Tax cigarettes more, but not because a poll said so

WHAT DO YOU think of the results of the latest Winthrop/ETV poll of South Carolinians, released late last week?
    Here’s what I think: Thank goodness the founders of this country bequeathed us a republic rather than a system of direct democracy, and those who devised our state system sorta, kinda went along with that.
    You say that’s not what you thought? Well, let’s look back at a couple of the poll’s findings:

    I look at that first result and hail the wisdom of the electorate. Numbers like that tempt me to run around the State House and wave them at all those finger-in-the-wind lawmakers, to get them to get off their duffs and raise our lowest-in-the-nation cigarette tax.
    But then I look at the second result, and I want to warn lawmakers not to govern by poll. Sound hypocritical? Let me see if I can explain my way out of this.
    Poll after poll, year after year, South Carolinians say they want the cigarette tax raised. This is useful to know, because lawmakers keep trying to excuse their inaction on the tax by saying voters don’t like tax increases. These polls indicate that voters do want this tax increased.
    But that’s not why it should be increased. It should be increased because it’s been thoroughly demonstrated that every dime by which we increase the cost of buying a pack of cigarettes decreases the number of kids who get hooked on tobacco. If you want to use the proceeds to pay for Medicaid, great. But that’s not the point. The point is pricing cigarettes beyond the reach of adolescents.
    Any lawmaker who does not know that about the cigarette tax is one who has not been paying attention to the debate at the State House. And a lawmaker who doesn’t pay attention to the debate is one who isn’t doing his or her job.
    You don’t raise a tax because you get a thumbs-up from a poll. You raise it, or lower it, or do something else, or do nothing, because you’ve done the due diligence necessary to draw intelligent conclusions about the likely consequences of such action. And that is your job as an elected representative.
    In a small group — say, small enough to fit in one of those iconic New England town halls that express the ideal of direct democracy — it’s at least theoretically possible to examine an issue thoroughly. People on various sides of an issue can challenge each other with questions; those who know more about a specific issue can share their knowledge with those who know less; and all of that can take place before a vote on what to do.
    Polls don’t do that. Polls derive overly simplistic conclusions from the gut, off-the-top-of-the-head reactions of folks who didn’t get a chance to study before the test. They provide useful information, but are a lousy way to make decisions.
    This is true even when those crafting the poll try to maximize the respondent’s preparation with questions that sound halfway like lectures. That was the case with this poll. Consider the way the constitutional-officers question was asked: “In South Carolina, we have several statewide elected offices. These include the Secretary of State, Superintendent of Education, Comptroller General, Commissioner of Agriculture, and others. Some people believe that it would increase the efficiency and effectiveness of government if some of these positions were appointed by the governor, while others feel that they should continue to be elected and remain directly accountable to the voters. Which of these comes closer to your opinion?” The respondent then gets a choice between “Appointed by governor” and “Continue to be elected.”
    I’m not a bit surprised that three-fourths of respondents answered “continued to be elected” after all that — especially after they had just been told that was the way to keep those officials “directly accountable to the voters.”
    But I firmly believe that if you gave me five minutes with each of those folks, the result would be different.
    First, I’d ask the respondent to name each of those elected officials. Most would know who the governor is, almost none would know all of them. Then I’d ask, how do you hold someone accountable if you don’t even know that person’s name?
    I’d talk about the two current officers who had to be appointed because the ones who were elected ran afoul of the law. I’d ask whether they thought the governor — the official they know — should be held accountable for running the government day to day. Then I’d ask how they think he’s going to do that when most of the government doesn’t answer to him.
    I believe most folks would change their minds. I believe that because I trust the voters.
You see, I don’t oppose government by plebiscite because I think the people are less intelligent than politicians. I know too many politicians to think that. I oppose it because it’s not the best process. If you take poll respondents and put them in a situation in which they could thoroughly study and debate an issue before voting on it, their decisions would be far better than those they’d make on the spur of the moment.
    Sometimes, this process even works with politicians. But not when they spend all their time looking at polls.

