Wednesday 30 October 2019

Public health, externality, and vaccination

Paternalism is contentious. Arguments for state action to protect us from ourselves are fraught. I come down pretty heavily on the anti-paternalism side of the argument, but I've heard respectable defences of paternalism.

But policy around vaccination is hardly paternalistic. There's a clear market failure that could be pointed to in any sound Regulatory Impact Statement.

In a place with relatively high vaccination rates, the primary benefit from your getting vaccinated goes to other people. The risk of catching anything is low, because everyone else is vaccinated. If you also get vaccinated, you very slightly reduce your already low risk of catching anything. You also very slightly consequently reduce the risk of anyone else catching anything - there's still risk among those who are vaccinated, and there are others out there who cannot be vaccinated because they either are immunocompromised, or are too young to be vaccinated. The latter effect is the bigger one. Since that benefit accrues to everyone else, you should expect undervaccination relative to a first best.

Of course, that only holds during normal times. If free-riding rates increase, then you get an outbreak - and consequent strong incentives not to free-ride but to get vaccinated and quickly. That brings a surge in demand for doses of vaccine - but vaccine cannot store for a long time and takes a long time to make.

Consequently, it is very easy to justify policy action that encourages regular uptake of vaccination. And if you're going to justify compulsion in anything health related, compulsion in vaccination seems the obvious place to start. And if you're going to start compulsion in vaccination anywhere, the very very obvious places to start are with those workers most likely to be coming into contact with the immunocompromised or children too young to be vaccinated.

In other words - people who work at hospital, and people who work with children.

I can't guarantee that compulsion is there warranted, but if it's warranted anywhere in anything to do with health-affecting activities, it's in this case.

There is already a pile of compulsion around health and health behaviours.

The government banned the sale of sodas in hospitals, for example, for the protection of the patients.

The government is considering a ban on small bits of food that public health people consider to be less nutritionally worthy, like popcorn, in early childhood centres - because of the choking risk. Radio New Zealand reports seven cases of choking in ECE centres from 2016.

If you smoke in your private automobile, and there are children in the car, then it doesn't matter if you're in a convertible with the top down driving down the highway at speed - the cops can fine you. And if you don't pay the fine, ultimately you can wind up in jail. For the protection of the children.

Bans are the strongest form of compulsion. But the list of nudges and shoves around alcohol, tobacco, and various foods, whether in place or proposed, is not small.

So you would think, with that much compulsion already all over the place in health, for the purported protection of health, in piles of areas where the justification is slim at best, that the one big thing that would most justify compulsion would already have been attended to, right?


Here's what Eloise Gibson found when she went looking.
- Only two of New Zealand’s 20 DHBs know what proportion of staff are immune to measles, whooping cough or other infectious diseases.

- The Ministry of Health says health workers should be vaccinated to lower their risk of spreading serious illnesses, but DHBs don't make it compulsory.

- At least two DHBs make vaccination a condition of employment for new staff, but not existing staff. It is possible to work in a patient contact role in a newborn intensive care unit or maternity ward without being vaccinated.

- At last count, almost half of staff at one DHB had not had a whooping cough vaccine. Up to 11 percent were not immunised against measles.

- A measles-infected staff member worked at a Christchurch hospital while contagious last month and other hospital workers have also had measles this outbreak.

- In some regions, only a third of hospital midwives are accepting the recommended free flu vaccinations.
Stephen Franks pointed me to one potential reason: when Waikato DHB tried requiring that unvaccinated staff wear masks, the New Zealand Nurses Union threw a fit.

And over in the ECE centers, staff who never bothered getting vaccinated had trouble getting vaccinated come the measles outbreak.
Vaccination is the best protection against measles but because babies can't receive their first MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine until 15 months, babies younger than that are particularly vulnerable.

Becky Casale said she was shocked to learn early education and daycare providers, whom she paid to look after her infant daughter, had no legal obligation to check staff were vaccinated or to tell parents about unvaccinated staff.

