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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

We Love Nanny

Rollin', rollin', rollin' down the road to serfdom:

A terrific example of misguided nanny statism: amendments to the Tobacco Act that came into effect on Monday. First proposed by the Harper Conservatives in the 2008 election campaign and enacted last year, these changes ban the retail sale of cigarettes and little cigars ( "cigarillos") containing certain flavoured additives, particularly sweet flavours that supposedly entice young people to take up smoking. All in all, about 5,000 additives are now illegal.

The government's aim is laudable: to curb the sale of tobacco to minors. Problem is, most convenience stores do not sell tobacco products to minors. The vast majority of the sales of these flavoured cigarettes are made to adults. The greatest effect of these new provisions, then, is to increase the contraband sale of cigarettes to young people, particularly on native reserves.

Well, no Adam Daifallah, it isn't laudable. It isn't really any of the government's business whether kids smoke or not. A child's health is a problem for their parents, not the Prime Minister of Canada. Conservatives, libertarians and classical liberals are often frustrated by the seemingly unstoppable advance of the nanny state. Unfortunately they are often its unwitting advocates. Take this following paragraph from Daifallah's piece:

There are multiple other problems. Some of the 5,000 newly-banned additives are used to sweeten U.S.-made cigarettes like Camels, which are made from a bitter-tasting tobacco called burley. European cigarettes (other than British ones) also use some of the banned additives. So these foreign cigarettes are now effectively banned in Canada. Unlike cigar distributors, big U.S. tobacco companies are not going to modify their ingredient mix to please the small Canadian market. As a result, the contraband criminals now have a monopoly on American and international cigarettes, as well as cigarillos. 

Yes, this law will likely provide a brisk trade to Canada's smugglers. Pointing out the impracticality of much of the nanny state is part of the argument for freedom, but only part. Governments of all parties push these laws because politicians know they are easy vote getters. Aside from the usual libertarian suspects, few will oppose these laws and many will tacitly support them. A large segment of the Canadian electorate believes that governments have a moral right to legislate the private affairs of private citizens. Because of this governments know they are safe in proposing, enacting and enforcing such laws.

It costs governments relatively little to pass a new law, and enforcement costs are hidden within national, provincial and municipal police budgets, which are in turn touted as proof of how governments are working to protect Canadians. The more governments spend, the more they can claim to care. Opposing such laws largely on technical grounds, that they are too difficult to enforce or have unintended consequences, simply concedes the moral high ground to the nanny statists. 

Saying that new tobacco regulation will increase smuggling isn't really an objection, it's a qualification. A nanny statist can easily retort: "Fine, then step up the campaign against smugglers." For the statist, the problems of big government can always be solved by more government. That's not an approach those fighting for a government that defends our rights, rather than abrogates them, should be taking. Yet this is exactly the trap Daifallah falls into:

I don't smoke. Never have, never will. But this law is a diversionary waste of resources. A far better use of the money would be to beef-up enforcement and cracked down on contraband. Chalk up another victory for the nanny statists.

So the problem with banning stuff is that you aren't banning the right stuff? If you're opposed to the nanny state you need to fight it not on technicalities, but essentials. Banning or restricting the sale of tobacco is immoral because it attacks our right to freedom of exchange. The state has an obligation to protect us from those who initiate force or fraud. It can even, in some cases, do so pre-emptively as when the police break up conspiracies to commit murder or theft. 

Banning adults from buying and selling a consumable product is a violation of their rights. Stores are already banned from selling tobacco products to children, which can at least be justified on the basis of a child's lack of capacity. Saying that you are trying to help children is not a valid excuse for violating the rights of consenting adults. Children are the responsibility of their parents, not the state. Telling parents what their children can, or can't, consume is nanny statism at its worst and most literal, the state usurping the role of the parent. The "won't someone think of the children" school of statism in effect says this: We are violating the rights of one group of adults - smokers - so as to make it easier for us to violate the rights of another group of adults - parents. This new law isn't simply impractical, as Adam Daifallah suggests, it is also completely immoral. Until the morality of the nanny state is challenged, it will continue to grow.

