Skip to main content

Nanny sadly often does not know best and well-meaning is not necessarily well doing. When the State decides to get involved in the life of grown up citizens and restrict their freedoms and choices then it better have a very good reason and very good evidence to do so. Sadly this is rarely the case. For too many policy makers good intentions are more important than good results.

If you ask consumers do they think it is a good idea to put calorie counts on menus the response is very positive. The government believes that having information will change behaviour so as part of its obesity strategy it has decided that restaurants should give nutritional information on their menus. So, consumers are happy and the nation gets thinner what could be wrong with that? Well the first thing is the evidence that given the calorie count that people make ‘better’ choices is patchy at best.

Then there is the question of cost. You see if you are a say a large restaurant chain with a set menu which changes very little over time the cost of this regulation is minimal. The chances are you actually have the nutritional values already done. However if you are a owner manager of a small bistro then this is very bad news indeed.

Leaving aside the cost of testing and printing it will materially effect the way you do business. We are told we should eat seasonal and local. That is the healthy green future of dining. Well that involves constant changes in menus as what is available at market changes day to day. Normally chefs love that. Now it represents a new and significant cost in a trade where most start ups fail already. So this is a policy which will likely not contribute to the nations health but will give massive fast food chains a competitive advantage over small local restaurants and cafes. Kudos to the minister.

In a similar vein in a gut blasting measure to save the nations children we introduced a Sugar tax. Or did we ? In fact, before the tax on fizzy sugary drinks consumption was falling steeply with Irish children. The revenues raised (smaller than predicted) are going into the general tax pot and not health ring fenced so it kind of just looks like a tax grab under hiding as a health measure. Lets hope that as a consequence we don’t start eating more chocolate and sweets as happened in |Mexico after a similar tax. While a study in Cornell showed sugar taxes leading to increased purchases of Beer ! One trend we are already seeing in Ireland is consumers responding by buying are greater number of ‘jumbo’ size drinks . So good job done there.

Minimum Alcohol Pricing is a bad idea whose time has come. It is a nasty regressive classist anti poor-people tax which is the equivalent to the answer to a question no one is asking. We do not like it in case we were unclear. It will only effect low cost alcohol. If you drink premium brands or fine wines you will be unaffected. If you drink mostly in pubs or restaurants you will be unaffected. If you drink a couple of own label cans of lager in front of the tv after work, you will be hammered. But by the state not the beer.

We are heading for twenty years of declining alcohol consumption which has occurred at exactly the same time when we have seen the price of drink fall sharply. Young people are drinking less and binging less than previous generations. Alcohol consumption is positively associated with income. Poor people are drink less. Why policy makers think it is a good idea to punish them for wanting to have a bottle of wine with their Sunday dinner is a mystery to us.

Support the free society.

Every penny of your donation will go to research, events, student programmes, and public education about ideas that could help make Ireland a freer, richer place.