Belgium-based EPICENTER and the Slovenian Visio Institute recently published this year’s Nanny State Index, which explores the increased regulations on the “lifestyles of citizens in the areas of beverages, food, alcohol, and cigarettes” in the 28 member states of the European Union. It was found that in 2017 the indicators were worse than in 2016, which is a reflection of increased paternalism. Taking into account the Index’s 22 indicators, it was found that the Czech Republic, Germany, Slovakia, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands are the most liberal EU countries in terms of lifestyle regulations, while Finland, Great Britain, Ireland, Hungary, and Sweden are the most paternalistic.
The Nanny State Index includes three main categories: alcohol, nicotine, and diet. Each category is weighted equally at 33.3 percent. Nicotine is then further divided into the two subcategories of tobacco and e-cigarettes, which are both weighted at 16.7 percent. Within each category there are a number of criteria through which points are scored. The only policies that the Index pays attention to are those that have a detrimental effect on consumers. Those countries that acquire higher scores are considered more paternalistic whereas lower scores reflect a more liberal states.
Examples of paternalistic regulations on the rise in 2017 include the introduction of a wine and coffee tax in Greece and the adoption of a directive on tobacco products in Brussels.
“Unreasonable regulations on the state creates unnecessary bureaucracy and budgetary expenditure on police, financial, and other state bodies,” explained Tanja Porčnik, president of the Visio Institute. “At the same time, this regulation on the part of citizens is reflected in the more expensive products, which is felt most by those with the lowest incomes.”
The Nanny State index also includes a data analysis on the practical effects of these lifestyle regulations. This analysis comes to the conclusion that there is no correlation between paternalistic regulation and life expectancy. Christopher Snowden, editor of the Nanny State Index and head of lifestyle economics at the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), suggests that “countries with extensive paternalism to abandon these practices and prefer to be inspired by countries that are at the bottom of the Paternalism Index because they set the freedom of citizens first.”
The index is a joint project of many EPICENTER partner organizations and other European think tank collaborators, all of which are Atlas Network partners: the Institute of Economic Affairs in the United Kingdom, Istituto Bruno Leoni in Italy, Civisimo in Spain, the Lithuanian Free Market Institute in Lithuania, the Molinari Economic Institute in Belgium, Timbro in Sweden, Greek Liberties Monitor in Greece, Visio Institute in Slovenia, Civil Development Forum in Poland, Center for Free Economic Thought in Estonia, Prometheus – The Liberty Institute in Germany, and European Students For Liberty. All of these organizations together provide incomparable insight in to how the polices of the governments that make up the EU impact the matters of the peoples personal preferences.