Posted by Richard Anderson on July 13, 2010 | Permalink


The war on tobacco has been pushed to ridiculous and even dishonest and immoral levels, Publius, but not to the extent that it violates anyone's rights. And as long as we have socialized medicine in this country, it is the public's, and therefore the government's, business how healthy your kid is, because they're the ones who pay to fix it.

None of this gives the governmental the legal, moral, or ethical last word on anything and everything you do to yourself or put into your body. But it does move the line a fair distance.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2010-07-13 8:28:09 AM

Shane: two wrongs don't make a right.

Publius: where's a damned "like" button when you'd like one?

Posted by: Paul McKeever | 2010-07-13 8:44:29 AM

It seems to me that more kids smoke these days than when I was a kid. And it is supposed to be harder to get tobacco products. Not only are the laws a waste of time because they just don't work, but they are wrong on the first place.

Posted by: TM | 2010-07-13 8:57:57 AM

Paul: subscribe to The Shotgun in Google Reader and you can "like" any post you please.

Posted by: Bradley | 2010-07-13 9:01:03 AM

What are the two wrongs, Paul?

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2010-07-13 9:01:12 AM

Shane, any health costs associated with smoking are mostly cancelled out by the excessive taxes that they charge for all tobacco products.

It would instead be nice them introducing new safety regulations on the production of tobacco products such as banning the use of phosphate fertilizers which contain radioactive substances that smokers inhale. But sadly making a safer cigarette seems to be the last thing they want to do. http://www.cannabisculture.com/articles/2221.html

Posted by: Michael J | 2010-07-13 9:22:03 AM

There certainly is a rights violation going on here.

I'd gladly bin my access to health care (any my payments to it) for the return of my right to live my life as I damn well choose.

Posted by: Zip | 2010-07-13 9:43:45 AM

Actually, Michael, smokers actually save the system money by crapping out early, before they require the extended palliative care often required by the elderly. I was speaking in general terms.

That said, I'm not displeased to see fewer smokers, not because I have anything against smoking, but because of the inconsiderate way they go about it. Cigarette butts, once an eyesore in most any public place, have largely disappeared. Curiously, cigar and pipe smokers are much less noted for this kind of petty littering, even allowing for numbers (and the smoke smells better, too).

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2010-07-13 9:58:13 AM

Say that again in forty years, Zip, if you live that long.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2010-07-13 9:58:54 AM

Shane, I agree that smokers save the system money by dying early. And the tax revenue for sure makes them a net benefit to the state.

Ironically they have sued the tobacco companies, tried to reduce smoking and totally failed, and violated property rights.

If the state got out of the tobacco business entirely, it could hardly be more messed up than it is.

Posted by: TM | 2010-07-13 10:17:16 AM

Shane the problem with citing socialised health care as the reason or excuse is that the anti-smoking hysteria is just as prevalent south of our border where they do not, not yet at least, have socialised health care. The control zealots pushing it are no different than the control zealots wanting to control everything else, be it food or whatever. These people are extremely unhappy and miserable in their own life with a motto of anything I hate must be banned for everyone else. Oh, they will never admit it preferring to trot out some cliche of wanting to protect people's health, protect the children, protect the environment or whatever. They are the puritans of our days, akin to the Islamist clerics who ban music, dancing or any type of enjoyment in life.

Posted by: Alain | 2010-07-13 11:07:18 AM

It almost makes me want to start lighting up again...

Posted by: Leigh Patrick Sullivan | 2010-07-13 11:42:14 AM

You don't have to convince me that banners in general are sad, sorry little people, Alain. (For examples of best of breed, please look at such pillars of fortitude as Dalton McGuinty and Allan Rock.) I was merely pointing out that when there is socialized medicine in the picture, their opponents' job is that much harder, because trying to cut expenditures by creating a healthier populace is a worthwhile if not mandatory goal.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2010-07-13 11:42:53 AM

Shane: the one wrong is being forced to pay for health insurance/care monopoly (i.e., a violation of everyone's liberty and property). The other is any violation of life, liberty or property that is purportedly justified by the fact that that the government is violating everyone.

