Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Rights and Reason: History Repeats Itself

Bruce Bartlett explains why any accomodation of John Banzhaf and his terrorist lawyer colleagues is suicide:
Unfortunately, the tobacco companies seem to have learned nothing from their experience with anti-smoking zealots and are actually opening the door to lawsuits against their food divisions. They don't seem to understand that their enemies are not driven by genuine concerns about health or even by greed, but by ideology. They bring a religious fervor to their efforts that combine a Marxist hatred of capitalism with extraordinary naivete about human nature, mixed together with a tort liability system that is eager to award large damages based on the flimsiest of evidence.

Nevertheless, Kraft Foods, a division of Altria Group (formerly known as tobacco giant Philip Morris), thinks it can buy off its prosecutors by cutting portion sizes, reducing fat and sugar in its products, and scaling back marketing to children. These may all be worthwhile things to do, but to its enemies it is virtually an admission of guilt. Just as warning labels on cigarettes proved to be no defense against tobacco lawsuits, neither will Kraft's pre-emptive capitulation. It will only embolden its enemies and provide new lines of legal attack.
There are two explanations for this type of corporate behavior. One is that executives believe that they can gain profits in the short-term even if they risk long-term defeat; the other is that the executives actually believe they're guilty of what they're opponents accuse them of. Neither option is particularly comforting to those of us who advocate capitalism as a moral way of life. But on the bright side, most Americans are not ready to cross the line of destroying food companies over the "obesity epidemic" just yet. And the food industry is mounting a campaign, through it's lobbying arm at the Center for Consumer Freedom, to discredit Banzhaf and company. But we must keep pressuring the food companies to expand their fight and not be content simply to fight their persecutors to a draw in the legal arena. Nothing short of total defeat of Banzhaf and his can suffice.

UPDATE: cites Banzhaf spinning his loss in the recent McDonald's lawsuit by arguing "it takes time for legal theories to coalesce in a way that forces major societal change." Note the word "forces". Banzhaf has no interest in rationally persuading people of his theories; he intends to use force--primarily the deliberate abuse of the court system--against all Americans who disagree with him.

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