Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Munkatch’s response to Abie Rubin’s previous article on Weprin and Yossi Gestetner

Munkatch’s opinion on Abie Rubin’s article: "Why Yossi Gestetner is correct in his op-ed regarding Weprin".

I quote: "
Taxes on items such as cigarettes are different than traffic or other ticketing...... If the politicians truly have the people’s safety in mind, then cigarettes should be outlawed just as many other dangerous substances are. Not that I support the banning of cigarettes, I simply want to point out that making money off it is wrong".

Imagine the scene: a homeless disheveled man, climbing over the railing of the Brooklyn Bridge, readying himself to finally end his life of untold misery, by simply jumping into the Hudson River. He lifts one foot over the railing and starts to lift the other, when suddenly a strong pair of hands grabs his ankle and pulls him to safety. The hands belong to a NYPD officer, who noticed this suicidal man during a routine patrol, and thus was able to save him from certain death. The cop is then hailed as a hero, and reporters are fighting over exclusive rights to interview him.

The above scenario happens all too often, and while people generally focus on the heroism of the rescuer, not much thought is given to the rescued, and his choice of abruptly ending his life.

From a moral standpoint, should a person be allowed to take his life or not? I have mixed feelings about this and neither liberals nor conservatives are consistent in their views.

The liberal viewpoint of more government will say: "we can't let him take his life, because we know better than him what's good for him". The problem with this view is that when it comes to abortions and end of life decisions, suddenly the government decides that after all, it is better to be pro-choice and have "the right to die".

The conservative viewpoint of limited government might say: "the government shouldn't be telling me what to eat, drink or smoke, I am smart enough to decide what's right and wrong for me, even if it kills me. It would therefore seem that we really should let this man end his life. Now, although this agrees with the view of pro-life, -meaning your own life, not your unborn child or sick grandfather, is this consistent with the Judeo-Christian moral values upon which this country was founded? Don't we all know that "one who saves one life is considered as if he has saved the whole word"?

Getting back to the article, should the government really outlaw cigarettes and dangerous substances? Or perhaps like alcohol, it doesn't hurt when taken in moderation. What is dangerous anyway? Who decides what is or isn't dangerous? And who are we to take away someone's right to hurt themself? Do we have an obligation to prevent pain and death? These are all questions to which I don't think there is a straightforward answer, and therefore, in my opinion, cannot be used in any argument, be it for or against restrictions on cigarette use.

It is interesting to note, that the recent death of Dr. Jack Kevorkian, also known as Dr. Death, for his role in assisting suicides of more than 100 people, brought this issue somewhat to the front burner. Dr. Kevorkian was actually sentenced to 8 years in prison and prosecuted unsuccessfully 4 times. On the other hand, doctor-assisted suicide essentially became law in Oregon in 1997 and in Washington State in 2009. The practice of doctors writing prescriptions to help terminally ill patients kill themselves was upheld as legal by the U.S. Supreme Court.

In conclusion, perhaps that is why we tend to overtax cigarettes, as a way of finding some middle ground between these two very different perspectives.

Munkatch is a great Conservative and can be followed on twitter.

My response:

Firstly, thank you for responding in such a clear and well written manner.

Conservatism values life and is therefore opposed to both abortions – which is taking another’s life, and jumping off the bridge – which is taking one’s own life. Smoking is a health issue, not a life or death issue. I know plenty of ninety year olds still smoking. If you believe – as the left does -- that you have to control the health choices one makes then it should be banned. And if you believe – as conservatives do – that one should have the ability to make their own health choices, then smoking shouldn’t be singled out with higher taxes.

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