Getting out the Smoking Gun

Peter Cresswell's picture
Submitted by Peter Cresswell on Mon, 2006-04-24 00:29

New Zealand MP Hone Harawira wants to stop other people smoking. "Tobacco has to go," he says -- and he wants the Government to pass laws criminalising tobacco producers to do it. In Hone's world, when you want other people to do something, it's time to get the government to pass a law to make them do what you want. To Hone and others like him, there is an automatic jump from "you should do this" to "I'm going to make you do this." Reason, moral persuasion, the recognition of people's right to choose for themselves ... all abandoned in favour of getting out the government's gun to make threats on his behalf.

Whatever the merits of his arguments about tobacco, in simple terms and like every other busybody in the country and right round the world, he wants to get the gun out to impose his own choices on others.

Hone's approach to political life is not unlike that of too many others. If you have a view that you consider should be widely adopted you can either try and persuade others of the merits of your arguments so that they can choose to adopt (or not) your favourite hobby horse; or, you can lobby the government to get the gun out to force people to do what you wish them to. There are no other ways. It's either persuasion and choice, or force and threats -- and once the regime of threats and coercion is in place, they are then ready to be used for the next round of bullying, and the next, and the next...

Such is the pattern of modern government: each lobbyist attempting to grab the government's gun in order to impose their own view of the world on others. "I feel strongly that other people should do X," says the lobbyist (for X fill in whatever you wish), "and I intend to make them do it."

In such an environment, the righteousness or otherwise of your cause can never justify the force you wish to impose to bring it about. There is no cause that justifies institutionalised threats, bullying and coercion and the legalised removal of people's ability to choose for themselves. Just remember, if you can persuade others of the merits of your cause, you won't need to force them. And if you can't persuade them, what the hell gives you the right to force them?

I can almost hear the criticism already. "What about libertarian government? Don't you want to impose your libertarian values on others?" The answer is "No." Libertarian government is about removing coercion from human affairs so that people are free to make their own choices; restricting government only to the outlawing of the initiation of force. In such an environment, there is no coercive government gun to threaten with -- the government has been tied up constitutionally to protect, rather than to coerce.

The problem with using government force to impose your values on others is that you remove people's choice and limit their freedom. The danger with it is that each time you use the government's gun for such things, you legitimise and expand the government's coercive power -- something more dangerous than all the harms of tobacco, of prostitution, of whatever cause to which you are opposed. As Lindsay Perigo said yesterday in his debate with our Hone, the real danger here is not tobacco; it's dictatorial government. Asked for his solution Perigo said, Put a tattoo on all politicians' foreheads saying, "Health warning - dictatorship is bad for you."

Not a bad idea at all, methinks.

NOTE: 1. Those who missed Saturday's rambunctious televised debate on 'Eye to Eye' can catch it again on Tuesday night on TV One at 11:05pm. Overseas readers can watch it using this link.
2. And note too that you can catch Perigo in his new slot at Radio Live from
12-4pm next Sunday afternoon, April 30. Listen online here.

LINKS: Radio Live
Hone vs Perigo - Lindsay Mitchell
Tobacco has to go, says MP - Wanganui Chronicle

TAGS: Politics-NZ, Politics-Maori_Party, Libertarianism, Politics

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