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"We're from the government and we're here to help you!"

There's an old truism that "the power to tax is the power to destroy." If the government doesn't want something, it can quite literally tax it out of existence.

But there's another, more subtle approach: death by over-regulation.

Every couple of years or so, the Maine legislature suddenly notices the excessive number of cigarette butts on its public beaches and other areas. Then some legislator gets the bright idea of putting a "deposit" on cigarette butts (usually a nickel), to "encourage" people to save their butts and turn them back in. This usually goes down in flames (so to speak) when someone gets enough common sense to point out four obvious flaws:

1) Hardly anybody except children and the homeless would willingly handle cigarette butts for a lousy nickel apiece;
2) No retailer or recycling center wants to accept, count, and store non-recyclable, gross things like cigarette butts;
3) It'll effectively add $2.00 per pack, or $20.00 per carton, and drive even more business across the state line to New Hampshire.
4) There is absolutely no mechanism to prevent people from out-of-state bringing in their own cigarette butts to make a few bucks.

But recently, two more examples of attempted "death by overregulation" have appeared in the news.

First, McGehee noted a proposed law to require a serial number to be etched on every single bullet. He and his commenters have already adequately pointed out the flaws in this stroke of brilliance, so all I'll add is this: to be of any use at all to police, the number will have to be etched on the bullet itself, not the casing, and that's a very small, very soft piece of lead.

Next, this morning's Boston Globe has the Bay State's latest effort to curtail smoking. This time, disguising their efforts as a "safety" move, they want to require all cigarettes sold in Massachusetts to be "fire-safe." These cigarettes are designed to go out if they are not constantly being drawn upon. And while it will increase the cost of those cigarettes, hey, it's only the smokers who will have to pay the cost.

I've said before I have no use for cigarettes. But if the state wants to get rid of smoking, why don't they just put forth a law banning it entirely? It'd be a hell of a lot more honest.

The same holds true for California. Why don't you just outlaw guns entirely? Once you get past that pesky Second Amendment, you can end up a peaceful paradise. Just like those other places that have led the way, like Washington, DC, New York, and Boston.


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Comments (13)

Amen, to that. I loved how... (Below threshold)

Amen, to that. I loved how the news stories on the "safe cigarette" proposal all claim a certain percentage of house fires were caused by "cigarettes", and not by morons who go to sleep with a burning object in their hand.

And if they're going to put a 5-cent deposit on anything, start by lowering the price of lottery scratch tickets by 5-cents and sticking the 5-cents back on as a deposit. Oh, wait, then the state would make less money off of them. Never mind, won't happen.

I could make 20 bucks a day just walking around the block where I work, picking up scratch tickets.

The cigarette tax is an eno... (Below threshold)
bullwinkle:

The cigarette tax is an enormous revenue stream, in Texas sales are about 1.5 Billion packs sold a year, and the tax revenue is currently $615 million (.41 per pack) from that PLUS sales tax collected on the initial sales of $450 billion (8% sales tax collected on the cigarettes AND the cigarette tax) additional $36 million). The states don't want to outlaw cigarettes, they don't even really want to curtail smoking, they want to give the appearance of caring but they are too dependent of the income. Any time a state gets the opportunity to impose a voluntary tax they take it, and even though they might refer to it as a sin tax it's a sin they want people to keep committing. If that wasn't true they'd set the tax high enough to make the sin cost prohibitive, rather than setting the tax at whatever rate the market can stand. The Texas state budget for FY 2004 was $400 million in the black, without cigarettes producing $641 million where would they have gotten the money? They claim that cigarette caused health problems are a big cost to the state but they sure don't set aside the tax revenues from cigarettes to cover those costs. They didn't set aside any of the $15.3 billion settlement they got from the tobacco companies when they negotiated away the right for Texans to sue individually.

The best examples ... (Below threshold)
dodgeman:

The best examples of this are in the gun and auto regulations. As an example, trying to get a weapons ban on (name your poison - cheap Saturday night specials, assault rifles, cop-killers, etc.) whereby the legislature will enact a law to ban weapons that are actually specified by a bureacratic office. Then any weapon some unelected goon chooses to put on the special list immediately becomes illegal, without vote, discussion, or debate.

With the auto industry, increasing exhaust emissions, CAFE standards, safety requirements, etc. are driving the industry away from free market choice. Small cars, small engines, thousands of dollars worth of airbags, etc. and so forth are all driven by govt bureacratic action.