44 thoughts on “Tax cigarettes more, but not because a poll said so

  1. Gordon Hirsch

    — Sollie Tex Williams 1947
    Smoke! Smoke! Smoke!(That Cigarette)
    Now I’m a fellow with a heart of gold
    And the ways of a gentleman I’ve been told
    Kind-of-a-guy that wouldn’t even harm a flea
    But if me and a certain character met
    The guy that invented that cigarette
    I’d murder that son-of-a gun in the first degree
    It ain’t cuz I don’t smoke ’em myself
    and i don’t reckon that it’ll hinder your health
    I smoked ’em all my life and I ain’t dead yet
    But nicotine slaves are all the same
    at a pettin’ party or a poker game
    Everything gotta stop while they have a cigarette
    Smoke, smoke, smoke that cigarette
    Puff, puff, puff until you smoke yourself to death.
    Tell St. Peter at the Golden Gate
    That you hate to make him wait,
    But you just gotta have another cigarette.
    In a game of chance the other night
    Old dame fortune was good and right
    The kings and queens they kept on comin’ around
    Aw, I was hittin’ em good and bettin’ ’em high
    But my bluff didn’t work on a certain guy
    He kept callin’ and layin’ his money down
    See, he’d raise me then I’d raise him
    and I’d say to him buddy ya gotta sink or swim
    Finally called me but didn’t raise the bet!
    –Hmmph! I said Aces Full Pal — I got you!
    He said, “I’ll pay up in a minute or two
    But right now, i just gotta have another cigarette.”
    Now the other night I had a date
    with the cutest little gal in any state
    A high-bred, uptown, fancy little dame
    She said she loved me and it seemd to me
    That things were sorta like they oughtta be
    So hand in hand we strolled down lovers lane
    She was a long way from a chunk of ice
    And our pettin’ party was goin’ real nice
    And I got an idea I might have been there yet
    So I give her a kiss and a little squeeze
    Then she said, “Travis, Excuse me Please
    But I just gotta have a cigarette.”

  2. Gordon Hirsch

    Subject: Lyr Add: Smoker’s Song^^
    From: Susanne (skw)
    Date: 07 Jan 00 – 06:23 PM
    Maybe this’ll cure a few people. If you ever heard Hamish Imlach sing it with his dreadful cough, you know why you’ve given up smoking!
    BTW, I have an old ’78 recording of ‘Cigarettes and Whisky’ where the author’s name is given as Red Ingle. – Susanne
    (Peter Ross / Hamish Imlach)
    Now I’m a social outcast
    A modern-day refugee
    Joy turns to gloom when I walk into a room
    They all turn their back upon me
    I’m not a thug or a mugger
    I’ve not murdered anyone yet
    But you would think I was Charles bloody Manson
    When I light up a cigarette
    Some folk get their kicks from alcohol
    Some stuff their nose with cocaine
    Some folk like knocking old women about
    Some like tae batter their weans
    There’s masochists, sadists or rapists
    Folk that like dressing in drag
    I’m no’ like them, that’s no’ my game
    Gimme peace just to light one more fag
    You can snuff it doing too much exercise
    You can snuff it not doing enough
    You can snuff it by eating too little
    You know, you can snuff it eating too much
    You can snuff it staying out late at night
    You can snuff it lying in your bed
    So my way of snuffing is to keep right on puffing
    It’s on my own bloody head
    Spare a thought for all the smokers
    Doing their bit for the Crown
    Remember when a smoker lights up
    He’s keeping your income tax down
    Yes he is
    He’s keeping your income tax down

  3. dave faust

    Anyone who believes that increasing the tax on cigarettes will reduce the overall tax burden born by non-smokers is a fool.
    The increase in revenues from tobacco taxes will be viewed by government as free money and will simply be spent. It will NOT ultimately be used to offset any other taxes. I don’t care what Warthen says, I don’t care what Sanford says (and he’s my guy), and I don’t care what anyone else says. Government does not work this way. It did once, but that was a long time ago. It certainly doesn’t work that way now.
    People in South Carolina may generally favor increasing this tax. But individual tax payers should not favor it under under the faulty belief that tobacco tax revenues will reduce their personal tax burdens.
    Brad, you know this is true. David

  4. Michael Rodgers

    You are right that a republican democracy should be superior to a direct democracy. Unfortunately, in my opinion, the leadership in our state pushes their own agenda instead of researching and debating to achieve intelligent decisions that serve the public. For example, well, you know what my example is.
    You are right that people need information so they can hold elected officials accountable. In the past, newspapers researched and printed such information, but I see now, reading Gordon Hirsch’s posts on other threads, that others are needed to step up to the plate to perform this service.
    Michael Rodgers
    Columbia, SC

  5. Richard L. Wolfe

    TAX, TAX, TAX AND TAX SOMEMORE! What a bunch of morons and hypocrites. If they are what you say they are OUTLAW them. But, it is all about the MONEY stupid. Tax away my friends I will just quit and I will gain income as you lose your freebies.
    TAX, TAX, TAX AND TAX SOMEMORE! What a bunch of morons and hypocrites!

  6. Karen McLeod

    Hopefully if we raise the cigarette tax high enough, we’ll soon be unable to generate any income from it because everyone will have stopped smoking and no further children will become addicted. Those who insist on smoking to the point of engaging in black market practices will at least be (probably) restricted (in order not to be caught with illicit cigarettes) to their own houses, isolated areas and a few underground smoke-easies, which will pretty well get their smoke out of our lungs.