Casale said she knew a receptionist at a north Auckland daycare who was completely unvaccinated.
Measles has an incubation period where you're contagious before you might even know you're sick. Parents packing an 'unhealthy' snack for their own kid's ECE lunch will get in more trouble than some antivax clown who decides to work at hospital, or at an ECE centre.

At least in ECE centres, we might hope that competition among centres for kids will have them highlighting their pro-vaccination credentials like 100% vaccinated staff and that they kick out kids who don't keep up with their vaccinations.

Harder to see that happening with hospitals. Heck, I wouldn't even have considered that hospital staff might not have been vaccinated.

How is it that we've wound up with a system that is happy to impose compulsion, for health reasons, and especially where children are involved - except in the cases where it is most strongly justifiable? A system that can tell you how many choking incidents in ECEs involved small bits of food, but that cannot tell how many ECE or hospital staff are vaccinated?

When it comes to soda, and tobacco, and alcohol, the public health crowd will insist that it's impossible to have informed consent. But, for ECE centres, and hospitals, and midwives, it's caveat emptor, with parents expected to know that they should check whether staff are antivaxxers. Like, a warning label on a pack of smokes wasn't considered enough warning about the dangers of cigarettes. They also needed plain packaging and taxes and a pile of other rules. But the person you hand your three-month-old to at ECE - not even a warning label that that person's an antivaxxer. The orderly cleaning the room your newborn is in at hospital? No label there either.

None of it makes sense - until you remember that the point of public health is not public health. If the point of public health were public health, full vaccination would be a condition of employment at public hospitals. And public health types would have dealt to vaccination at ECE outfits long before they moved to hector folks about what they put in the kids' lunches.


Tuesday 29 October 2019

Locked data filing cabinets

Over at Newsroom, I argue for opening up some of New Zealand's locked government data cabinets as part of government's maintaining social licence to collect it in the first place. 

Since I've been a bad blogger lately and didn't get this up when it first came out, I'll put the whole thing here rather than just a snippet. Enjoy!
When Arthur Dent complained that he had not been informed of Council’s plans to bulldoze his house for a bypass, Mr Prosser, the Council officer, calmly told him that the plans had been on display for months - in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard’. Arthur found the plans there the day before the bulldozers showed up at his door.

A lot of New Zealand’s government data feels about as inaccessible as the council plans that Arthur Dent eventually found in the classic Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. And, just like those ‘open’ council plans for Arthur’s house, government data can have consequence in the real world. Opening the data up could do rather some good in building trust and enabling better policy.

Last week, InternetNZ held its annual NetHui at Te Papa. The event brings together a motley assortment of tech geeks and aficionados, policy wonks, social justice warriors and tech law experts. The sessions at NetHui can be rather wide-ranging, and you get the chance to chat with a lot of people you might not otherwise run into.

One theme running through rather a few sessions was a feeling that Kiwis are subject to Big Data rather than participants in it who are enabled to use data to help them to understand and shape the communities in which they live. That feeling builds resentment of the use of data in policymaking.

And it isn’t hard to understand why.

The formal barriers to accessing a lot of government data are rather substantial. New Zealand’s most sensitive data is held in secure data labs under highly restricted access. Researchers wanting to use it must prove that they have sufficient training in statistics and can only use the data within approved research projects. Very sensitive personal data held in the data lab, even though it is anonymised, has to be well-protected.

Even confidentialised random samples from larger datasets, where identifying details have been stripped out, might as well be behind signs warning to Beware of the Leopard. Access to that data is rather difficult.

But even for data that is properly open, data literacy can be a substantial barrier to participation. You have to know what data you need for any particular question, where to find it, how to get it, and then how to analyse it. Not everyone has a copy of Excel, let alone more powerful statistical software like Stata (expensive, powerful and simple to use) or R (free, powerful, and with a big learning curve).

