Bill Wirtz

June 6, 2017

France is Literally Burning 100 Million Euros

Since January 2017, France requires all cigarette packs to be sold in plain packaging — they all come in the same green-ish colour, only a neutral font lets the consumer identify the different brands. The government’s anti-tobacco fanaticism costs the taxpayer a fortune. It sounded a bit like Paris had Stockholm Syndrome when the papers announced “the government is buying 100 million euros worth of cigarettes off of French tobacconists”. These coloured packs which were delivered to the tobacconists before the law and make a up a total amount of 15 million packs of cigarettes, or a 36-hour tobacco consumption of the entire country. With a total weight of 250 tons, an astounding number of old, coloured packs, complete with brand name, will be prohibited soon. The […]
May 28, 2017

Understanding Opportunity Costs might just Solve the Fight with your Neighbour

I first encountered the idea of opportunity costs when I read Frédéric Bastiat’s “That Which is Seen, and That Which is Not Seen”(1), an absolute must read for all students for economics or law. Bastiat brilliantly dismantles the idea of what he calls “The Broken Window Fallacy”(2): the idea that the destruction of a window benefits society because of the resources and work opportunities necessary to replace it. Using the concept of opportunity costs (although Bastiat didn’t call it that), the French economist explains that by investing the funds necessary to replace this window, the person replacing it cannot spend those funds on an alternative of equal value. Maybe he would have spent more money during his vacation, maybe he would have bought another shirt. […]
May 26, 2017

The Right to Die: Luxembourg is a Front-Runner

Europe is known to have a healthy relationship to suicide: all countries (apart from Cyprus) allow suicide today. While it may seem ridiculous to enact any legislation that punishes an act that takes your life, let it be known that those laws crack down on attempted suicides as well. These rules can bring people who are suicidal, including terminally ill people, into very discomforting situations with the legal system. The Right to Die reaches further than just the act of committing suicide: several countries now also allow assisted suicide and euthanasia under certain conditions. Assisted suicide (which is legal in Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, Sweden and Switzerland) describes the act of making lethal means available to a patient so that he can bring about his own […]
May 16, 2017

The French Soda-Refill Ban: the Bitter Taste of Regulation

In January 2017, the French Parliament passed a bill that effectively banned free soda-refills in restaurants, in an attempt to tackle obesity. Where will its efforts lead us to? Rest assured, if living in France has confirmed one of my stereotypes, then it’s that you eat well. The République upholds culinary hedonism, and there are indeed health-related effects to this mindset: between 1997 and 2009, the obesity level has risen from 8.5 to 14.5 per cent. In 2016, Le Monde reports that the amount of obese people has risen to over 15.5 per cent, with 25.3 per cent of women and 41 per cent of men being generally overweight. In order to tackle this situation, consecutive governments have suggested and implemented large-scale government intervention. A Right or Left […]
May 3, 2017

Why the Government Shouldn’t Regulate the Pharmaceutical Industry

In Mid-January, the OECD published a report entitled “New Health Technologies: Managing Access, Value and Sustainability“, which analysed the regulations in the field of pharmaceutical innovation. This report is most interesting when it comes to identifying problems related to state intervention, but fails to draw the appropriate conclusions. One of the greatest demonstrations of the success of “free enterprise” is the progress made in the field of modern medicine. Since the end of the First World War, we have invented a vaccine against tuberculosis (1927), defibrillation (1947), a vaccine against polio (1962), antivirals (1979), a vaccine against hepatitis B (1980), the cloning of a sheep (1996), or the first bionic / artificial eye (2007). Pharmaceutical innovation is both a necessity and a moral obligation to […]
April 28, 2017

Liberty Face Off: Do We Need Open Borders?