  7. weldon VII

    Brad says the tax on cigarettes “should be increased because it’s been thoroughly demonstrated that every DIME by which we increase the cost of buying a pack of cigarettes decreases the number of kids who get hooked on tobacco.”
    The link Brad provided says that “studies show that every 10 PERCENT increase in the price of cigarettes reduces youth smoking by about 7 percent and overall cigarette consumption by about 4 percent.”
    Are 10 cents and 10 percent the same thing?
    Not in relation to a pack of cigarettes.
    Did the link Brad provided give us a link to the studies that make its point?
    I myself would like to see whether the studies used figures from actual prices and sales or just interview data.
    In the event actual sales data was used, I’m interested in the methodology that might screen out other variables such as the skyrocketing price of gasoline.

  8. Lee Muller

    The only principle of taxation for Brad and his ilk is, “Tax as much as you can get away with.”
    Fairness, justice, morality, and economic pragmatism are not given one iota of consideration.

  9. dave faust

    Lee, it is indeed immoral and illegal (if one cares anything about the constitution)for government to use taxes as an instrument for shaping the behaviour of its citizens. Brad of course has long since abandoned any real concern for the constitution where taxes or property rights are concerned, hence his love for the one and his disdain for the other.
    Karen, you’re not asking the next obvious question! When tobacco taxes are raised and a raft of new and old government programs are funded or expanded on these new tax revenues what happens when, as you hope, tobacco taxes are raised to a point where people just quit using tobacco and tax revenues dry up?
    Do you really believe the government programs that depended on tobacco tax revenue will then just go away? Can you not see that YOU will then have to pay for them?
    Sheesh…the short-sightedness of some people is simply astounding. David

  10. Jay

    Dave, YOUR short-sightedness only allows you to see the negative side. Can you imagine the decreased burden of NOT having millions of people dying from lung cancer? That’s kinda what this is about, getting people to stop smoking, thereby lowering the cost of healthcare that we all shoulder, regardless of whether we want to or not.

  11. Michael Rodgers

    Brad declared his principle about taxes quite clearly, “You raise it, or lower it, or do something else, or do nothing, because you’ve done the due diligence necessary to draw intelligent conclusions about the likely consequences of such action.”
    Consideration of “[f]airness, justice, morality, and economic pragmatism” are clearly what he means by due diligence.
    So, try again.
    Michael Rodgers
    Columbia, SC

  12. Michael Rodgers

    Jay said it exactly. It’s our government’s job to help citizens and business work so that the true costs of doing business are included in the price of the goods and services. Our government gets the power to do this from the interstate commerce clause.
    Yes, market forces are extremely strong, and government should be an invisible hand as much as possible. Being an invisible hand should be the default, and being active should be advocated only when large problems in the market occur.
    Yes, a big problem with making “sin taxes” is that our government thereby joins in business with the dealers of cigarettes, alcohol, etc. This is a problem, as Dave and Karen and Jay indicate. Suggestions on how to solve this problem are welcome.

  13. Herb Brasher

    Fairness, justice, morality, and economic pragmatism are not given one iota of consideration.

    Economic selfishness, I fear. Why is “government by the people” such an anathema with these people? You’d think that we founded a bunch of individualist pioneers, each with a stockade around his log cabin, to listen to these guys. I have news: we no longer live in the 1700s! And even if we did, people needed each other back then, too. Here is a quote that I think sums it up. We can’t have joint advancement without some joint cooperation:

    “We the People” requires cooperative action in many cases to make individual success feasible. Much of the competitiveness of the US in the past five decades is a direct result of government investment and stimulus of key technological developments.

  14. Whipple

    The biggest problem I see is that the money will go to Health and Human Services…the single most wasteful and inefficient agency in SC government.
    It is a money pit of lousy policy and even worse work ethic.
    In a few years the public will realize that HHS has wasted their money…and will be very unhappy.

  15. dave faust

    I’m not even speaking to Jay, my point stands on its’ own merit and refutes his silly arguement just as it did Karens.
    However, you are exactly right Michael…OF COURSE government must enter into collusion with sellers of cigarettes or alcohol in order to get its’ cut of their proceeds.
    There is another thing I detest about people like Jay and Brad who argue so stridently for these taxes: Their bald-faced dishonesty.
    Jay argues that the additional costs to society caused by treating smoking related illnesses justify the additional taxes. Brad has argued the same thing. Neither will even address or countenance the idea that the shortened life spans (fewer years in treatment, fewer years drawing social security payments, fewer years to draw on ANY of the programs government provides) of smokers probably actually mean that smoking actually results in a net GAIN to society in many if not most cases. Oh no…people like Jay and Brad are only willing to look at the half of the data that supports their case…completely disregarding the other half of the data. And there IS data out there. I’ll find it and cite it.
    Don’t get me wrong, I don’t use tobacco, so I don’t have a dog in this fight per se, but the disingenuous rants of guys like Jay are really difficult to ignore. David

