash current policies. Which is doing nothing more than rejigging something that is already in need of change, but not in the direction recommended.

As with a lot of NZ policymaking, all the writers of this paper do is delude themselves that it is easier and more effective to regulate and tax the innocent majority than it is to actually police and punish (if that's still permitted these days??) the few who deprive others of their liberty Already I've heard pro-control Green Party view that current laws have led to a rise in addiction. How arrogant and offensive. OK, I'm no addiction expert, but my logic tells me that those with addictions use mind-altering substances, whether that be alcohol, food, drugs, whatever, as an escape from deeper issues that need resolving first. How is increasing regulations and taxes going to resolve the issues for those prone to addiction?

The paper is DREADFUL, lacking in facts and robust data. Shame on you, Law Commission. I can only hope those who read its recommendations in Parliament have more sense. But I'm not holding my breath.

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