Alcohol and Cigarette Smuggling

1.Alcohol and Cigarette Smuggling

Group 17 presented a couple of case studies in which governments had changed taxation of cigarettes and/or alcohol and had subsequently experienced changes in teenage usage and dependency rates.

In an attempt to reduce the negative impacts from smuggling, should states be encouraged or forced to lower their tax rates, even if teenage consumption increases?

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2.The Dark Web

One of the more interesting aspects of the dark web is its reliance on Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies as a medium of payment. With the recent gyrations in crypto prices, it seems that dark web transactions have recently become much riskier. (A conspiracy theorist might even speculate that the US government is indirectly encouraging the wild swings in Bitcoin to disrupt dark web transactions and force sellers into more risky transactions.)

If cryptocurrency values relative to the US dollar continue to swing widely, what do you predict may happen to the dark web? Will buyers and sellers move to more obscure (and less widely accepted) crypto-currencies in an attempt to maintain stable values? Will they risk detection and return to using US dollar denominated transfers? Is it possible that another national currency will take its place (rubles, yuan, yen)?

3.Cybersecurity

We heard a lot from Group 15 about the costs and risks associated with cybersecurity. You read a couple of papers about the subject and even completed a homework assignment about a major data breach. As a result, you are better informed about this topic than most in the US today.

With the costs already high and growing quickly, why is it that so few people in the US take simple precautions to protect their personally-identifiable information? Why do so many continue to use passwords such as ‘123456’ and ‘password’ for their profiles and account security? Why do so many people use the same password for every account, and fail to change them regularly? Finally, why do people share so much information on social media sites that would be better kept private?

4.The War on Drugs

Group 4 told the class that the US has outsourced a number of interdiction and border enforcement activities to private firms.  Employees of these firms have immunity from prosecution for any violations of US law (although they enjoy no immunity from the ‘host’ country’s laws).

Should these private contractors enjoy legal immunity?  What problems is this situation likely to cause?  Is there a better way to protect these private employees?

5.Knock-off and Gray Market Goods

Group 9 discussed a number of goods that cross the line between legal and illegal.  Would you buy a computer, a cell phone, jewelry, or a pair of shoes that you knew to be counterfeit?  If not, what considerations would stop you from making the purchase?

Would you buy a genuine item in one of those categories if you you knew it to be distributed via a gray-market?  If you would feel differently about these two types of purchases, what would cause this difference?

6.Intellectual Property Theft

Group 3 used the phrase ‘hammer and shield’ in discussing US efforts to combat theft of intellectual property – the shield being a set of laws and international agreements, with the hammer represented by fines and jail sentences for convicted offenders.

Given that our government cannot easily use a hammer against countries that permit or encourage their firms to steal intellectual property, how can US firms best protect their knowledge, trade secrets, and patents?  Should refusing to trade with these nations be a part of the protective response?

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