  16. Lee Muller

    Mr. Rodgers, your theory about Brad Warthen or any editor at The State actually being considerate about tax policy is overly generous, considering that they never come up with any spending or taxes to reduce, that are of any significance.
    Brad’s hatred of tobacco is the moralism of an ex-smoker. Taxes are just his weapon of choice. He would prefer to ban tobacco, SUVs, and a lot of other things he doesn’t personally enjoy. That’s lousy citizenship.
    It also is typical of liberals reaching the stage when they give up on convincing the rest of the world to obey their vision. So they resort to taxes, government programs, and brute force. When lots of liberals give up, the result is fascism.

  17. Lee Muller

    “Government of the people” was intended to be mob rule, or demagogue rule.
    This is supposed to be a government of very limited scope, size, and powers, so that it cannot be hijacked by greedy loafers, moralistic crusaders, and the Bribery-Business-Complex.
    Those of you who are intolerant of other people’s pleasures and vices should grow up and learn what it is to be an American. As Ben Franklin said, it means minding your own business. Too bad we didn’t put his suggested motto on our coins, instead of “In God We Trust”.

  18. Jay

    “I’m not even speaking to Jay”
    That’s the spirit!
    I wasn’t trying to negate your point, it’s probably true that the revenue generated by increased cigarette taxes will diminish or disappear before we see lung cancer rates affected. It seems like it’s you that can’t look at both sides of the coin. That’s the whole thing about taxes, they all have pluses and minuses. You weigh them and try to decide what’s fair. We all have different ideas of what is and isn’t fair, and that’s just the way it is.
    And on the point of people living shorter lifespans somehow being a good thing, I really can’t tell if you’re joking or not, but have you seen the movie Logan’s Run?

  19. weldon VII

    I used to smoke a lot,
    Back when it was cool,
    But now that it’s not.
    I smoke almost a lot.
    That snuff.

  20. weldon VII

    But these words of wisdom from George Harrison are better:
    If you drive a car, I’ll tax the street
    If you try to sit, I’ll tax your seat
    If you get too cold, I’ll tax the heat
    If you take a walk, I’ll tax your feet…
    ‘Cause I’m the taxman. Yeah, I’m the taxman.
    And you’re working for no one but me.

  21. Karen McLeod

    Taxman boogie-man aside, yes; if the cigareete tax comes outmoded because no one smokes, as I hope it will, I will pay higher taxes. Yes, folks, I’m in the tax paying bracket, with no family to lower it. But I’ll get upset if I have to step over bodies in the streeet, and I’d lots rather work for things to be otherwise than just pay folks to pick them up. And most real solutions are long term, meaning that we pay for it, the next generation profits. I have no children. Yet I hope, that having saddled them with tremendous debt and a global warming situation we might give them some break.

  22. Herb brasher

    As Ben Franklin said, it means minding your own business. Too bad we didn’t put his suggested motto on our coins, instead of “In God We Trust”.

    Well, that helps me. As long as I know that Lee has no Christian pre-suppositions (I was thinking he did), then I shouldn’t assume that he acknowledges Christian teaching. Sorry for assuming that, Lee. I will not appeal to you on the basis of Christian ideals any further.

  23. Uncle Elmer

    Jay, Logan’s Run is good (Go to Carousel! Go to Carousel!) but there’s an even better advocate for killing people to save money than Logan’s world or Mr. Faust. See Ebenezer Scrooge’s words about the benefits of not giving to the poor below (he has just been approached to make a donation):
    “…a few of us are endeavouring to raise a fund to buy the Poor some meat and drink, and means of warmth. We choose this time, because it is a time, of all others, when Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices. What shall I put you down for?”
    “Nothing!” Scrooge replied.
    “You wish to be anonymous?”
    “I wish to be left alone,” said Scrooge. “Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer. I don’t make merry myself at Christmas and I can’t afford to make idle people merry. I help to support the establishments I have mentioned: they cost enough: and those who are badly off must go there.”
    “Many can’t go there; and many would rather die.”
    “If they would rather die,” said Scrooge, “they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population. Besides — excuse me — I don’t know that.”
    “But you might know it,” observed the gentleman.
    “It’s not my business,” Scrooge returned. “It’s enough for a man to understand his own business, and not to interfere with other people’s. Mine occupies me constantly. Good afternoon, gentlemen!”
    Scrooge was a real poster child for the libertarian movement.

