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February 06, 2014

CVS Will Stop Selling Cigarettes, And Why That's Good

Well, Patrick McMahon doesn't say the decision itself is good (he's agnostic on that), but he applauds the idea that a business can still make its own decisions about what it will sell. He offers two cheers.

I'm not sure I think two cheers are proper, or even one. I actually think it's a not-terrible idea for a drug store to stop selling cigarettes. It's a curious thing how they ever came to be sold there in the first place. And smoking is horrible, just horrible.

However, when McMahon writes...

I think it's great whenever a business takes steps to implement its vision of social purpose...

The freedom to sell what you want - or not - is a marvelous thing and should be applauded whenever it's exercised.

However, every person and every business has always had the freedom to do what the controlling forces of society encouraged them to do. One was (I hate to bring up Hitler, but...) perfectly free to extol Hitler in 1939 Germany.

The true level of freedom of any society is not determined by how free you are to do the things that the government and ruling classes want you to do, but how free you are to do the things they don't want you to do.

CVS' decision should not be faulted, I don't think, but I do not see either how it can be praised. It could be praised as regards health benefits, but not on the principle of freedom. I would not claim that CVS' decision represents a loss of freedom -- I respect their own freedom to choose what image they will offer of themselves, and what products they will sell -- but neither is it any sort of advance of freedom to adhere to the mode of thought and way of life recommended by the government and ruling classes.

There has never been a society in which you were not free to do as you were told.

To me, an advance of freedom on this score would be selling cigarettes in a place where they hadn't previously been sold. Now, the health consequences of that would be bad, but that would be a show of the freedom to do things you are told not to do.


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