Commentary by Howard Hubler
For you who read my articles, you know I frequently talk about the relationship between governmental regulation and business. Unfortunately, this story about the New York man and his cigarettes is a tragic conclusion as to what can happen in a world of overregulation. Yes it might be about race, it might be about over policing, but it also might be about overregulation. Recall that when someone wants to put a new law or regulation into effect, they need to look at the short-term and the long-term impact to those they are trying to help.
They need to look at the impact to those who are outside the circle of those they are trying to help. When people set out to generate a cigarette tax in New York City, in their wildest dreams, they never thought somebody would end up dead as a result, and that the holidays would be full of anger and tumult over something so stupid. People that study these kinds of things knew that that could be a possible consequence, and will no doubt probably be again in the future with this or some other similar type regulation.
Years ago, Pres. Nixon demanded all cars go from 65 miles an hour on the interstate down to 55. Those at the time said that the average law abiding citizen would be now be made an outlaw. Since I am older than dirt, I have lived long enough to attest to that. When I grew up, occasionally I would creep up 5 miles an hour over the speed limit; from time to time I would see a policeman and I would not get stopped. Today, I routinely see people cruising the interstate at 80 miles an hour and beyond, exceeding the designated mile-per-hour greatly.
Yes, the local humble pastor and the local humble schoolteacher, now, they are probably outlaws as well. I would hate to be the policeman who got the orders to clamp down on weekend speeders, and stop someone for exceeding the posted speed limit by 10 miles an hour on the interstate. The person receiving the ticket wants to yell at the cop, “Couldn’t your time be better spent elsewhere finding people that are really breaking the law and stop harassing law-abiding citizens!” We have even “dumbed ourselves down” into believing that we are law-abiding citizens.
Here is what the average reader does not know. Now in New York City, a pack of cigarettes is taxed over five dollars a pack. A black market has grown up selling cigarettes in subways and on street corners that have been imported from other states without this onerous city tax. Selling these cigarettes have been a windfall for poor people of all color. They can sell cigarettes to pedestrians significantly cheaper than the pedestrian can purchase them in the store. The job assigned to the policeman is to stop this black market selling. Gas stations and liquor store owners are particularly sensitive to this as black marketeers frequently sell outside their business because that’s where the buyers go to purchase. Often times, these merchants understandably complain and call the police. Police are wasting valuable tax payer dollars arresting a man selling single packs of cigarettes and sometimes loose cigarettes. If this sounds petty and stupid, it is, because it is petty and stupid. This is the logical consequence of ridiculous over taxation. You could fill an entire book as to what the city of New York is doing to try to levy taxes on people trying to live there in peace and harmony.
Yes, over taxation causes people to move out of a city, it causes policeman to waste their time chasing down criminals who’s economic impact is not even measurable. Oh, and sometimes it actually kills people and lights and entire country up with anger second-guessing right from wrong. All the energy that has been invested to unify the races with the police department in New York City goes up in smoke over a fistful of loose cigarettes. For the 2014 Holidays, sadly peace and goodwill in New York City has fallen on deaf ears. I think last month Americans have spoken.
Big government does not do us any favors. Whether you are a large business, a small business or a black market business, big government and big brother has no business in your business.