  24. Gordon Hirsch

    The issue should not be increased taxation of any kind, but effetive use of existing tax collections. Political attention to new forms of taxation, such as Sin Taxes, merely distract from the REALITY that our federal government, by its own admission, CANNOT EVEN ACCOUNT for money it collects and spends now, much less measure effectiveness of its programs. For example, the cost of war in Iraq varies by more than a trillion dollars, depending on who you ask, because there is no accounting of those special appropriations in any specific budget.
    In fact, the entire political-economic process is so riddled with incompetency that, through some form of warped illogic, “success” in government is heralded by reduction of negligence, rather than achievement of goals, in those rare cases where goals even exist.
    Not convinced? Consider these sample “progress” reports from at:
    Record Low Error Rates at the Food Stamp Program
    USDA’s Food Stamp Program is the cornerstone of our nation’s effort to ensure access to nutritious food for every household in America. However, the program’s history of accomplishment has often been coupled with a perception that the program wastes taxpayer dollars by giving benefits to ineligible people or providing benefits in the wrong amount. In recent years, USDA has continually worked to improve the program by (1) creating a rigorous performance measurement system that rewards states for good performance and sanctions those that exceed the national error rate two years in a row; (2) working with Congress to simplify program rules and thus make improper payments less likely, and (3) partnering with States to share best practices. As a result of USDA’s effort, 2005 was the program’s seventh consecutive year of improvement, representing a 45% reduction in the payment error rate. To place this improvement in a financial perspective, if the FY 1998 overpayment error rate of 7.6 percent had not decreased to 4.5 percent in FY 2005, nearly $900 million more in food stamp benefits would have been issued in error.
    The Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid program delivers financial assistance to millions of American students so they can attend college. … The Government Accountability Office reported that the program was high risk because it lacked the financial and management information needed to manage programs effectively and the internal controls needed to maintain the integrity of their operations. In particular, GAO cited the annual cost of defaults—$4.3 billion in fiscal year 1999 and $28 billion over the prior ten years.
    The Department of Interior’s Chickasaw National Recreation Area raised feeder mice to keep its Nature Center’s snakes and owls adequately fed. But when challenged to focus as much of their spending as possible on their core mission, it found that buying feeder mice, rather than raising them, could save time and money. Today, Chickasaw buys feeder mice from a private vendor and spends the $15,000 in annual savings to improve and expand its nature trails, which are more central to its core mission.
    ——————————————————————————–Congress and the press critique how much money is spent from year-to-year on important programs, rather than on what we actually purchase with the money we do spend. They suggest that an increase or decrease in funding means we care more or less about the programs’ beneficiaries, without focusing on whether or not the target group is being well served by the money we do spend.
    The funds needed to eliminate improper payments are often diverted to other uses by Congress through the appropriations process, and by agencies during budget execution, even though each dollar invested in improper payment reduction brings in many more times that in savings.
    Our civil service rules call for top performers to get the same annual pay increase given to every other employee.
    A single Hill staffer, not elected by anyone and without the understanding of the elected officials involved, is allowed to put language into an appropriation subcommittee’s bill that would cripple a widely regarded government-wide management initiative, simply to address his or her personal prejudice.
    We are especially bad managers of very large IT projects. We buy more IT goods and services than anyone else in the world and should be the best at it, but we’re not. Our primary problem is that we are not as good as we need to be at clearly defining the functionality we want a large, new IT system to provide: if we don’t know what we’re trying to purchase, we will almost certainly not acquire what we need to better serve the country.
    There is little systematic accountability for results in the Federal government. Agencies report annually on their performance, and how they intend to address performance shortfalls, but little occurs as a result of the report: the consequences tend to be the same whether the performance is as desired or not.
    A long-standing statutory ban precludes the Department of Veterans Affairs from using competition to determine the most effective and efficient way to provide highly commercial activities such as laundry services, sanitation, grounds maintenance and basic food services. Studies indicate a competitive review of these costs could most likely free-up as much as $1.3 billion over a five-year period which could be otherwise dedicated to the direct needs of our veterans.
    Information Sharing in the National Intelligence Community
    Sixteen Federal Government agencies collect and access intelligence information. To better coordinate the sharing of Top Secret (TS) information, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) launched a website, Intellipedia. All 16 agencies of the Intelligence Community can share and update data. By January 2007, just eight months after launch, Intellipedia had grown to more than 5,000 registered users and 60,000 pages on the TS network.

  25. Lee Muller

    Mr. Brasher,
    One of the foundations of American government is the separation of Church and State. The nation was founded by Christians, who believed that the preservation of our liberty depended upon moral behavior, but not selected moralism enforced by the armed force of the State.
    “In God We Trust” is a modern perversion, appropriately placed on paper fiat currency. Ben Franklin and others who also believed in minding your own business, also believed in real money, in gold and silver coin.

