Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Pre-pay Pumps and Smoking Bans

Trading Liberty for Safety in Bowling Green, KY

Considering the new ordinance that will require us to pre-pay for gasoline, I wonder how many businesses were supportive. I suspect that some rent seeking or anti-competitive motives may be shared among the supportive businesses.

It is similar to the case of smoking bans other cities have passed. In the free market, becoming smoke free involves the potential to increase the patronage of non-smokers at the cost of alienating smokers who have other alternatives.

For those restaurant owners that want to be smoke free and avoid this cost, the smoking ban offers an escape (from what economists would call a prisoner's dilemma game).

In the same way it would seem palpable that the new pre-pay law would offer some gas station owners (who would favor the ordinance) an escape from the competition of other stations that may be better able to monitor theft.

In both cases, consumers suffer in the name of 'public safety.' Regardless of the motives of the station owners or city officials, we as citizens and consumers are once again being forced to trade a certain amount of liberty for an uncertain or perceived amount of safety

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