The combined barriers mean that, for a lot of people, government data is something that’s done to them rather than something they can really use. It is even true within government. Our think tank has done a fair bit of work on education; a fairly regular, and accurate, complaint from school leaders is that while they spend countless hours in submitting data up to the Ministry of Education, they receive little back from the Ministry that could help them in improving their schools. The view from those outside of the system can be bleaker.

It all makes for a difficult problem. Social licence for data like that held in the Statistics New Zealand Integrated Data Infrastructure would disappear if anyone’s personal details were ever compromised. But social licence for that data can also disappear when the people whose details make up that data see little benefit in it, are locked out of it.

But there is a way through it.

Well over a decade ago, when I was Senior Lecturer in Economics at Canterbury, I assigned projects using sensitive microdata. The students in my course on Public Choice had check whether survey respondents’ political policy preferences tended to line up with their personal interests and whether, in the broad, policy tended to match public opinion.

We were able to do that, using American General Social Survey data, because of a wonderful web interface hosted by the University of California at Berkeley. The survey includes a lot of very sensitive personal questions, ranging from income and health to sexuality and policy preferences. Berkeley’s web interface allows anyone in the world to run simple statistical tests without ever having to see the confidential data that sits in the database. The students could check whether survey respondents’ income, or those respondents’ education, or their scores on a vocabulary test, were stronger predictors of policy preferences.

But nothing comparable exists in New Zealand, even a decade later. Anyone wanting to run even simple checks on important policy questions in must jump through hoops impossible for most people to hurdle. Meanwhile, over 100 other countries have signed up with the University of Minnesota’s Integrated Public Use Microdata Series (IPUMS), which provides the same kind of simple web tool as Berkeley to enable people to use their own data. It is easier for most Kiwis to access and use other countries’ data than it is to access their own.

That builds resentment among those who, unfortunately correctly, see themselves as having data done to them rather than something that enables their own civic participation. When only the anointed few are allowed the key to the proverbial locked filing cabinet in the basement, and the plans that they there work on matter for policies that affect peoples’ lives, it is not that surprising that the subjects of that data would prefer to layer on even more controls restricting access, or blow up the filing cabinet entirely.

More substantially opening up New Zealand’s locked data filing cabinets to enable people to use their own data would not just help ensure social licence for that data, it would also strengthen government accountability. When anyone with a web browser can run simple checks on whether changes in policy improve outcomes, it is easier to avoid the kind of surprise that Arthur Dent found lurking in the planner’s disused lavatory.

Monday 28 October 2019

No collusion

The kids still haven't colluded against us in our sealed-bid tender process for the household chores.

I go through it over in our Insights newsletter. 
The Tender Years

Despite all your predictions to the contrary, the children still have not colluded against me.

On finding out that the Crampton household’s way of divvying up the chores is somewhat nonstandard, I reported on it in a May 2018 Insights column in case others might find it helpful. I was honestly a bit surprised that nobody else seemed to have figured out this obvious solution.

For specific chores that go over and above the ordinary household expectations, we use a sealed-bid tendering system. We put up the chores we would like to have done; the children submit their bids to perform those chores; we announce the winners of the chores and then tell each child, privately, what they will earn for completing them. The system works well. Whenever one of the children complains about chores, we point out that we have another contractor available to pick up the task instead. And the task gets done.

Many of you warned me, by email, that the children were likely to collude against us. But the children do not know the true maximum we might we willing to pay for any chore. And we committed to not necessarily accepting the lowest bid, or indeed any bid. The government also helps by prohibiting other families from hiring our young children to perform tasks in their households instead at higher rates, so we enjoy some helpful monopsony powers.

Two weeks ago, we put the chores up again for tender as it had been a while, and one of the children was very keen to be rid of the cat box contract.

Results? The child tired of cleaning the cat box put in a very high bid for that service and lowballed the bid for mopping and vacuuming while the child who knew that the cat box had become more contestable did not increase the bid for that service.

