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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Conservatives then and now on tobacco: new prohibitions announced today

In "Smoking and Liberty," Western Standard columnist and libertarian author Pierre Lemieux asks his readers to imagine two very different worlds:

In one of these worlds, people fear everything and the shadow of everything, except the state which, for their own good, imprisons them in the 'administrative tyranny' that Tocqueville had foreseen. This world is calm and cool, but dull, savorless, smokeless, and odorless. Product packaging has been standardized, and authority has posted warnings and 'forbidden' signs everywhere. Politically correct newspeak has substituted sexual harassment for flirtation, alcoholism for enjoying wine, nicotine delivery devices for cigarettes, and risk for pleasure.

The second world stands at the opposite pole, with its colorful diversity, liberty and responsibility. Every individual lives his life as he sees fit, assuming the risks of his joys and the anguish of his death. Instead of devices delivering nicotine, caffeine or ethanol to human resources glued to their social functions, it features individuals who smoke, sip black coffee, and drink Bordeaux wine.

There is a common denominator between these two worlds: the mortality rate is 100% in both. But the men who live and die are not the same: in the first case, they are slaves; in the second, free individuals.

Rahim_jaffer_with_mediaSmoking and Liberty is filled with powerful messages and persuasive warnings about the cost of state intervention in the tobacco industry.

These messages and warnings, however, are largely ignored by the political classes, as they have very little to gain in allowing individuals the freedom to make their own choices. But this is not true of at least one Conservative MP.

A Reform Party MP at the time, Rahim Jaffer, in a September 27, 2000 statement outlining his opposition to Bill S-20, an anti-smoking initiative by Senator Colin Kenny, wrote:

“...the real cost of the failed anti-smoking agenda has been a loss of freedom. Our existing government policies have limited the fundamental right to freedom of expression through a ban on tobacco advertising; have increased punitive and regressive tobacco sin taxes that punish the poor and encourage smuggling and organised crime; have violated intellectual property rights in trademarks through the regulation of tobacco packaging; and have violated property rights through the various provincial and municipal smoking bans within privately owned restaurants and work places.”

Compare this clear defence of liberty by Jaffer to a recent statement by Conservative Gordon O'Connor, Minister of National Revenue on August 29, 2008:

“Taxing tobacco products at a high level is an important element of the governments' health strategy to discourage smoking among Canadians. Smuggling and the contraband tobacco trade undermine this strategy. Enhancements to tobacco tax compliance and enforcement programs will ensure that the Government is meeting these goals with effective tax, regulatory and control measures.”

To prove he’s serious about his anti-trade rhetoric, O’Connor looted $1.5 billion from two major cigarette manufactures and committed another $20 million in tax dollars to stop the unregulated trade in tobacco.

It gets worse. The Conservative Party announced today on the campaign trail that it plans to ban flavoured cigarillos that might appeal to children, who are already prohibited from smoking by the way. The Tories also promised to ban tobacco advertising in print and electronic media that might be viewed by young people, a clear violation of commercial free speech.

I’m sure Tory partisans will argue that there is little the Conservatives can do with a minority government and that the best we can hope for is incrementalism. I’m quite happy with incrementalism, but where is the evidence that the government is moving incrementally toward an adult approach to tobacco policy, for instance?

So should real conservatives consider voting for the Libertarian Party to signal to the Tories that they are growing impatient for change?

The Libertarian Party is hopelessly ill-prepared to fight this election, despite electing a leader who contrasts well with Harper and whose military and policing background appeals to traditional Conservatives who are unhappy with the absence of even an incremental movement toward greater economic and social freedom on issues like government spending and free speech.

Libertarian Party leader Dennis Young might still find a place in this campaign, however, as the conscience of the conservative movement. When I asked him about tobacco policy, for instance, he didn’t hesitate with a principled answer: “A Libertarian government would not be in the business of taxing or regulating tobacco.” That’s pretty clear.

Reagan_in_tobacco_adIn a 1975 interview with Reason magazine, Ronald Reagan said “If you analyze it, I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism.... The basis of conservatism is a desire for less government interference or less centralized authority or more individual freedom and this is a pretty general description also of what libertarianism is."

If Reagan is right, it may be that the heart and soul of the Conservative Party can be found, not with Harper, but with Young and his tiny band of freedom fighters.

I wish them well.

(Picture: Conservative MP Rahim Jaffer)

