There are days when I wish that classes in Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century European history were mandatory for government officials – wait, no, I always wish that. There are simply days where my desires are given explicit validation by a new report: “More than half of the cigarettes sold in New York State are smuggled in from other places to avoid the Empire State’s taxes on smokes, which have soared nearly 200 percent since 2006, according to a report issued by the conservative Tax Foundation.” And apparently that’s also true for a bunch of other places in at least the Northeast.
Now, the reason for the history: if our erstwhile public servants had ever read any (books that have ‘Peoples’ or ‘Social’ in the title don’t count) they’d know that when you create a situation where a legal good is available in one place for price X, and available in another for price X+Y, with Y being a protective / ruinously high government tariff, something inevitably happens. And no, that inevitable thing is not smuggling. Human beings already smuggle as naturally as we breathe. It is practically instinctive for us. No, what inevitably happens in that situation is that the population enthusiastically joins in on breaking the law. And gets remarkably close-mouthed when tax men start nosing around*. (more…)