Threat on Rule of Law in Tobacco Issue as Harmful as Health Risks
Heaster, Jerry, THE JOURNAL RECORD
The threat to America's rule of law posed by the assault on the tobacco industry is at least as dangerous to our national well-being as the health threat posed by tobacco use.
The free-market economy that drives U.S. prosperity depends on a rule of law. It ensures protection of private property, sanctity of contracts and consistent application of the law. Only when the rules are predictable can society plan its economic life with confidence.
Totalitarian regimes inhibit prosperity because the ruling political class manipulates the law to its economic advantage. This explains why Russia resembled a Third World country when its communist regime collapsed after ruling the country for most of the 20th century.
America's founding fathers understood the critical link between political freedom and economic dynamism, which is why the Constitution goes to great lengths to protect the rule of law.
Although the U.S. politico-economic situation bears scant resemblance to hard-core socialist strongholds, most Americans nevertheless fail to appreciate how the government-sanctioned bid to loot tobacco companies puts the nation on a slippery slope.
A recent Cato Institute analysis of the issue was harshly critical of the role of the states bringing suits against the tobacco industry to recover Medicaid expenditures for treatment of smoking-related ailments. The resulting overall pact with antismoking forces requires industry payments of nearly $370 billion to various parties over 25 years.
Robert A. Levy says his study is a "defense of the rule of law," not a brief for the tobacco industry. The problem, he says, is how these actions strip tobacco companies of traditional rights. …