We are paying about the same amount overall, with a task-swap between the two children – and, crucially, with both children very happy with the swap instead of fighting about who would have to clean the cat box.

So there has been, as yet, no collusion. Even if they do eventually wind up colluding against us, they will have learned valuable lessons in cooperation. And that is okay too.
I love that the system made it dead simple to effect a task-flip without discord. I would otherwise have expected that one child's expressing extreme distaste with the task would make the other one less willing to take it up. Instead, the tendering process solved it.

It's a bit like the argument that the great thing about voting is that it lets you change the government without a war.

Saturday 26 October 2019

Justice and a grifter

Viewed one way, justice has been met.

Viewed another way, a serial and malicious grifter has been able to use the legal system and new cultural norms at very low cost to impose substantial costs on others.

Jessica Yaniv is a transgendered Canadian woman who bullied aestheticians, often migrant women, with threats of legal action if they refused to wax her scrotum.

The Human Rights tribunal came to what I think was obviously the right decision:
"Self-identification does not erase physiological reality," said Jay Cameron of the the Justice Centre. "No woman should be compelled to touch male genitals against her will, irrespective of how the owner of the genitals identifies."

The ruling also found that Yaniv engaged in improper conduct by misleading the tribunal, by being untruthful, and by engaging in extortionate behaviour and scurrilous attacks.

It was also noted that she brought most of her 15 complaints against women described as "not white," while expressing racial animosity on social media and in her testimony.
Yaniv appears to have used Canada's antidiscrimination framework to threaten and extort people she didn't like. A $2,000 payment to each of three respondents seems... light.

I do my best to stay out of the trans-wars. But I would hope that Yaniv's actions would be condemned by all sides.

Friday 25 October 2019

Careful what you wish for: tech and democratic accountability

It will not be wonderful when every country is able to issue global take-down notices.
 A lot of folks at NetHui seemed to yearn for a world that would very quickly lead to this.

Ruling out doing anything about 99.83% of the world's emissions

The Zero Carbon Bill requires the government to focus on domestic mitigation opportunities. But the rest of the world provides 99.83% of the world's emissions. Does it seem likely that all of the very best opportunities for mitigating emissions will be found here at home? We risk ruling out doing far more good than we otherwise could.

A snippet:
I don't know if anyone ever really believed manufacturing televisions in New Zealand made sense.

Controls in place until New Zealand's reforms prohibited importing fully assembled televisions, to encourage manufacture and assembly in New Zealand. But it resulted in nonsense practises guaranteed to make televisions more expensive.

New Zealand businessman Alan Gibbs famously found it profitable to have Japanese television manufacturer JVC disassemble televisions and ship the parts to New Zealand for reassembly.

If what you cared about most in the world was making sure that Kiwi families could afford televisions, banning or severely restricting trade was hardly the right solution.

So why does the Government's proposed Zero Carbon bill, meant to address the biggest environmental challenge of our time, shackle New Zealand into only pursuing those carbon emission reductions achievable here at home?
The Bill requires that New Zealand's emissions budgets be met, "as far as possible", through domestic measures.

There is obviously a lot more that can be done domestically to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. New Zealand's Emissions Trading Scheme can, should, and likely will be strengthened. The ETS should be comprehensive across all sectors. As carbon prices increase, households and businesses will adjust in the same way that they do with any other change in relative prices.

But as carbon budgets become tighter, domestic low-hanging emission-reduction fruit start being eaten up. Each subsequent tonne of emission reductions becomes more expensive than the one that came before it.

And while spending massive amounts per tonne abated can be worthwhile if it is the only and best way of avoiding catastrophic climate change, it makes far less sense if there are cheaper opportunities out there to reduce emissions.

Does it make sense for New Zealanders, collectively, to invest a lot of costly effort in the next million tonnes of emission reductions in New Zealand if, for the same kind of commitment, we could back projects abroad that did twice as much good, or 10 times as much good?
I'll now be appearing fortnightly in the Fairfax papers, so keep an eye out for me there.

