BY SETON MOTLEY
No one breaks the law of unintended consequences – more than government.
Governments everywhere decades ago launched the War on Tobacco. Which they tell us is to protect us from ourselves (which – here in America, anyway – is not a Constitutional role for government to play).
What it really is about – is more government control, and more government tax money.
Australian comedian Steve Hughes aptly describes the power and money grab:
“And now we can’t smoke anywhere either. No smoking. For our health? No it’s not – it’s for control. Can we still buy cigarettes? Of course. Where can we smoke them? Nowhere.”
Of course we can still buy cigarettes. Government is addicted to the confiscatory taxes they’ve imposed on them. As talk radio impresario Rush Limbaugh points out, if cigs are really, truly evil – as government insists – why not ban them? They don’t – they won’t. Because they’re perpetually jones-ing for the next tax coin fix.
Well, the government ratchet only ever goes up. So after decades of the War on Tobacco, we’ve arrived at some really high tax rates – and some really restrictive, ridiculous regulations. And the results – the unintended consequences – are pretty predictable.
Born is a global cigarette black market. An international underground used to not only duck the governments regs and taxes – but to profit from them. And it ain’t…the best people on the planet running and using it.
NY Cigarette-Smuggling Ring May Have Terror Link: “A cigarette smuggling scheme that cost New York state millions of dollars in sales tax revenue may have raised funds for militant groups, authorities said.
“Sixteen Palestinian men, some with ties to convicted terrorists, were indicted Thursday in the alleged scheme that spans New York, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia and New Jersey states.”
And here’s where they use government’s cigarette overreach – against itself:
How State Taxes Promote an Underground Cigarette Market: “Inter-state cigarette smuggling is a lucrative business — one that underscores how differences among state taxes can produce multi-billion dollar side-effects. An average car can transport about 10 cases of cigarettes, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Load up with 10 cases in Virginia, home to the second-lowest state excise tax which comes out to $180 per case, and drive up to New York, home to the highest at $2,610 per case, and voila more than $24,300 in profit.”
But cigarette smugglers aren’t just in the United States. To quote the 1980’s Converse TV ad – they’re everywhere.
And on, and on, and…. A multi-billion dollar global black market – created entirely by too much government.
It is in fact so profitable – some governments can’t resist getting in on the action. Up to and including the most pointless, feckless and corrupt government of them all – the United Nations (UN).
Police Smash Iraqi UN Mission Cigarette Smuggling Operation: “Geneva police have smashed a massive cigarette smuggling operation being run through the Iraqi UN Mission. It’s thought they evaded CHF 2.4m in taxes using their diplomatic status to avoid duties. The newspaper, Sonntagszeitung says the employees financed a wealthy life style with BMW’s and even bought a high end apartment in Geneva.”
Cigarette smuggling – it’s not just for terrorists anymore.
Will governments the world over own up to the unintended consequence beast they’ve created – and ratchet back their cigarette taxes and regs to more reasonable, less-black-market-fostering levels?
It would be the wise and prudent thing to do.
Thus, I would counsel that you not halt respiratory activity in the waiting.
Seton Motley is the president and founder of www.lessgovernment.org