Ron Paul took to the House floor today to argue that the government should get out of the tobacco industry:
(Watch on YouTube)
Madam Speaker, I don't think anybody can argue at all with the intentions of the proposal of this bill. There is no question that cigarettes are very harmful. The question for me here is the process, and I find the process here atrocious because it assumes that authoritarianism is right, proper and that it works and that volunteerism, education, self-reliance and depending on oneself to take care of oneself is a proper approach. We totally reject our free society and assume that if we just have tobacco police roaming the country, that all of a sudden bad habits are going to be cleared up. We're dealing with bad habits, and these are bad for health. But let me tell you, I can bring you a list here of dozens and dozens of bad habits that lead to death. As a matter of fact, one of the things that we ought to consider is, how many people die from our drug war? We have a drug war, and about 3,000 people die from the use of illegal drugs. So we have a drug war going on, and tens of thousands of people die.
It's so exasperating at times because we always have two proposals here, or we have two ways of solving problems or dealing with tobacco. For decades, what did we do? We subsidized tobacco, and now we want to prohibit tobacco. Why don't we just let the people decide. This whole idea of either having to subsidize something or prohibit something shows a shallowness that I think we ought to challenge.
One part of this bill that I find particularly bad, but it is pervasive in so much of what we do, about 100 years ago we took the First Amendment and freedom of speech and chopped it into two pieces. We have political speech. Of course we like that. We're in the business of politics. But we take commercial speech, and we put it over here, and we regulate the living daylights out of commercial speech. That's not a First Amendment. That's chopping freedom in half, and that just leads to more problems. But this will lead to prohibition, and it won't work. This will just give us a lot more trouble.
You say, Well, how will these problems be handled if we just permit people to advertise? Well, you are not allowed to commit fraud; you are not allowed to commit slander; you are not allowed to commit any libel or slander or fraud. So there are prohibitions. But this approach can't work. It is assumed that people are total idiots, that they won't respond to education, that we have to be the nanny state. We want to expand the war on drugs, which is a total failure.
And look at what happened to the prohibition of alcohol. You say, Well, no, this is not going to be a prohibition. It is going to be prohibition. This is a form of prohibition. When you have prohibition or even approach prohibition, what do you create? You create the black market. We will see the black market come. Already the taxes are opening up the doors of the black market.
All I ask for is people to reconsider, believe that freedom, self-reliance and individualism can solve these problems a lot better than a bunch of politicians, bureaucrats and tobacco police here from Washington, D.C.