Setting the marker for January - the wealth report

Every October, Credit Suisse puts out its report on global wealth. It's not perfect, but it's a decent best guess about global wealth and its distribution.

And every January, Oxfam comes out with a The Sky Is Falling And Inequality Is Terrible gloss on the Credit Suisse figures. If you were teaching a How To Lie With Statistics course, the Oxfam reports would provide excellent fodder.

So, a few highlights from the Credit Suisse report, so we don't forget them come January when the Oxfam report comes out.

The report is here.

First up, New Zealand's place in the global wealth inequality figures.

(And here's a static version in case the interactive doesn't work)

There are 172 countries with a Gini coefficient on wealth. New Zealand's Gini (in red) is the 37th lowest.

Among the countries with more wealth inequality than New Zealand, in order starting with countries closest to us: Portugal, Iceland, Spain, France, Switzerland, Canada, Austria, Finland, Ireland, Norway, Denmark, the US, Sweden and the Netherlands.

Global wealth inequality has been dropping, more or less, since 2000.

And they also decompose changes in the number and wealth of millionaires. You can get more and wealthier millionaires if all incomes rise, if population increases, or if the shape of the underlying distribution changes to favour millionaires. Here we see that since 2000, changes in the shape of the distribution have resulted in our millionaires having less wealth than otherwise. 

And this year's Gini is down on last year's as well. 

If I were Oxfam and wanted to put up a scare story about inequality out of this, but one grounded in the numbers rather than just being fantasy, I'd look hard at how much of the measured reduction in inequality is driven by changes in housing wealth. Recall that housing is a substantial part of the wealth portfolio of those in the middle wealth deciles, and that increased houses prices do more to boost wealth in the middle than at the top. But there can be strong disparities between homeowners and non-owners. That's a story of anticompetitive housing regulation set by councils under incentives set by central government rather than one about evil rich people and the need for income redistribution. 

Thursday 24 October 2019

Afternoon roundup

The worthies on a much-belated closing of the browser tabs:

A version of antitrust I could support

I can see plenty of reasons why antitrust law is not applied to policies and regulations that restrict competition or create cartels, but it's hard to see good reasons why antitrust law is not applied to policies and regulations that restrict competition or create cartels.

I argue for parallel treatment (ungated).

There are plenty of areas that would be eminently worthy of ComCom investigation, presumably through its new(ish) market studies remit. Basically, that lets ComCom run a study of a market to see whether there's restraint of competition or cartel stuff going on.

Here are a few areas where regulation and policy stifles competition and/or creates cartels:

  • Building materials supply regulation in conjunction with council risk-aversion on building consenting caused by councils facing joint-and-several liability. Makes it very hard to import building materials approved for use in trustworthy, comparable places like Seattle, Vancouver and Tokyo. 
  • Land use regulation at council level that encourages land banking and stymies competitive land supply, and the incentives set by central government that make those regulations optimal from the perspective of local government. There is absolutely no good reason for Auckland Council's processes around road naming. The cost and delay imposed by the rule that adds months of capital holding costs seems deliberate. Why isn't the person who came up with that under Commerce Commission investigation? 
  • Rules mandating that pharmacies be owned by pharmacists
  • Separate New Zealand certification regimes for all kinds of stuff when we should just be recognising that things good enough for other comparable places are good enough for here too. I heard one story the other day about how ovens need to go through separate NZ certification; just being certified for use in Australia somehow isn't good enough. There's gunk like this all over the place.  
  • Some of our phytosanitary rules. Go on and convince me that rules around importing hop plants here are set for any reason other than protecting the Hop board. Is it true that they own the IP on the only varieties allowed in? 
  • The government protects the medical cartel from foreign competition by making it very hard for doctors in good standing in places like Canada to come and hang up a shingle here as GP. If you want to do it, you'll have to spend months under supervised practice in a hospital here first. Even if you've had a successful practice in Canada for ages. How many of our problems in getting rural GPs would be done away with if Canadians sick of miserable winters moved into semi-retirement as part-time GPs here? 
That's a short starter. 

