by L. Neil Smith
Special to L. Neil Smith’s The Libertarian Enterprise
Maybe I’m a soft touch.
Sometimes I get so embarrassed for my fellow human beings — some of them, anyway — that I can hardly bear the squirming discomfort of it.
The latest such deluminati (in a year seemingly populated to the scuppers with them) are members of a Florida jury who decided that the makers of cigarettes are responsible for half a million bucketheads who somehow managed to mess their lives and health up with tobacco products despite warning labels on every package and 30 years of vile, incessant, nagging, anti-smoking propaganda on radio, TV, and jungle drums.
It’s as if these companies had dispatched goon squads out across the country to sit on their prostrate victims’ chests, screw cylinders of the Devil’s weed into their unwilling mouths, whip out the Zippos, and hop up and down on their helpless torsos to get a good draft going — over and over again for half a century. That sort of thing produces entertaining X Files episodes (use big-headed little aliens instead of tobacco companies and force the poor abductees do to all of their inhaling through their navels) but it makes for crappy law and crappy ethics.
The fact is, the goons in this story don’t work for Big Tobacco. But dozens of them — carefully preselected — filled that courtroom, sat on that witness stand, and in the jury box at that money-monkey trial.
It began with a huge crop of low, nasty, snivelling cretins, inclined from birth (and aided by a dozen years of public schooling) to whiningly credit their every moronic blunder in life to somebody else. Millions of individuals smoke. Many get sick. Some sickness has a statistical connection with smoking. But decent people realize that they were the ones who made all the decisions in that chain of events. They aren’t out to steal obscene piles of loot from whatever prey the current trendy set of idiotic beliefs will let them transfer the blame to.
Then legions of slick, Gucci-footed socialist lawyers too lazy to chase ambulances and ideologically sworn to obliterate individualism and capitalism — while raking in billions of dollars for themselves in the process — rounded up this passle of larcenous droolers to serve as plaintiffs in the coming gang-rape of logic and the rule of law.
Next, a gaggle of dolts even dumber than the mewling plaintiffs was laboriously selected to lend credibility to a predetermined series of events. By the process of “voir dire” (columnist Vin Suprynowicz reminds us that that’s French for “jury tampering”), any potential juror who showed a spark of intelligence, independence, or knowledge of the Constitution was savagely ejected, leaving only those with no education, initiative, or brains, the meat-puppets up whose quivering posteriors the Jim Hensons of jurisprudence could shove controlling fists.
It’s an irresistable combination: self-congratulatory political correctness, Everestine heaps of green. Atilla the Hun himself would swoon.
But don’t think ill of your fellow human beings, dear reader. Show trials with phony victims and hand-picked juries are nothing new. They worked in revolutionary France, they worked for Stalin — hell, they worked for Estes Kefauver. The one and only innovation is that the Armani-clad pillagers conducting these legal travesties will realize profits rivalling the gross national product of several small European countries. The Visigoths must be looking down (or up) in envy as these new barbarians suck the marrow from this civilization’s shattered bones.
Look: lots of companies manufacture products that can be credibly presented in the mass media as dangerous: guns, cars, liquor, butter, knives, candy, perhaps even perfume. Every one of them is a potential source of wealth waiting to be plundered. The strategy of the day is to start with those perceived to have what might be called a drug war style liability: once you start consuming their product, you can’t stop yourself. (Potato chip makers and peanut packagers beware.) If you can murder a street dealer because the fruit of your loins was too damned stupid to just say no, then why not liquidate an entire industry?
And if, by maneuvering your hand-picked goons to render a verdict utterly ridiculous on its face to everybody but the goonier goons in the mass media, you can damage beyond repair the very notion of an English-style jury vital to a free society in the process, so much the better.
I sometimes entertain an intuition — which I freely admit I can’t substantiate as yet — that what we’re really seeing is nothing more than a turf war between the old cigar-pipe-cigarette crowd and a new, aggressive band of pharmaceutical patch-gum-pill interlopers. Tobacco companies versus drug companies, with the drug companies and their pet state attorneys-general wielding the upper hand, at least for the moment.
Americans will have their nicotine. The only question is, who will be allowed to sell it to them and in what form? In a world where consumers are compelled to needlessly spend billions on a new product because Freon has been defamed and outlawed at the behest of its own inventors and manufacturers (the patent ran out, you see), the idea that drug companies are driving the war on tobacco isn’t completely crazy.
Whether I’m right or wrong about that, behind it all, socialists of the Hillarist persuasion still strive for a system — thoroughly discredited by history and economics (as if something like that ever made a difference) — where there’s no competition, no “wasteful duplication of effort”, and no product liability because everything is produced (incompetently, it’s true, but omelettes and eggs, you know) by a government monopoly that can’t be sued because it has sovereign immunity.
The only defense that stands between the Khmer Pinque and this loathsome wet-dream of theirs is the relatively new concept of Bill of Rights enforcement. The Hillarists must be made to learn that smoking is a Ninth Amendment right, as is the manufacture, distribution, and sale of tobacco products. Anyone who violates these rights, including state attorneys-general and tobacco liability lawyers, deserves to contemplate the nature of his wrongdoing from the inside of a concrete box, having first impoverished himself paying restitution to those he victimized.
If we don’t see to this, and right away, our kids will all wind up with slave collars around their throats, swabbing out the Hillarists’ ashtrays.
Reprinted from The Smoking Goons for Number 51, July 15, 1999
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