Backdoor regulation of consumers, and its political attractions

Government often makes a show of regulating business when its real aim is to regulate what consumers or citizens do. When direct coercion seems “brutal, unfair, and wrong… Switching to indirect coercion is a shrewd way for government to sedate our moral intuition.” Some examples that come to mind: campaigns that at base aim to regulate consumers’ eating and drinking choices instead often take the form of campaigns against manufacturers and sellers of food and drink, who as targets are inevitably less humanized and sympathetic. [Bryan Caplan]

One Comment

  • The latest iteration of this is HR 5886 which shockingly is a measure introduced by Congressman Luke Messer, an Indiana Republican. The bill seeks to have the small businesses of the antiquities and art trade be subject to money laundering regulations under the Bank Secrecy Act. This bill raises serious questions of compliance costs, as well as the possibility that the information that will be collected will be misused by law enforcement with contacts to the archaeological lobby to create profiles of collectors that can then be harassed. Apparently, that lobby— which detests private collecting and favors state control of everything old— has convinced the Congressman despite substantial evidence to the contrary that antiquities and art is a major ISIS funding source. Hopefully, common sense and what are supposed to be traditional Republican values will prevail, but not sanguine given their scare tactics which have not been subject to the scrutiny they deserve. See Their ultimate aim however is to end private collecting, something also advocated by their allies in authoritarian states like Egypt.

    Hope you can cover this further in your great blog.