Cheap Smokes

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Once
again, reality rears its lovely head as the law of unintended consequences
conspires with the way the world really works to give the do-gooders
a lesson in their own absurdity. Not that they will ever learn that
lesson, of course.

On
Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal reported, and CNS shared,
an interesting development in the world of Big Tobacco: Little Tobacco.
Because of the do-gooders, the trial lawyers who use them as stalking
horses and their "public interest" lawsuits (pursued "for
the children," of course) the wholesale price of the smokes
sold by Evil Big Tobacco has increased almost 80% in under 2 1/2
years. This sterling example of successful do-gooderism has naturally
led to a big decrease in smoking especially among young people,
right?

Wrong.

What
has actually happened is that the market has done what the market
does. It has seen the unfilled demand for affordable cigarettes
and filled it with a supply of just that. Unfettered with the legal
bills forced on Evil Big Tobacco a new force has emerged, that of
Heroic Little Tobacco.

Perhaps
the world would be better off if cigarettes had never been invented.
I won't argue that. But the fact of the matter is that cigarettes
do exist and people like smoking them. It is the old story of free
market competition with history repeating itself as farce. Being
the low cost supplier of a product people want has worked for countless
commercial enterprises through the centuries and it will continue
to work for countless more in the future. Today it is working for
a group of upstarts in the cigarette business who can afford to
sell their product for what Big Tobacco used to be able to charge
before some smart lawyers and their useful idiots took them to the
cleaners. Not having been part of the settlement against the big
guys gives the little guys a competitive advantage and they are
using that advantage to fill a need and make a buck.

The
do-gooders are, of course, surprised and horrified. One of the bureaucrats
administering the extortion payoff, I mean legal settlement, is
Oklahoma's Attorney General. He admits to being disturbed by the
growth of Heroic Little Tobacco. "They are able to sell a cheaper
product, and all of the data show that the price of cigarettes particularly
impacts youth smoking," he is quoted as saying. So what has
actually happened, as opposed to what they say was intended to happen,
is that the do-gooders have enabled more young people to smoke more
cigarettes for less money. Nice going.

Think
of what this could mean for gun manufacturers if the usual suspects
manage to make their unprincipled attack on these legal, useful
and immensely enjoyable products stick. The mythical "Saturday
Night Special" would pale in comparison. In their quest to
protect us from ourselves the do-gooders will hobble the Evil Big
Guns and thereby create the Heroic Little Guns. Colt and Sig are
getting too pricey for me anyway, so I say bring it on. And imagine
how many armamentally deprived gang bangers will be able to afford
new firearms!

The
possibilities boggle the mind. When they go after all the good fat
filled fast food we might even see the return of the 11 cent White
Castle hamburger, truly one of life's bygone joys. So many enjoyable
products, so little time. This happy combination of the laws of
unintended consequences and supply and demand, lawyers, do-gooders
and their good intentions might turn our to be the best thing that
ever happened to us. Talk about your unintended consequences.

Grandma
always said that the road to Hell was paved with good intentions.
I only hope she was right.

    May
    2, 2001

    Ed
    Cobb [send him mail] is
    a printer in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley. He is a northerner by
    birth, a southerner by choice, and a Catholic by the grace of God.

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