  26. Michael Rodgers

    Liberals hate fascism even more than conservatives do. Liberals love freedom even more than conservatives do. Liberals fight against conformity even more than conservatives do. Liberals hate government waste even more than conservatives do. Liberals love long-term, successful businesses even more than conservatives do. Liberals love innovation and the entrepreneurial spirit even more than conservatives do. Liberals love debate and investigating all sides of an issue even more than conservatives do.
    My liberal heroes are Al and Tipper Gore. Al Gore worked hard as VP to reduce government waste. Al Gore worked hard to discuss with business leaders about how they could make higher profits while being more environmentally responsible. Tipper Gore got the music industry to voluntarily put “parental advisory” stickers on albums, to provide more clear information to the marketplace to improve efficiency, reliability, and profits.
    If conservatives are interested in having more freedom and making more money and providing a healthy environment for their children and their grandchildren, then they should stop hating liberals and start working with them.
    Michael Rodgers
    Columbia, SC

  27. Lee Muller

    Modern liberals aren’t liberal. They are socialists.
    I am a liberal. I don’t hate, but I despise communists, socialists, fascists and liberals who are actually one of those, or allied with them as their useful idiots.
    Whom do you see apologizing for the Islamic terrorists? “Liberals”.
    Whom do we see still backing Castro, the Sandanistas, Hugo Chavez and every other tinhorn South American socialist dictator? “Liberals”.
    Whom did we see praising Lenin, Stalin, Mussolini and Hitler, until their atrocities became overpowering? “Liberals”.

  28. bud

    I don’t hate, but I despise ….
    Mr. Oxymoron shows how completely out of touch with reality he his. Give me a break Lee, you’re nothing but a bigoted hate-monger.

  29. Lee Muller

    I confess to being intolerant of the racism and class hatred practiced by statists who call themselves softer names, such as “liberal”. As demonstrated here, it is so easy to corner a statist with a direct question about their core beliefs, or why they are taking the side against individual liberty.
    Classical liberals like myself are libertarians, the same as Washington and Jefferson.

  30. Lee Muller

    And bud, you get no break. Stop the name-calling, and try to answer one question that Herb is dodging. A real liberal or conservative would have on problem with a direct answer.

  31. Charlie

    If taxes are increased on cigarettes, the money needs to fund health care for smokers. Smokers are already paying more than their share of taxes. The freeloaders need to find other sources of revenue.

  32. Lee Muller

    Charlie’s right. The Tobacco Settlement was actually applied to the price of cigarettes as a Value Added Tax. That is why the price already jumped so much. SC was supposed to get over $200,000,000 spread over a generation, for smoking-related medical treatments, education and programs to help smokers quit the habit.
    Instead, Governor Hodges and the legislature sold the settlement at a deep discount to Wall Street investors, like Jack ‘n’ the Beanstalk. They blue the lump sum of cash on vote-buying pork, like bonuses for school teachers and creating programs that had no other future funding, almost none of which had anything to do with the alleged medical purposes.

  33. Herb Brasher

    Uncle Elmer is right, and Professor Ichak Adizes put it well in a recent address to a Development Association in Turkey, Sept. 27,2007. Adizes lecture is entitled, “The Impact of Globalization on Management Education,” and shows the negative impact of American individualism on other cultures. There are positive influences to be sure, but in many cases American individualism is exporting top-down extortion on others. A few excerpts:

    Developing countries and countries in transition don’t just import the elitism of management practice and theory. There is more to it. Western theory and practice of management is based on the American culture of individualism: The individual entrepreneur, takes the risk of starting a company to fulfill his or her dream, and pays for resources – land, raw material, and labor. By “labor,”
    I mean people. People are treated like raw material, (May be more demanding raw material but still –) raw and disposable material .
    This individual, who used to be called the administrator but now might be called the executive, manager, or leader, is the personification of the whole managerial process, which is how micro economic
    theory is presented. Notice that micro economic theory treats decision-making as a singular activity: “the firm” will do this or that, depending on what is happening in the market. But who is this “firm”? How does “the firm” actually arrive at a logical decision? The whole dynamic of people interacting in making a decision is ignored.
    Well, the theory was developed in the United States, where participation in decision-making and in rewards is not “a corner stone” of its culture. American culture promotes individualism. In the 1970s when I taught participative management in America, in the South, I was accused of being a Communist. It did not help that my first book had red covers.
    Participative management is not an American innovation. It came from cross-fertilization caused by globalization. When the Japanese surpassed the United States with their superior productivity, American management theoreticians went to Japan to see how they did it, and discovered participative
    management. Americans are competitive, and if someone beats them at something they are open-minded enough to learn from their competitor, and even improve on what they learn. But still , Americans from my experience, comparatively to to other cultures are not comfortable with participative management. But what is good for the goose is it good for the gander? What has this focus on individualism done to families, to friendships, to the social fabric of society used to camaraderie,
    to family like run organizations? What has this Americanization done to the day to day relationships between people in many countries?
    There is more to the process of management than elitism, non-democratic processes, and individualism.
    Management theory and practice, especially in the United States, is based on the competitive markets
    theory: the “hidden hand” of Adam Smith. And what is that “hidden hand”? Competition in a free market eventually yields the right allocation of resources. The assumption here is that adversarial
    relations naturally produce, in time, the optimal allocation of resources. Human feelings do not show on the profit and loss statement. There is no attention to the cost of human emotions. It is pure materialistic economics, consistent with Hobbes’ philosophy: “Man is a wolf to other men.” So management are against workers, and workers, when they cannot get what they want, have the right to strike and the right to be protected when they exercise their power over management.
    A rich country like the United States can afford such disruptions, but strikes can paralyze a developing
    country or a country in transition. This can be extremely and prohibitively costly for their budding economy.
    I suggest to you that a theory and practice based on one culture cannot be mechanistically copied in another . . . .
    Enchanted by American economic power, the rest of the world I think , believes that America’s success
    somehow has to do with how its companies are managed. But let me tell you something: some American companies are so badly managed, so badly –and I have personal experience of this – that anywhere else in the world they would go bankrupt. Easily. They survive and even flourish in spite of bad management because America is an enormously big market. And the banking system works. The stock market works. Transportation works. Telephones work. Everything around them works, so they succeed in spite of themselves. As they say in the Silicon Valley: “In a typhoon, even turkeys fly.”

