April 27, 2016 Print

When many countries exist side by side in the same region, they have an opportunity to attract residents, tourism, and economic growth through policy competition — and people can make an informed choice about where to go to avoid overbearing government restrictions. The Nanny State Index, a new project from the European Policy Information Center (EPICENTER), ranks the European Union’s 28 member states “to identify the worst places to eat, drink, smoke and vape.” Taking a variety of regulations into account, the index found that Finland, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Hungary have the most restrictive “nanny state” policies in the EU, while the Czech Republic, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Slovakia rounded out the five freest countries for personal life choices.

“The Nanny State Index consists of three main categories: alcohol, nicotine and diet,” explains Christopher Snowdon, editor of the Nanny State Index and head of lifestyle economics with Atlas Network partner the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA). “Each of the three categories is weighted equally at 33.3 per cent. Nicotine is subdivided into tobacco and e-cigarettes, each with an equal weighting within that category, meaning that they both have a weighting of 16.66 per cent overall. Each category has a number of different criteria. Points are scored for each criteria and are then weighted and combined to reach the final score. The Nanny State Index is concerned with policies that have an adverse impact on consumers. Policies are given different weights to reflect the extent to which consumers are negatively affected, from relatively minor inconveniences to heavy taxes or outright prohibition.”

The index is also accompanied by analysis gauging the practical effects of these regulations, showing that there is no correlation between restrictive lifestyle policies and higher life expectancy, or lower rates of alcohol and tobacco consumption.

“The government should leave [these decisions] totally up to individuals,” said Mattias Svensson, a fellow with Timbro, in an interview with German newspaper the Local. “I don’t see the government as having a role to play in everyday pleasures and weekend pleasures, what we eat, drink, smoke, etc. People enjoy these things, they know it’s not healthy and we know they know that. Grown ups can handle these things, which have negative effects and these are easy to measure. ... A bureaucrat can never make that decision, they can’t know the pleasure side of it and why we drink, they can’t understand that through looking at diagrams at a desk so they shouldn’t make that decision for us.”

The index also received coverage from the Daily Caller, the Independent, Metro, City A.M., Public Radio International, L’Essentiel, Aftonbladet, EurActive.com, Independent.ie, Sociale.it, the Sofia Globe, Giornale di Puglia, Spain’s edition of the Local, Sweden’s edition of the Local, and more.

The Nanny State Index is a joint project of several EPICENTER partner organizations and other European think tank collaborators, all of which are also Atlas Network partners: the Institute of Economic Affairs in the United Kingdom, Istituto Bruno Leoni in Italy, Civisimo in Spain, Lithuanian Free Market Institute in Lithuania, Molinari Economic Institute in Belgium, Timbro in Sweden, Quid Novi Foundation in the Netherlands, Greek Liberties Monitor in Greece, Visio Institut in Slovenia, Free Market Foundation in Hungary, Civil Development Forum in Poland, Prometheus – the Liberty Institute in Germany, and Hibernia Forum in Ireland. Together, they provide an unparalleled expertise about how the policies of European governments affect matters of personal preference and conscience.