The Young Libs are smokin’

Every year, there are news stories about wacky proposals put forward by the junior wings of our political parties, as they try to impress their seniors with their creative thinking and fall hilariously short. Last year, those funsters at Young Labor proposed bringing back national service but, as has happened so often in the Federal arena in recent years, the Libs have utterly outclassed them with their latest proposal. Yes, the finest young minds on the political right have gathered together in Melbourne to run the slide-rule across Australia, and they’ve come up with a policy to address the biggest problem in Australia today – the alarming rate at which people are giving up smoking.

To address the outrage that is people being actively encouraged to live longer, the Victorian branch of the Young Liberals has advocated bringing back tobacco advertising. Forget promotions for the likes of Malcolm Turnbull – these are the people John Howard needs on his frontbench.
Really, their logic is infallible. Like the good little ideologues that they are, they know that individual free will should reign supreme. “Prohibitions on tobacco advertising are an insult to the intelligence of the ordinary Australian,” the branch says. “These bans assume that individuals are not fit to make up their own minds on the benefits or otherwise of smoking and need the Government to make the decision for them.”
Forget the research that shows banning cigarette advertising reduces youth smoking – there’s a principle at stake here. And while we’re at it, why not leave more things up to the wisdom of ordinary Australians, like whether to take drugs? We should be able to determine the “benefits or otherwise” for ourselves, surely? I’m sick of the nanny state interfering with my choices about whether to inject heroin, and it’s time I was given the liberty.
In fact, this argument applies to the whole of organised society. How dare society interfere with my individual choices about whether to vote, wear clothes, pay taxes, or unleash a hail of bullets into a Young Liberals convention!
There must be some limits to this bountiful individual freedom, of course. The same people that passionately advocate liberty for all generally draw the line at allowing women to “make up their own minds on the benefits or otherwise” of proceeding with their pregnancies.
But it’s not just the precious principle of personal liberty that’s at stake here. There’s an even more cherished value at play – the supremacy of free market. The Young Libs believe that the tobacco companies should have the right to compete with anti-tobacco advertising.
It’s not just the tobacco ads. Where are the ads for drug dealers? Without publicity material on who markets a superior variety of ecstacy, those exercising their free choice to get high are left to flail around in ignorance, and are ultimately forced to randomly approach dodgy-looking guys in nightclubs. Call that a free market?
Think also of the benefits of unrestricted competition in the human body. Since the ban on advertising, and a massive, bipartisan effort to reduce cigarette consumption that has worked spectacularly well, lung cancer has been prevented from competing fairly with heart disease and other forms of cancer in the killing market. It’s an outrage, and in fact, I’m surprised the ACCC hasn’t gotten involved.
The whole of medicine, in fact, is guilty of this sort of improper interference, equally poorly justified on the grounds of “public health”. I don’t need experts to tell me whether I’m sick, and how to treat it. As a sovereign individual, I can make these sorts of decisions for myself.
Similarly, the Man’s ridiculous gun controls have restricted shooting from taking its place among the leading causes of death in Australia as well – a mistake that the more free market-oriented Americans have not made.
The Young Libs have lots of other great policy ideas as well, like the flat tax. Although that was Pauline Hanson’s idea first. Still, that never stopped John Howard.
Most politicians quickly learn that it’s disastrous to blindly apply ideology without any regard to the complexities of the real world. Those that don’t learn that governing is harder than simplistically applying dogma do things like invading Iraq – where, I see, another 88 people were killed today because the neoconservatives didn’t bother to figure out whether their ‘liberation’ would be welcomed. Let’s hope this current, naïve crop of Young Liberals learn the lesson well in advance of their preselections. Then again, if they indulge their inalienable individual right to play in oncoming traffic, free from the patronising intervention of the road rules, maybe they won’t have to.
Dominic Knight

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