    Adizes is not, of course, addressing the subject of socialism vs. individualism directly, but his lecture addresses the issues and excesses on both sides, especially as it pertains to management. We do not need socialism, but neither can we afford the economic imperialism of individualism, particularly at this crucial time in history.

  34. Karen McLeod

    If you really want a good model for a completely capitalistic, detached bottom- line-reasoning type of solution, divorced from outmoded “religious” considerations, I suggest you check out Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” It’s dispassionately reasoned, it definitely solves the social problem presented, and allows for (some) prosperity.

  35. Doug Ross

    I guess the ultimate question comes down to determining how much a person earns should be taken away for the “greater good”.
    There are those who seem to think that people who accumulate more should be expected to give back more to those who haven’t. Why? I’m not sure.
    Taking the extreme end of the scale, just how much does society owe someone who refuses to work? Free food? healthcare? a place to sleep? cable tv? a cell phone? Where does the line regarding personal responsibility get drawn?
    The sad thing is that some big government types believe that taking money from those who have to give to those who don’t is necessary because they don’t believe those who have would give it freely otherwise. This despite ample evidence to the contrary — people give generously ON TOP of all the inefficient government redistribution mechanisms. Look at the outpouring of funds that followed Katrina and 9/11. Totally voluntary.
    We need to trust the basic humanity of people over the enforced charity of the government. We need to expect people to demonstrate personal responsibility instead of providing a lifetime of government assistance.

  36. Jay

    Doug, I think you are really trying to be fair about this, and I can see where you are coming from, but I think your main premise of giving money to people who “refuse to work” is a straw man. Sure, there are people out there like that, but the vast majority of people who need government assistance aren’t people who refuse to work. They might be a single mom with three kids who works at wal-mart. They might be someone who was not fortunate enough to have a good education, or just plain smart enough to get a decent job. It doesn’t mean they can’t or won’t work. Things just haven’t worked out for them. Or they might be the children of these people. You can couch it as taking money from people who have it and giving it to poor people who refuse to work, but I think that’s just makes it easier for you to deny the fact that there are real people out there who just can’t make ends meet, and it’s not necessarily their fault. So, as to why our society should be set up to help those less fortunate, I say why not?
    I think your example of Katrina and 9/11 is a perfect example of why the government should have a role of the welfare of the people. When those things happened, people did donate heavily to those causes, but what also happened was that donations went down to a lot of other causes. An impartial, unemotional system has the ability to be much fairer and more equitable in the face of hard situations. I know that doesn’t necessarily happen currently, but ideally it should.

  37. Brad Warthen

    I think I’ll start saving myself a lot of time by simply writing columns consisting of one word, or maybe a picture. I am repeatedly stunned by the reactions my columns generate, reactions that in so many cases have nothing to do with what I said. Why try to explain my points, when the explanations will be ignored, and so many folks will just argue themselves hoarse with what they choose to imagine I said?
    Folks, this wasn’t a column about taxes, cigarette or otherwise. It was about making too much of polls. You may or may not have noticed, but the poll (as all polls do) support my position regarding the cigarette tax. But I’m saying don’t go with the poll.
    So how is it I sparked this big argument about cigarette taxes, complete with straw men and red herrings. Dave, who suggested raising the cigarette tax was about lowering anybody’s overall tax burden? weldon, who expressed “dime” as any sort of ratio or as any sort of function of anything. What would you prefer I say? Iota? Increment? Itty-bitty bit? Soupcon?
    With whom do y’all think you’re arguing?

