I was on the Moral Maze on Wednesday night. It's a great (live) show so it was nice to be invited on. I last appeared as a 'witness' in 2010 when the subject was 'nudging', a topic that was inspired by the then-recent decision to look at plain packaging. (So long ago! I dread to think how much public money has been spent on that ridiculous idea in the intervening years.)
This time the subject was 'individual freedom versus public health', inspired partly by the prospect of banning smoking in cars with under-18s. It was fun to do and I think I got my point across. I was slightly puzzled by the two guests who came on after me who were interesting in their own way but didn't seem ideally suited to the topic. The Jainist (Google it—good on them for sticking with the old swastika despite all that unpleasantness with Mr Hitler) mentioned in the green room that arguments and confrontation were not part of his culture, which made him an odd choice for the Moral Maze, but he more than held his own.
I was slightly surprised to be cross-examined by Michael Portillo rather than Matthew Taylor. Taylor is a New Labourite and was very keen on the nanny state when I was on the show in 2010, but on this occasion he took a slightly more libertarian position. Whether this was an intellectual exercise for him or a change in outlook, I don't know. For his part, Portillo took my acknowledgement that unavoidable negative externalities can, in some instances, justify Pigovian taxation to be a bigger concession than it was. If we had spoken about this at greater length, he would have found that this means we should have fewer nanny state laws, not more. Alas, the pace of the programme meant that this never came out. Fortunately, Claire Fox was on hand to give a robust defence of individual liberty.
My main opponent was a woman from the Royal Society of Public Health. It's an organisation that I have never knowingly encountered before and so—as I told her beforehand—I assume they can't be too bad. She was nice. I hate it when they're nice.
You can listen to it here. My bit starts at 11 minutes.