In this Liberty Face Off, Yaël Ossowski and Lars Benthin discuss open borders: Do we need open borders? And do open borders enhance our freedom? We Need Open Borders By Yaël Ossowski A free society is one in which people are free to come and go as they please and are treated as individuals rather than members of a group or tribe. It’s an ideal we uphold in much of the western world, and we generally practice it at our nations’ peripheries, albeit with certain caveats. It’s no mistake that the most totalitarian states in the world have the strictest border controls while countries which have more freedom tend to be more relaxed. And it’s because of this positive system that I argue that we […]
April 27, 2017

6 Non-Racism Reasons to Reject Marine Le Pen

On the road to the French presidential elections, Marine Le Pen’s presidential campaign is oddly similar to that of Donald Trump: confrontation with the media, nativism, and accusations of xenophobia. To avoid creating sympathy for the far-right candidate by throwing labels at her, let’s give substantive reasons to oppose her. Here are six reasons to reject Marine Le Pen other than “because of racism.” 1. Free Speech Members of Le Pen’s far-right political party, National Front, talk an awful lot about free speech, but only regarding their own free speech interests. For example, in October 2015, the party campaigned with the slogan “Je Suis Marine” (translation: I am Marine) after their leader was sued for comparing Muslims praying in the Parisian streets to the Nazi occupation. It turns out that National […]
April 10, 2017

Libertarian Involvement in Politics: A Discussion

The following contribution is discussion with two SFL-leaders, Vilena Simonian and Slobodan Franeta, who discuss the implication of libertarian involvement in politics. Slobodan: Libertarianism by its definition is a political philosophy which advocates a minimal state, free market, capitalism and all individual freedoms to citizens in a state. So generally my perception would be: of course, libertarians should be and are involved in politics by defending or promoting their philosophy through daily communication with society. However, it is essential to understand the main differences between advocating a political philosophy and advocating political interests. Vilena: Unlike some less moderate peers of mine, I do not think politics is a nest of vipers or dirty business or anything of sorts. On the contrary, it can prove to […]
April 5, 2017

Make Germany Miraculous Again

Nothing is really changing politically in Berlin. To begin with, Germany’s socialists are currently in a coalition with the conservatives, forming an immense majority in parliament. The coalition has slowed down public spending cuts and reforms enacted by the previous government. The German Left is at risk of fading into irrelevance as its choices regarding coalitions are limited: it’s either Merkel once again or going down the road of a three-party coalition. In this post-crisis economy, Berlin shouldn’t be interested in who organizes a government reshuffle in September, but should instead be concerned with how a freer economy can unleash the potential of hard-working Germans. Germany’s historic free-market champion, former conservative politician Ludwig Erhard, should serve as a role model for the ideological emptiness of […]
April 2, 2017

Liberty Face Off: Should the Liberty Movement Distance Itself from the Alt-Right?

In this first Liberty Face Off of April 2017, Ryan Khurana and Barry Gormley will present their take on the Alt-Right movement. Should libertarians clearly distance themselves from this new political and social phenomenon or should they embrace their presence?  Purging Libertarianism of the Alt-Right By Ryan Khurana After the events of this year’s ISFLC, in which Richard Spencer and a gaggle of his “Alt-Right” cohorts attempted to bandwagon on the efficacy of the libertarian movement, I believe it has become imperative that we as a movement join in a vociferous condemnation of all that which he and his followers profess. As with William Buckley’s vilification of the John Birch Society in the 1960’s, with its anti-Semitic and white nationalist beliefs, a similar voice is […]
February 10, 2017

Three Misconceptions about Luxembourg

For many Europeans, the Grand-Duchy is a great question mark in the Western European landscape. It’s quite possible that if you’ve ever heard of it, people might have told you some very counterfactual things. I’m here to help. “Luxembourg is a tax haven” Every time I hear that I’m apparently living in a tax haven I need to double-check if people are talking about the same Luxembourg. It even gives me a good reason to go home to check out this mystical land in which nobody pays their taxes. What do we really pay? When it comes to income tax, the Luxembourgish government recently concluded a fiscal reform. The old system contained 19 different tax brackets, the maximal tax rate being 40 percent. In Luxembourg, the middle class consists […]
January 30, 2017

What the Tobacco Industry did for Women

Did you ever see a woman light a cigarette and thought to yourself “What a provocative example of moral decay!”? That’s likely not to be the case, but only because you weren’t born in the 19th century. The fact that your favourite Western movie doesn’t show women smoking tobacco is actually historically accurate: women weren’t supposed to be smoking until the 1920’s.