  38. Brad Warthen

    I guess y’all are arguing just with the headline, without reading the piece. But the headline could have said, “do X, Y or Z, but not because a poll said so.” It was about deliberative decision-making versus fingers in the wind. Where did I fail to make that clear?

  39. Doug Ross

    Okay, so let’s get back to one of your comments:
    >> You don’t raise a tax because you get a
    >>thumbs-up from a poll. You raise it, or
    >>lower it, or do something else, or do
    >> nothing, because you’ve done the due
    >>diligence necessary to draw intelligent
    >>conclusions about the likely consequences
    >>of such action. And that is your job as
    >>an elected representative.
    Would you say Governor Sanford did his due diligence in his rebuttal to the endowed chaired program? Did you have a response to his point-by-point explanation of all the things that are wrong with the program?
    Isn’t that exactly what you want him to do?

  40. Jay

    Brad, your posts often have such a fine point on them, it’s going to get lost when at the same time you throw out the red meat of *gasp* raising a tax. And seriously, by the time you’ve got 30+ comments, any conversation is bound to diverge. Of course, you’re right in that i think it probably diverged at comment #3…
    Here’s where I respond about the endowed chairs program, completely off topic…..

  41. Herb Brasher

    Problem is, when I find something I think is relevant to a previous post, it’s no good putting it there, because no one is reading it anymore. So how can I bless everyone with my findings, if I don’t post it where they are reading?
    Some of us are pressed for time, and any commenting and reading has to be done in relative haste. Which makes for some mistakes, too, obviously.
    Well, I’m probably not scratching where anyone itches, so I’ll sign off and leave it over to you guys and your wisdom. Lebewohl–it’s been fun.

  42. Scott Huffmon

    Brad wrote:
    “I’m not a bit surprised that three-fourths of respondents answered “continued to be elected” after all that — especially after they had just been told that was the way to keep those officials “directly accountable to the voters.””
    Brad, it’s bad enough that we have to rehash methodology with the general public every time we do a poll, but it gets tiresome to have to do it with people who should know better.
    As you well know, some issues are “simple” and some are “complex.” Complex issues require context to help the respondent correctly connect her/his opinion to one of his/her predispositions (or core beliefs) whereas “simple” issues do not. This way, you won’t get a “top-of-the-head” response (see Alvarez and Brehm).
    Whenever you provide background on two sides of a controversial issue, the treatment of them must be the same. When the context is a long as this (way to cherry pick, by the way….three questions required a long context; most of the other 60 or so were one line long) you need to use “action words” to frame BOTH arguments in their most positive light so the respondent can FAIRLY choose between them.
    Why did you not mention that the respondents had ALSO just been told that appointing these positions “would increase the efficiency and effectiveness of government?”
    Those are the exact words that Sanford is consistently using to try to win people over.
    The best/ most frequent argument for pro-appointment folks: efficiency and effectiveness
    The best/ most frequent argument for pro-election folks: accountable to the voters
    The best/ most frequent argument for a fair question: use both.
    Doing it this way cuts down on heteroskedastic response variance and gives a more accurate picture of citizens’ feelings on a complex issue.
    Hate the results, but don’t hate the poll.
    And without surveys, our representatives don’t have a consistent picture of the preferences of the citizenry….something that is important whether the elected official takes the “delegate” or “trustee” role.
    NO ONE is saying that ANYONE should govern by polls. But, since they are the best way to measure the will of the people (other fora, such as letters to the editors, blogs, and meetings only attract the passionate and activist and are not, therefore, representative of the population), they have a role in an informed democracy.
    –Scott Huffmon

  43. Lee Muller

    The American individualism which so many people find threatening, has created the prosperity which gives them a free ride to a better life.
    Instead of being so anxiety-ridden over relatively greater success and wealth of the most creative individuals, they should relax and be thankful for the freedom and standard of living they enjoy. They need to understand how much better off they would be if they quit fighting the best economic and political models in history, and put an oar in the water.

  44. Lee Muller

    The current income stream to the state from tobacco taxes and selling the Tobacco Settlement money at a discount is $115,000,000 for FY 2008.
    Only 2% of that is being spent on programs to reduce smoking. A tiny bit more is being spent on treatment of pulmonary diseases. The rest has been embezzled into the General Fund.
    The farmers were supposed to get $350,000,000, but Congress turned around and ended the entire tobacco allotment program, and the courts ruled that the tobacco companies had no obligation to pay the farmers.
    As usual, the politicians bought off their opposition with a promise which was a lie, then cheated them out of their share.

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