I am not optimistic that it will ever happen. The government and its subsidiary arms are the biggest cartel around, and will not brook the application of its own investigation apparatus to itself. Kinda like that thing where the police get to ignore any findings of the Independent Police Conduct Authority. The State does not like to constrain itself. 

But just imagine how much regulatory quality would improve if an independent commissioner over at the Commerce Commission could launch investigations into the anticompetitive effects of regulations at the different Ministries (hi MBIE), with the ability to issue orders nullifying regulations where the anticompetitive effects dominated any likely benefits of the regulations. 

It's also fun to think about the potential application of the criminal cartel rules for officials who knowingly put in place regulatory regimes that act in restraint of competition without adequate safeguards that the benefits of those rules dominate the anticompetitive effects. 

Monday 14 October 2019

The Bank's Bully Pulpit

This is bad.

The article is good. But the situation described is very bad.

Here's Kate MacNamara on Orr and the RBNZ.
It would be an open process, the bank said, welcoming all views. But that characterisation was soon at odds with the governor's behaviour.

Numerous parties involved in the submission process described a pattern of behaviour by Orr of belittling and berating those who disagreed with him.

Orr has penned his critics letters and threatened to broadcast them. He has confronted submitters on the sidelines of industry conferences. Sometimes he called them up at odd hours to tear a strip off them for their views.

There is reason to believe that his pointed criticism has diminished the range of parties willing to participate in the debate.

At least one corporation that submitted views at an earlier stage in the capital review (before Orr was governor) decided not to participate this time. The company is not in the banking business, though like most it cares what bank services are offered and at what price. But it ultimately decided it wasn't worth wading into such troubled water.

Non-bank lenders similarly withheld their views. Sources say they feared being singled out for other consequences (one non-bank lender active in New Zealand is owned by an insurance company, an area of business that is also under scrutiny by the Reserve Bank).

It is worth pausing here to consider Orr's position.
I have heard these stories as well.

And here's the governance failure:
Orr's chequered behaviour is not something on which the Reserve Bank chairman, Neil Quigley, is prepared to act.

"I have not received a formal complaint from any party about the governor's interaction with them," he said. "The Board has full confidence in Adrian Orr's leadership."
Might those who would make formal complaints trust that their identities would be kept confidential, or that the particulars of any complaint would not identify them to Orr? Remember that Orr can destroy any of the companies he regulates at the stroke of a pen.

Meanwhile, over at Michael Reddell's blog, ex-RBNZ's Geof Mortlock (or at least someone writing under that pseudonym), comments:
None of what we are seeing with Adrian Orr surprises me in the least. It is precisely what I had expected when he was appointed as governor. The problems so clearly revealed now for all to see were very much evident to me and many others when Orr was deputy governor and head of financial stability in the period 2003 to 2007. He created a sense of panic when there was no need for it. He engaged aggressively with Australian banks when mature, adult dialogue would have been far more effective and appropriate. He facilitated and abetted an aggressive and petulant fight with APRA, RBA and Aussie Treasury over trans-Tasman regulatory issues rather than seeking to resolve them in a considered, intelligent manner. He engaged aggressively with staff and routinely bullied them. He created a deep level of stress in the RBNZ among staff that contributed to the departure of some key people. I can attest to what it was like working with him. I and others departed the RBNZ because of the severe impact he had on morale and because of concerns over mismanagement of issues and because of the appalling culture that he and others created in the RBNZ. Bollard presided over much of this, either unaware or unconcerned, and did nothing to address the matter from what I could see.