If an Islamic terrorist snatches an innocent person, makes the person his human shield, and tries to shoot and kill you from behind the human sheild; and if there is no way to prevent him from shooting you dead unless you shoot *through* the human shield; then it is morally right for you to shoot him *through* the human shield. In such a case, he, not you, is the murderer of the human shield, even though it was you who pulled the trigger. So it is with health care. If your cigarette smoking, and your corresponding increased burden on the socialized health care system, is going to put a greater taxation burden on everyone, that's not your fault. It's the government's fault. All it has to do is stop holding your neighbour hostage to the socialized health care system, and your smoking won't harm your neighbour's pocketbook at all, because you'll be paying for 100% of the health care you consume, instead of the government sticking your neighbour with the bill. In the health care scenario, the government is the terrorist, the legal mandate to pay for socialized health care makes us all human shields for the government, and banning you from smoking a cigarette is analogous to you just standing there and getting shot from behind the human shield.

In short: light em if ya got em - and prepare to shoot.

Posted by: Paul McKeever | 2010-07-13 1:51:23 PM

Paul, that the government is violating anyone is a matter of opinion, not law. And it's not me you have to convince, but the voters. If you can't convince a LOC like me, good luck with Canadians in general.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2010-07-13 2:01:04 PM

Conservatives are absolutely incompetent at fighting for freedom. Their potemkin opposition to statism is the reason for its so many victories.

Posted by: Cytotoxic | 2010-07-13 7:24:18 PM

Shane, when has *anyone* ever convinced you of *anything*?

More generally: LOC's are LOC's precisely because they never believe any government, police or military person to have violated anyone's life, liberty, or property. LOC's, practically by definition, hold up obedience (a.k.a., Islam, if one prefers) as the highest virtue. The LOC position is a matter of faith, not of reason. Indeed, if you could reason with a LOC, there wouldn't *be* any LOCs.

In short: that someone cannot cause an LOC not to be an LOC is not evidence that the general public are idiots.

Shorter: I think my prospects - anyone's prospects - on this issue are pretty good.

Posted by: Paul McKeever | 2010-07-14 4:11:36 AM

Cytotoxic, are you saying that conservatives alone are responsible for the victories of statism? What about libertarians, liberals, leftists? What role have they played? If none, may we assume they are even more incompetent than conservatives and therefore not worth heeding?

By the way, the word "potemkin" does not occur in the dictionary. "Potemkin" is the name of a famous Russian battleship, and "Potemkin village" is an expression that means to describe misleading, inaccurate or twisted statements or ruses, but you didn't use the word in either context. Source, please?

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2010-07-14 6:28:10 AM

Shane, when has *anyone* ever convinced you of *anything*?

A few people on this board have managed to convince me they're nuts.

More generally: LOC's are LOC's precisely because they never believe any government, police or military person to have violated anyone's life, liberty, or property.

Few if any LOCs, including me, believe that those things have never happened. We merely hold that this is better than the most frequently proffered alternative, which seems to be anarchy. Ask the residents of Baghdad how well anarchy worked for them.

LOC's, practically by definition, hold up obedience (a.k.a., Islam, if one prefers) as the highest virtue. The LOC position is a matter of faith, not of reason. Indeed, if you could reason with a LOC, there wouldn't *be* any LOCs.

More opinion, transparently slanted to make dissident rebels look like philosopher-heroes and upstanding citizens look like paper men. This isn't reasoning; it's proselytizing. Perhaps this is why you're having trouble, Paul; prefacing all discussions with "You're an idiot" has a remarkably low success rate.

In short: that someone cannot cause an LOC not to be an LOC is not evidence that the general public are idiots.

It's not evidence that LOCs are idiots, either. It is evidence that the would-be converter might be, however.

Shorter: I think my prospects - anyone's prospects - on this issue are pretty good.

That's a brave try, Paul. But with a record of 0.75 percent of the vote in Toronto Centre–Rosedale, 1.3 percent in Oshawa, 0.6 percent in Ajax-Whitby, 0.47 percent in London West, and 0.22 percent in St. Paul's, I'd say you still have much to do.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2010-07-14 6:49:03 AM

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