4) There is absolutely n... (Below threshold)
Anachronda:

4) There is absolutely no mechanism to prevent people from out-of-state bringing in their own cigarette butts to make a few bucks.

Here's an example from California where a ring made $3 million shipping in plastic bottles from surrounding states and Mexico.

"But if the state wants to ... (Below threshold)
Toby928:

"But if the state wants to get rid of smoking, why don't they just put forth a law banning it entirely? It'd be a hell of a lot more honest."

Absolutely, as a on-again-off-again-can't-seem-to-stay-quit smoker, I wish that they would outlaw tobacco. The trick is to avoid the sudden loss of revenue and the prohibition-style bootlegging and crime. How about this: Everyone who is of legal smoking age is grandfathered in, that is the legal age goes up by one year every year. No new legal smokers. That give the farmers and the governments at least 30 years to get used to declining sales and tax revenue.

Comments?

Tobias

There is a taser gizmo that... (Below threshold)

There is a taser gizmo that,when discharged, litters the scene with little taggets that have a unique code.

I wonder if one could include a few dozen microspheres with some sort of identifier into the actual bullet, so even if it fragments, the docs can dig out who fired the shot.

This is of course, not contemplating sensible civil liberty objections, which I may in fact agree with.

Tim, barring a complete soc... (Below threshold)
dodgeman:

Tim, barring a complete societal breakdown, many people currently possess the tools and ability to make guns and ammo in their garage. Crude, and perhaps not as accurate as factory equipment, but just as deadly as any Colt or Ruger.

Handloaders (people that reload ammo using commercial components) have often posed a special problem to bureacrats who wish to regulate bullets out of existance. Simply put, the genie is out of the bottle.

Any regulation to add components to ammo would be useless by individuals making black-market ammo.

Two thoughts:The s... (Below threshold)
Robert:

Two thoughts:

The self-extinguishing cigarette is nothing new and is probably not that expensive to implement, seeing as it used to happen accidently due to poor manufacture. The main disadvantages are that they irritate smokers by going out in the ashtray, and they cost the companies money because they are not burning when they aren't being smoked.

Dodgeman;
Unless you're handloading with home made black powder, there are tags in your smokeless gunpowder. At least there were 15 years ago. I don't know if there are any in factory ammo, but there could be.

Robert.... Taggants in the ... (Below threshold)
JohnW:

Robert.... Taggants in the propellant are one thing; the proposal was to laser-engrave a serial number on the slug itself, for tracing if/when recovered. Many diamonds & gems are serialized this way now; you need a microscope to see them!

Problems with that concept would be:

1) Billions of rounds of unserialized ammo available worldwide

2) Purchasing ammo or bullets from abroad with no serial #s

3) Ease of defacing/removing the number with sandpaper, file, etc.,

4) One could always shoplift a box of 9 mm! although ripping off a gunshop might get you in the "stupid criminals" file... :)

5) especially with soft lead slugs (ass opposed to FMJ or hollowpoints), we assume the process of impacting the target leaves the s/n intact.

All in all, an idea reasonable on the surface (track crime - good thing) that's completely impractical & nearly worthless.

Just like the programs that require ballistic profiling of handguns, or each handgun to be accompanied by a slug & fired case to be given over to law enforcement on purchase....

Read recently that in states where they do this, after several years & substantial costs, absolutely no prosecutions/convictions have resulted from all this accumulated ballistic data.

"Unless you're handloading ... (Below threshold)
dodgeman:

"Unless you're handloading with home made black powder, there are tags in your smokeless gunpowder."

They produce powder by the ton. If enough residue can be found at the scene, all they could tell, theoretically, is that it's from such and such lot #, which could have been used in up to several hundred thousand rounds of ammuntion. Tracing would be a nightmare, and would get not one step closer to actually solving a crime.

While that's not to say it can't be done, but my bet is that the same regulatory dollars spent trying to trace bullets or powder would be a hell of a lot more effective elsewhere. Like actually paying for cops on the street, interviewing people and patrolling neighborhoods.

John, don't forget the burd... (Below threshold)
dodgeman:

John, don't forget the burden of having to file paperwork on every bullet you purchase. Imagine trying to buy a brick (500 rnds) or .22 rimfire.

My <a href="http://nooilfor... (Below threshold)
It's only a short time befo... (Below threshold)

It's only a short time before they start banning it in homes, under 'health' pretenses. You watch. In SF, they banned it in public parks! What a crock. The whole secondhand smoke thing is a scam




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