Cigars & The FDA
The latest regulation initiative contemplated by the anti-smoke zealots is the proposal to place all tobacco products under the authority of the FDA. This entails a controversial declaration of tobacco as a DRUG, with vast consequences which are far wider than the scope of this email.. However, the underlying premise is the notion that more scrutiny and supervision, more bureaucracy and red tape will ultimately serve as one more hurdle, an extra nuisance that will drive consumers away from exercising their free choice to smoke. The question, of course, is what is it the FDA?s business here to begin with?
I found the answer in an article I read in the Jewish World Review, by Robert Cihak, regarding recent efforts to regulate HealthCare programs in this country, under the auspices of the FDA. Obviously, the article deals with the question of FDA interference with Healthcare, while my question is what business does the FDA have with tobacco, but the issues are very similar. I?d like to bring here some excerpts:
?If you think the FDA is only giving doctors, hospitals, and drug companies a hard time, think about this recent note in The Wall Street Journal: "The Food and Drug Administration recently argued in the D.C. Court of Appeals that it has the power to ban meat and vegetables without violating anyone's fundamental rights." In other words, FDA agents also want to give you a hard time in the grocery store; they claim to know what food is best for you, regardless of what you might think, smell, or taste.
This is like the Marx brothers asking, "Who you gonna believe, me or your own eyes?" Politicians of all stripes are giving everybody a hard and expensive runaround trying to tell you what health insurance you should or should not buy. These political machinations remind me of the "experience machine" described by Robert Nozick in his 1971 book "Anarchy, State, and Utopia." Nozick says, "Suppose there was an experience machine that would give you any experience you desired. Super duper neurophysiologists could stimulate your brain so that you would think and feel you were writing a great novel, or making a friend, or reading an interesting book. All the time you would be floating in a tank, with electrodes attached to your brain. Should you plug into this machine for life, preprogramming your life's desires? . . . Of course, while in the tank you won't know that you're there; you'll think it's all actually happening."
Whether or not you would like to be plugged into this machine, even for an hour or a week of virtual joyriding around the solar system, would you plug your children into such a machine, from the moment of their birth, so they wouldn't have to experience any of life's travails? Most people recoil in horror at the thought.
Nozick's experience machine comes across as a nightmarish fantasy. Yet the fantasy of simplifying everybody's health insurance needs with a super duper health insurance machine lives on in the dreams of many government officials.? Cihak continues to explain clearly why the government can not decide for its citizens what kind of health insurance they should have, just like it can not decide what medical procedure an individual patient should go through. He goes on to say that the idea that the government should intervene can only be based on the assumption that some government experts (like the programmers of Nozick's experience machine) should know how to manage your life better than you do.
The modern political premise implicitly held by many politicians is that the government owns you, or at least knows what's best for you. This logic requires that the government tell you what you can and should do with your life, such as not costing the government too much money for your medical care.
At the logical extreme, government officials could ? and should ? force you to sacrifice your very life for the greater good.
On the other hand we have the premise that you own yourself. The one articulated in our Declaration of Independence, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, which among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."
In this vision, human beings have rights prior to government; government is a tool of the governed, not the other way around.
Most people want their doctors to use good judgment, not just scientific acumen and monetary or fiscal calculation. I doubt that any of the politicians who are trying to change the law tell their doctors, "Do the best you can for me, doc, of course within the federal budget limits on medical spending I voted for."
The case against government interference in private matters and individual freedoms is the case of the cigar consumer just as much as it is the case of the people who prefer to decide which health care program they would have, what they would like to eat and how, in general they would like to conduct their lives according to the principles which guided our founding fathers when they drafted the constitution of our great nation.