Saturday, March 21, 2009

State gangsterism

Matt McCarten is at it again in the NZ Herald, slagging off capitalism this time in the form of the tobacco industry. Now I don't have any interest in that industry. I personally loathe the smell of tobacco smoke, and would be happy if smoking faded away into history. I've known people I loved whose lives were undoubtedly shortened by smoking.

He sees the industry as a sign capitalism has failed, now nobody has bothered to tell Matt that the proportion of people smoking in the most anti-Western capitalist countries - that prohibit Western tobacco companies - According to Wikipedia 26.3% of men and 21.5% of women in the US smoke, 29.7% and 27.5% in New Zealand. Yet in Cuba 43.4% of men and 28.3% of women smoke, in Iran 29.6% of men smoke (but for obvious reasons only 5.5% of women), in North Korea (no report quoted) most men smoke (women don't), in Belarus (the last bastion of totalitarianism in the former USSR) 63.5% of men smoke and 21.1% of women smoke.

Capitalism? No - it is cultural.

However, you can see Matt's point of view explained in one sentence:

"I've never heard a convincing argument as to the benefit of smoking"

No? Well I have one - it gives a lot of people pleasure. However he misses the point - it doesn't matter whether or not YOU see a benefit - it is called freedom of choice. I don't know the benefit of bungie jumping, or the benefit of genital piercing, or the benefit of eating rotten cabbage or coprophagia (if you don't know don't look it up online), or belonging to a student union.

The point is Matt that just because YOU don't see a benefit in something that you find distasteful and risky, doesn't mean you should decide.

Now the tobacco industry is certainly far more having the moral high ground. It obfuscated and denied overwhelming scientific evidence that sustained use of its products causes respiratory diseases and exacerbates cardio-vascular disease. Of course it did - why wouldn't it? It continues to sell and push its products in developing countries, obfuscating these facts, with its defence that it is about market share. That, is partly the truth, but it also wants more customers.

So I have little time for these peddlers of truth evasion. It was right for the tobacco industry to be held to account for death caused by its products when it openly advertised them as being healthy or ignored proven health issues with the products. I am not talking about nonsense like "Corporate Social Responsibility" as the only appropriate response is laws on fraud and negligence to cover the failure of the tobacco industry to be honest about the nature of its products. Sadly most countries don't have a capitalism legal system to allow this discipline to be placed on them.

However he gets it wrong when he argues against free choice, because, in fact, it is about that. The health risks of smoking are widely known in modern Western society, you know about it as a child. People take up smoking aware of this, and people stop smoking as well. Yes the tax on tobacco is an appalling way to pay for the state health sector costs. A better way would be for those who smoke to be able to buy health care that takes into account their lifestyle risk factors, in fact as should everyone. You smoke, you eat fatty sugary foods, you sit around all day, you pay a fortune or don't qualify.

Matt wouldn't like people being accountable for their choices though - because he believes smokers don't choose - he believes individuals are vulnerable little lambs that his all embracing nanny state should protect and provide for.

So when he says "I like to think it has dawned on most people that unfettered capitalism is just a form of gangsterism and is past its use-by date." Where has he seen this? Where are private property rights fully protected? Where is free banking? Where is the state only providing defence and law and order? Oh yes, the crony capitalist mixed economies dominated by state control of the money supply, and a significant part of GDP, are "unfettered".

He says "You only have to look at what has happened in the United States to realise that even they now accept that doing business without morality is unsustainable."

Indeed, but what about the gangsterism that is government?

What business would survive based on charging its customers whether or not they used its services, and charging them prices based on how much money the customers earned in the past year?

What business would promise health care, but would remove offering services or procedures at various locations with no notice, even though you paid into the "scheme" all your life? That same scheme means you faced waiting lists when you needed procedures deemed "non urgent", even though you were in a lot of pain at the time. That's called state health care.

What business would promise you a retirement income, and after taking more of your income every year as you get old, give your inheritance absolutely nothing if you die the day before you're due to collect, and would vary what is paid out based on political fiat? That same system means that the average Maori man (who dies at age 65) never receives a cent of National Superannuation.

Yes I know what gangsterism is Matt.


Paul Walker said...

I noted this bit in the article "It should shock us that these tobacco merchants send 5000 New Zealanders each year to hospitals, mostly publicly funded, to die in pain." The "tobacco merchants" don't send these people to hospital, these people send themselves.

Anonymous said...

Ahhh but Paul that would imply that people posess free will and can make choices for themselves...choices that mean the equal obligation to take personal responsibility for them....and a good Comrade like Matt can never admit that fact without undermining the whole justification for his Socialist dogma of welfare and dependance.....

Anonymous said...

Just came across your blog and got impressed with what I read, you truly rock!

Anonymous said...

PS.....LS can you please try and get that post as an opinion piece in a local daily in NZ? That was the bomb!

Anonymous said...

good to read you've still got it froggy xxx

ZenTiger said...

Nice concluding paragraphs.