Saturday, 22 August 2020

The corrupted tobacco economist network, Part 47 - Post 1998 tobacco output

Overview of previous posts here

Post 1998 output and Richard Wagner's zealotry

Not all economists disappear from the files completely after 1998, but as a part of the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement the Tobacco Institute was dismantled. Some economists must have started working for the other tobacco companies.

In 2000, R. Morris Coats provided testimony similar to that the network had provided. Coats by that time already was working for Philip Morris. At least Coats acknowledged this in his curriculum vitae (no longer online, Coats deceased in 2015), while most of the economists don't mention their work for the tobacco industry. Remarkably Coats' c.v. also notes that his paper A Note on Estimating Cross-Border Effects of State Cigarette Taxes was "Used in testimony before legislatures in New York, West Virginia and Louisiana--based on phone conversations with Tobacco Institute"

William F. Shughart II kept writing op-eds until at least 2010.

An incomplete list of publications written after the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement include:
  • Sexton R. (1999): Political Science and Secondhand Smoke, Investor's Business Daily (Feb . 2, 1999)
  • Ault, R. Ekelund, R. B., Jackson, J., Saba, R. (2004) : Smokeless tobacco, smoking cessation and harm reduction: an economic analysis, Applied Economics
  • Ault, R. W., Beard, T., Jackson, J., Saba, R. (2005) : On the (mis)use of cross-price effects to gauge the effectiveness of smokeless tobacco in smoking cessation, The European Journal of Health Economics 34 (November 2006), pp. 712–730
  • Lucassen, R. A., Coats, R. M., Karahan, G. (2005) : Cigarette smuggling mitigates the public health benefits of cigarette taxes. Applied Economics Letters, Taylor and Francis Journals, vol. 12(12)
  • Ault, R. W., Jackson, J. D., Saba, R., Ekelund, R. B. (2006) : Smoking cessation, weight gain, and nicotine substitutes : the economics of reducing harm. The southern business & economic journal Vol. 29.2006, 3/4, p. 34-49
  • Brown, B. A., Rucker, R. R., Thurman, W. N. (2007) : The End of the Federal Tobacco Program: Economic Impacts of the Deregulation of U.S. Tobacco Production. Review of Agricultural Economics, Winter 2007, 29(4): 635-655.
  • Shughart W. F. (2010) : Tobacco Settlements, in Roger Chapman (ed.), Culture Wars: An Encyclopedia of Issues, Voices, and Viewpoints, vol. 2, Armonk, NY and London: ME Sharpe, 2010
Richard A Wagner's output

Richard E. Wagner provided the most post-1998 output. In 1999 he wrote the article The State as a Partisan Plaintiff: Reflection on the Tobacco Settlement. He also wrote The Tobacco Settlement, as Refracted through the Economics of Litigation, which seems to have been the draft version

A rewritten (?) version of The State as a Partisan Plaintiff: Reflection on the Tobacco Settlement was published in 2000 by the Public Interest Institute (no longer online). It is an example of his extreme viewpoints:
What is a defendant to do when confronted with a subsidized political plaintiff driven by partisan interests and ideological zealotry? The defendant faces an adversary that calculates differently than commercial plaintiffs. A private plaintiff might think in terms of possible excess medical costs imposed by smokers. For a political plaintiff, however, those claims are secondary, a smoke screen to provide cover as it were, for the pursuit of an ideology animated by a vision of a smoke-free America. For the ideological plaintiff, the desired objective is not to offset some (non-existent) drain on state treasuries attributed to smokers, but rather is to degrade the commercial value of tobacco companies. 
One might reasonably wonder why the tobacco companies might have capitulated when the claims lodged against them were so patently false. A man sitting on an iceberg in the North Atlantic as it floats south will recognize his ultimate fate, and yet be thankful when clouds obscure the sun. It is perhaps similar with the tobacco companies. The famous "problem of the gambler’s ruin" from probability theory tells us that in a fair game of chance, the player with the smaller fortune will eventually be ruined by the player with the larger fortune. In ordinary games, of course, play is voluntary, and either party can terminate the play at will. But the state can command participation, and it can exhaust the fortune of anyone against whom it plays. A wise person would not continuously play a fair game of chance against a much wealthier adversary, and similarly would not want to play continuously against a zealous, interest-driven political plaintiff. Settlement is perhaps like that welcome cloud in the North Atlantic. It brings respite to a weary soul, but it does not give peace of mind. 
The general theme illustrated by the tobacco settlement is the danger of being on the opposite side of the partisan use of state power to advance a private interest agenda at public expense. Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty, as Patrick Henry noted. And the state is potentially the biggest threat of all. We may well fault the tobacco companies for capitulating against the onslaught of state power. For if everyone did, this liberty would perish. Yet the state as a partisan plaintiff can pursue a strategy of divide-and-conquer against its potential defendants, which may render some such capitulation understandable, even if it can never render it admirable.

In 2004, Wagner wrote Meddlesome Preferences and Rent Extraction: The Tobacco Shakedown, continuing the same themes as above. In 2005, he wrote State Excise Taxation:Horse-and-Buggy Taxes In an Electronic Age, both still attacking excise taxes.

There is no evidence to know if the tobacco industry was still paying Wagner to write these articles, or they were merely expressing his worldview.

Even though he's 79 years old, Richard E. Wagner still is working at George Mason University

No comments:

Post a Comment