easy target these days is the tobacco industry; it is under attack by nearly
true they profit from selling a dangerous product, but so do the
manufacturers of automobile, airplane, guns, plastic bags and compressed
oxygen, as well as food producers, drug companies and coffee farmers. It is
indisputable fact that anything can be dangerous when used incorrectly or
excessively. Even oxygen, the very gas which gives us life, can be deadly
when used incorrectly.
company executives have come to symbolize much of what is wrong with
corporate America and our corrupt system of special interests, favoritism,
and interventionism. For decades, big tobacco lobbied for, and gladly
accepted, subsidies, while anyone with a grain of common sense knew smoking
was a bad habit that adversely affected some people's health.
there were specific gains to be realized from the charade that surrounded
tobacco sales. Pretending that smoking was a benign habit made it easier to
collect benefits from the nonsmoking taxpayers. And the alternative, arguing
for personal responsibility for risk, has hardly been in vogue for the last
the past 50-plus years, responsibility for risk has slowly shifted from the
individual to the nanny-state. And the tobacco industry has been a willing
accomplice to this betrayal of individual responsibility, in the name of
getting taxpayer subsidies. The reality is that big tobacco put the welcome
mat out for big government, and now they are having to face the music.
though, the question is this: who has responsibility for our well-being? Who
should make decisions regarding risk-taking and personal habits, the
Government or the individual?
the Clinton health care debate, tobacco and nearly every other industry took
the easy way out. They conceded that it was government's responsibility to
provide care for everyone; which means, of course, that it is the obligation
of the government to force one person to pay for the treatment of the bad
habits of another.
the free market works, medical insurance premiums adjust to reflect the cost
of habits like smoking, sky diving, overeating, and medical preconditions.
When Government pays, the concept of insurance goes out the window and
everybody gets everything paid for, regardless of their behavior. This, of
course, explains why people in socialized nations, like England, continue to
smoke in increasing numbers. Socializing the cost of the consequences
increases participation in risky behavior.
who have harmed their health by smoking have learned they can coerce those
with good health into paying for the consequence of their bad habit. In fact,
many who harm themselves through their lifestyles, not just a single bad
habit, believe they have a right to be taken care of by someone else. This
includes not only those who smoke, but those who drink excessively, or
perform sexual acts which increase their chance of acquiring AIDS or
hepatitis, or who refuse a proper diet to treat diabetes or heart conditions.
To the extent one can lower the cost of a risky habit by having someone else
pay for it, the less likely one is to worry about consequences.
this abdication of personal responsibility that drives contradictory drug
laws; we say a particular drug is illegal, which inspires the use of dirty
needles, and then serves to further the spread AIDS and hepatitis. In the
name of compassion, the government then forces non-users to pay for free
needles so the addicts can keep using their illegal drugs. Nothing could be
once have we heard a tobacco industry leader defend his right to sell a risky
product, without fraud or coercion, to an informed consumer. In a free
society, the user must be held responsible - absent fraud - for the risk he
assumes, not the seller of any given product.
the leaders of the tobacco industry deserve sharp criticism. Once precedent
is set in this matter, it will be only a matter of time before the
manufacturers of automobiles will be liable for all accidents, even if the
drivers are speeding and intoxicated. Chocolate addicts will sue Hershey
Candies, while people with high cholesterol can bankrupt cattle ranchers. The
whole notion is absurd.
proposed tobacco deal does great harm because it further undermines the
principle of individual responsibility. Undermining this principle not only
drives up the costs of medical treatment and the products involved, it
actually encourages dangerous behavior. After all, the typical response to
future generations will be, `If I'm unfortunate and become ill or injured
engaging in a particular activity, the seller or the Government will be made
to take care of me.'
this attitude toward consumer risk and personal responsibility is not
changed, the chances for a free market and prosperous society will dissipate
like so much cigarette smoke blown by a breeze.
other articles by Ron Paul
Ron Paul of Texas enjoys a national reputation as the premier advocate for
liberty in politics today. Dr. Paul is the leading spokesman in Washington
for limited constitutional government, low taxes, free markets, and a return
to sound monetary policies based on commodity-backed currency. For more
information click on the Project Freedom website.
with the authorization of Dr. Paul.
Dr. Ron Paul