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Capitalism & Tobacco

I'm a capitalist (without much capital). I believe in markets. I think markets operate better than planned economies. It's a proven fact. Nevertheless, is everything about capitalism good? Hell no! Are unfettered markets the way to go? Not on your life!

Speaking of life, today's NYT Magazine has a cover story about the tobacco industry entitled "How do Tobacco Executives Live With Themselves? They spread the amazing wealth and, with it, their grim responsibility." Let's just say that smoking isn't good for you. Let's just say that it kills hundreds of thousands each year. Let's just say this isn't a debate about whether you smoke or think smoking should be permitted. I don't want to debate that.

What is worth considering is why tobacco is sold in this country, and why it's sold around the world if all the medical evidence says it shouldn't be. The answer. Money. Capitalism. Markets. Says Murray H. Bring, SVP for Philip Morris Companies, "To ban a product that is used so widely by so many people doesn't make any sense .. certainly not from a political point of view. There are more smokers in the United States than there are people who voted for Clinton." And David E.R. Dangoor, EVP for Philip Morris International, "We have the best partners in the world: the governments. In a lot of countries, it's incredibly important to the whole welfare state that we sell our products to collect taxes." (That cigarette tax hike to fund health care is looking better all the time!)

On cigarette smoking, I wear my views on my sleeve (and by holding my nose)! But I wonder what products wouldn't be sold to further the interests of capital?

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Meanderings 1.01 -- March 20, 1994