Posted by Matthew Johnston on September 17, 2008 in Current Affairs | Permalink


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Reagan understood that the key to conservatism's success was to unite all forms of conservatism under one banner. He supported libertarians by cutting taxes and trying(unsuccessfully) to reduce the size of government. Also, he was staunchly anti-communist and promoted a strong military. He backed foreign policy conservatives who believed in confronting international threats(the Evil Empire of the U.S.S.R. and its underlings). Third, he supported social conservatives who were upset by the social chaos of the 1960's and 70's. Reagan supported the death penalty, school prayer, the 2nd amendment, and opposed both affirmative action and abortion. Finally, Reagan realized that the mainstream media was biased in favor of liberals. Therefore, he understood that he had to go past the media and speak directly to the people. The Libertarian party by itself will never form a majority government. The key should be for the Libertarians to form alliances with both social and foreign policy conservatives. This alliance together with a persuasive leader could have a real shot at governing. The problems are that: 1.) Conservatives have to work harder to cut government waste and 2.) Libertarians have to be willing to accommodate social conservatives to some degree(too often Libertarians seem to view social conservatives as uneducated inferiors). Libertarians and Conservatives can start by working together on policies like: 1.)promoting gun owner's rights, 2.) removing provincial human rights commissions, 3.) appointing judges that strictly adhere to the law instead of interpreting to their leftist views, 4.)putting into law the principles of initiatives and referendums, 5.) reducing provincial and federal gas taxes, 6.) oppose affirmative action programs, 7.) oppose civil rights legislation that apply to only one category of people(Ex: gay rights legislation). If everyone is equal, then there should only be one set of laws for everyone. 8.) Open the running of more social service programs to private business and religious organizations with success rates and cost-benefit analysis being the deciding factor. 9.) Look for ways to introduce more private enterprise on aboriginal lands. Big goverment programs have failed to bring native communities out of poverty. In America, the private industry is showing some success on certain reservations. 10.) Awaken Canadians to the growing threat of Russia in the arctic. Putin is just the latest example of expansionist Russian leaders(the Czars, Stalin, Brezhnev, etc.). Libertarians and Conservatives should join together to call for an increase in the size of the Canadian military and for more forces to be deployed to the north. Russian claims in the arctic put shipping lanes at risk and infringe on both Canadian sovereignty and our mineral rights.

Posted by: JimmyT | 2008-09-17 10:16:17 PM

This is sort of beside the point of the post, but in response to the above comment: Regan might have shrank the size of government during his tenure, but he put in place or perpetuated the growth of a lot of the institutions through which conservatism has rapidly expanded the size of the state in America since. While this may not have been his intention, I don't think lovers of freedom should be as enamored with him as they are.

Posted by: Janet | 2008-09-17 10:25:39 PM

And in response to the post:
This is just another example of how elections have more to do with empty rhetoric and rah-rah cheering akin to a sports event than anything else. Now that it's illegal, we're going to make it EXTRA! illegal, or illegal for everyone, since it will only affect a few people.

Harper should call in that guy from Animal House to put tobacco companies on double secret probation. Then we'll *really* know he's serious.

Posted by: Janet | 2008-09-17 10:28:05 PM

Jaffer was clear and unequivocal on the issue of smoking bans. Would that he had spoken out clearly on the issue of human rights commissions.

Posted by: DML | 2008-09-17 11:35:44 PM

"If Reagan is right, it may be that the heart and soul of the Conservative Party can be found, not with Harper, but with Young and his tiny band of freedom fighters."

What a crock.

Young ISN'T a Conservative candidate.

The heart and soul of the Conservative Party is NOT in another party.

Why, if they are the "heart and soul" of the Conservative Party are they not Conservative MPs or candidates?

Young and his band of anarchists are not freedom fighters, they are attempting to be spoilers who will, if they succeed at anything, bring the Liberal Party of Canada back to power.

Where were all these Libertarian assholes when the Liberals were in power?
Why were they not attempting to split the Liberal Party vote by claiming to represent true Liberal values?

Why are they trying to split the Conservative vote now?

Posted by: Speller | 2008-09-18 11:04:01 AM

So Speller, please tell us where we can find evidence of the "heart and soul" of true conservatism. Or for that matter the heart and soul of classical liberalism. I see no evidence, based on observed and documented performance of its existence within any of the major political parties to-day.

The majority of Canadians continue to live in a daze while losing their freedom. The loss is increasing and accelerating while people remain complacent. I do wonder what it will take for them to wake up, assuming they do so before it is too late.

Posted by: Alain | 2008-09-18 11:55:47 AM

>"So Speller, please tell us where we can find evidence of the "heart and soul" of true conservatism."

It would be best to look for it in the Conservative Party wouldn't it, Alain?

Do Libertarians claim to be the "heart and soul" of the Conservative Party?

Libertarians claim to represent Liberals and the NDP too.

When Ronald Reagan claimed, " I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism..." he meant within the Republican Party where he himself resided, along with his economic advisor Milton Friedman.

To suggest he otherwise, that President Reagan meant the Libertarian Party rather than the Republican Party, as Matthew Johnston and other contributors on this site do, is pure sophistry.

Posted by: Speller | 2008-09-18 12:11:13 PM

Speller, sorry that I was not clear. I was not suggesting that it is found in the Libertarian Party. However, I do stand by my point that the CPC is conservative in name only. As for looking for it in the CPC, I have looked and hoped in vain. In fact the only difference between them, the Liberals and the NDP is the speed at which collectivist socialism occurs. Granted that the CPC offers the slowest transition, but what on earth does it have to do with conservatism?

I believe is calling things as I see them which does not make me a supporter of the Liberals or NDP. Due to age and experience I can no longer offer blind partisan support to any particular party.

Posted by: Alain | 2008-09-18 4:12:47 PM

I'm no youngster myself. I'll be celebrating my 25th wedding anniversary this November.
I'm not offering blind partisan support for the CPC.

I say it's either the CPC or the Liberals.
The Liberals are clearly the greater evil.

The Libertarians are irrelevant.
If they weren't, I couldn't support them either for a whole catalogue of reasons.

Posted by: Speller | 2008-09-18 4:46:26 PM

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