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How to stop the toilet paper panic

Summary:
Thanks to Big Data, it would be easier to stop the toilet paper panic in its tracks. Step 1: Announce that anyone holding more than, say, 50 rolls (per person in a household) must hand in the excess to a charity, and notify the government that they have done so. Step 2: A week later, order supermarkets to hand over the data they collect on purchases, and raid people with large stocks that have not been surrendered. Confiscate the lot, and leave them with an ample supply of newspaper. Is this a serious option, in view of the associated invasion of privacy? Given the kinds of restrictions on anti-social behavior that are going to be needed, I think it would be the right kind of signal to send. And, if we are scared about the potential misuse of this kind of data, this

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Thanks to Big Data, it would be easier to stop the toilet paper panic in its tracks.

Step 1: Announce that anyone holding more than, say, 50 rolls (per person in a household) must hand in the excess to a charity, and notify the government that they have done so.

Step 2: A week later, order supermarkets to hand over the data they collect on purchases, and raid people with large stocks that have not been surrendered. Confiscate the lot, and leave them with an ample supply of newspaper.

Is this a serious option, in view of the associated invasion of privacy? Given the kinds of restrictions on anti-social behavior that are going to be needed, I think it would be the right kind of signal to send. And, if we are scared about the potential misuse of this kind of data, this would prompt some proper restrictions once the emergency is over.

John Quiggin
He is an Australian economist, a Professor and an Australian Research Council Laureate Fellow at the University of Queensland, and a former member of the Board of the Climate Change Authority of the Australian Government.

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