UK parliament sits over a display ban for tobacco in tobacco shops. The rationale behind this is clear: smoking is harmful for smokers and passive smokers and though heavily taxed in almost any country it is more profitable to waive the revenue than to provide health care. It is this connection between revenue and health care provision that justifies government’s intervention. Health care costs soar and governments are more and more involved in a feverish battle to find economies. This brings smokers and the different forms of cancer they fall prey to into focus. Why not prevent them from harming themselves? Why not de-normalise their lifestyle? Why not tell them how to behave?
Why not? Because it is an imminent intrusion into individual freedom; because it provides society with a role model of lifestyles not to be followed; and because it reduces not only individual freedom of self-determination, but also individuals’ responsibility for their own life. Do-gooders, however, suppose that you cannot let people live by their own, because they are not up for the task. Need proof? Well, look for example at … correct: smokers! Seems circular reasoning and, indeed it is circular reasoning:
Start by defining a group of people who show a certain harmful behaviour, then declare the harmful behaviour as not only harmful to themselves, but to society as a whole. Engage yourself in the quest of bringing these self-harming people to their senses, by joining a do-gooder’s organisation dedicated to fight the particular harmful behaviour and lobby for politicians support. Because today, most politicians will support almost anything that provides them with an opportunity to appear as benefactors to mankind, this shouldn’t be too difficult. The final step is to justify your own engagement with the topic by pointing to politicians’ approval and subsequent needs for action, because of the behaviour of this group of utterly irresponsible smoking blokes.
However, the entire problem originates of governments’ involvement in health care and the respective need to pay for ailments of any kind. So in order to reduce expenses, governments choose to intervene in individual’s freedom which is not too big a problem given the willingly provided assistance of many do-gooders. However, why is it that the target population are smokers? Why not target parents who burden society with another mouth to feed and environment with another increase of carbon imprint. Or why not address people with dangerous hobbies, cyclists for one or skiers who tend to break a leg or acquire frostbites. Why not target meat eaters, who have been shown in a number of studies to get sick because of their eating meat. The list of possible targets is endless, and so would be the need for government intervention were it not flawed by a certain bias against a particular group, “Zeitgeist” makes the best of all possible target groups.
But do not forget that restriction of individual freedom in this case originates of governments’ involvement in the provision of health care. This “blessing” results in government’s interference and it inevitably will result in that, because scarce resources will always have people or groups of people fighting for them. Wouldn’t it be better to transfer responsibility for one’s own health and the costs associated with individuals’ neglect of health issues back to where it belongs, back to the individual?