Now that Orr is governor, his unsuitability for the job is evident for any impartial observer to see. The lack of judgement, unsuitable temperament, lack of maturity, inadequate knowledge of the issues and a serious failure to intelligently address the policy issues are all obvious to anyone who cares to look at his performance.

Sadly, the RBNZ Board seems to lack the competence or mettle to do anything about it. Its recent annual report was a pathetic effort at exercising meaningful scrutiny over Orr. Even more sadly we seem to have a minister of finance who is asleep at the wheel and either turning a blind eye to Orr’s appalling incompetence in handling the tasks entrusted to him or who is happy to see Orr playing an overtly political role that is totally inappropriate for someone holding office as governor.

It is time that the people with authority over Orr did something about his conduct, statements and handling of policy issues. The RBNZ’s credibility is at stake. And serious policy outcomes are under threat. Robertson and the Board need to take action to address the Orr problem.
I understand that, inside the Bank, there is a view that opposition is grounded in interested objection to the heightened capital requirements.

For my part, I don't care what the capital requirements are so long as the underpinning analysis is adequate and the process makes sense. That process would have to involve a real consultation period after the full cost-benefit analysis of the proposed regulation is published.

Thursday 3 October 2019

Special licences

Whenever a Rugby World Cup is on, Parliament has to legislate around the bureaucratic hurdles that District Licensing Committees have put in the way of issuing special licences.

Special licenses are supposed to allow bars to open at hours other than their normal licensed hours, if there's some kind of special event on. And Parliament even noted international sporting events in the rationale for the special licences.

Aimee Dartnall goes through the problems in how that works in practice:
Generally, applying for a special licence is a bureaucratic nightmare. First, applicants must contrive a special "event", and charge people to attend.

Then they need to file an application at least 20 working days before the event to give the police, the medical officer of health and the licensing inspector time to report on the application. Fees can cost up to $575.

Once the application has been reported on, it goes to the local district licensing committee for a decision.

The problem is that some DLCs agonise over whether a World Cup game can be legally classified as an "event". Some applications were refused on the basis that a World Cup game is not an "event" unless organisers host proper viewing parties, with raffles, streamers or guest speakers. 
It's nonsense that it's all come to this. If you read the Committee Report on the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act, special licences were intended to be used for international sporting events.
118. In response to concerns around champagne breakfasts and international sporting events outside the maximum hours, we recommend amending the Bill to permit special licences outside the maximum hours. Special licences may only be issued for a particular event or series of events, and should therefore permit such occasions without creating a way for licensees to remain open outside maximum hours on a business-as-usual basis.
These things were designed as a way of letting bars stay open during international sporting events. The fact of the international sporting event was supposed to have been enough for it to be classified as an "event". And yet we have to have Parliament legislate around the DLCs whenever there's a World Cup on.

Dartnall has a few suggestions:
The special licence rules need to be changed permanently to get rid of unnecessary hurdles and bring the focus back on harm minimisation.

Existing licensees shouldn't need to apply for special licences for every World Cup match – they already have responsible supply rules in place. 

Applications shouldn't turn on arbitrary requirements such as the need for a special "event". 

The nature of the event is only relevant as an indicator of the risk profile. A special licence for a 21st party will need to be scrutinised more carefully than an application for drinks at a gallery opening. But the number of balloons in the building has nothing to do with alcohol-related harm. 

The World Cup amendments are a step in the right direction. But please, extend the rules to cover the netball too.  
That all sounds good, but how do you legislate that a DLC must be sensible?

Tuesday 1 October 2019

Referendums are great

I just love this thread about Saskatoon's 1988 referendum on school store closing times. I'd not heard of it before; I was 12 years old in Manitoba when this would have happened.

When I was in grad school, Bryan Caplan liked to tweak a standard rally chant:
The People!
Will Never Be Defeated Coherent!
I wish that I'd known about the Saskatoon referendum when I was teaching public choice.

Update - I dunno what happened the first time I wrote the first line. I was thinking about schools perhaps.