During the debates over the recently defeated McCain tobacco bill, Republicans again demonstrated why they’re incompetent to defend freedom.

…to allegedly “protect children,” government was to intensify its violation of individual rights by dictating the price of private products, increasing taxes, censoring free speech and imposing the self-responsibility of smokers onto tobacco companies.

Since current “wisdom” holds that cigarettes are an “addictive drug” and that adults allegedly “addicted” to them began smoking in their adolescence, the McCain Tobacco bill was supposedly meant to discourage teenage smoking by raising the price of cigarettes by at least $1.10 a pack. It also sought to expand on provisions from last years tobacco settlement by further regulating marketing and advertising of major U.S. tobacco companies, imposing stiffer fines on them if the rate of teenage smoking is not reduced, and increasing the overall fines they must pay from $386.5 billion to $516 billion.

Thus, to allegedly “protect children,” government was to intensify its violation of individual rights by dictating the price of private products, increasing taxes, censoring free speech and imposing the self-responsibility of smokers onto tobacco companies.

The Democrats, practitioners of state-enforced paternalism, hold that government must regulate public health, but they fear their calls for higher taxes will harm them politically. Republicans, practitioners of freedom being negotiable, hold that they oppose a “tax-and-spend” approach to reducing teen smoking, but they fear that being branded “pawns” for the tobacco companies will harm them politically.

Being philosophically confused, Republicans cower from such accusations. While they posture as defenders of freedom, they subordinate the individual rights of the owners of tobacco companies by compromising and championing the Democrats’ measures that shackle more freedoms and extort more money from Americans — all under the cloak of “protecting children.”

…on issues where violating the fundamental principle of inalienable individual rights are involved, compromise is never principled.

The chief champion of this bill was senator John McCain — a Republican. He and leading Republican Trent Loot embody what President Clinton holds as the solution to all similar bipartisan debates: “principled compromise.” But on issues where violating the fundamental principle of inalienable individual rights are involved, compromise is never principled.

It is such compromises of their ever-increasing individual-rights destroying measures that the more statist Democrats seek in Republicans. Observe how Republicans denounce the welfare state but propose to save it through pragmatic “reforms,” such as transferring the federal government’s coercive management of its programs to the states; or when they propose to pass tax cuts but fail to reduce funding for massive “tax-and-spend” programs such as Medicare.

Thus anything but the Republicans’ outright opposition to the Democrats’ individual-rights destroying measures is futile for freedom. That they assert how upholding individual rights consistently is not “practical,” only demonstrates how deeply they’ve snarled themselves in the web of the Democrats’ compromise-worship. Republicans refuses to learn that compromising individual rights only sanctions shackling freedoms and sets precedent for future measures that beget the same.

…on issues where violating the fundamental principle of inalienable individual rights are involved, compromise is never principled.

The precedent of stopping teen smoking rests on the equivocal position that tobacco is an “addictive drug;” therefore, teen smoking must be outlawed. First, drug use by adults should be legal because Americans have an individual right to act *against* their lives and because it doesn’t per se physically harm or threaten the lives of others. Furthermore, since certain drugs can seriously harm one’s mind and can be immediately lethal, their sale to and use by minors should be outlawed; however, cigarette smoking fails to present these threats to young smokers.

Therefore only by upholding a morality of self-interest and the principle of individual rights can one uncompromisingly hold that even if smoking were “addictive,” it is outside government’s proper function to both decide overparents whether their teenager is allowed to smoke and to prohibit individualsfrom advertising, selling or purchasing anything that fails to initiate physical force against others.

Instead, many Republicans follow Trent Lott’s lead from 1996, when he helped produce a proposal that would force tobacco companies to pay the states $150 billion. His effort failed but nevertheless helped beget the unjust fines currently imposed on these companies. Among the Republican’s compromising proposals over the much-debated McCain bill were that money “raised” (i.e., extorted) will fund drug abuse programs and the “war on drugs,” give assistance to people whose professions and economies depend on tobacco, and provide income-tax cuts, particularly for married couples. Absent were any proposals that would allow tobacco companies immunity from lawsuits regarding people with smoking-related illnesses.

Thus, tobacco companies will be looted to pay for social programs and tax cuts for others, while they remain unjustly responsible for the harm others voluntarily incurred by misusing their product.

Republicans must uncompromisingly hold that anti-tobacco crusaders have a right to try to persuade individuals not to smoke, but if their persuasion fails they have no right to force their ideals on others by having government impose individual-rights destroying regulations and laws on Americans.

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Joseph Kellard

Joseph Kellard is a journalist living in New York. To read more of Mr. Kellard's commentary, visit his website The American Individualist at americanindividualist.blogspot.com.

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