Corporate Death Panels: Tobacco

Philip Morris, making the case to the Czech Republic that cigarettes save the state money, by killing off expensive, elderly citizens (Act III from this This American Life episode). Remind me why the tea party narrative has us trusting corporations more than government, again? What’s the “free market solution” to such evil?


  1. When you say ‘trusting corporations more than government’ I assume that is a generalization? For example, do you trust the government more than ALL companies? Do you approach each on a case-by-case basis? If so, can we site some non-partisan examples of where the government has failed us and corporations haven’t?

    1. sure, site away. I’m hard pressed to think of any.

        1. Government iPods? Where can I get one of those?

          1. It’s a popular product. The government failed to provide it. Private industry did.

            1. But the government has never been expected to, nor tried to produce ipods. That’s not a “failure” in the usual sense of that word.

              1. Ahhh…but what ARE they supposed to provide that would put them in direct competition with private industry (thus providing the grounds for Ames’ comparison)?

                1. Utilities and transportation would be two obvious examples. Whether government’s are supposed to provides those is debatable, but they often do.

                  A better case for you, though, would be cars: the British government tried nationalising the country’s auto industry back in the 60s and 70s to keep it financially afloat and prevent unemployment. That didn’t go very well.

                  1. So then you’ve just provided one example, cars, where private industry does it better.

                2. According to your side of the aisle – healthcare.

  2. King’s to Lanfranc there.

  3. On the original post, by the way, I see “trusting corporations” as much more of a mainstream Republican narrative. The tea party movement seems to hate big business at least as much as they hate the government. The TARP funds were an important reason why the movement appeared in the first place, after all.

  4. And looping to Mike’s comment above, some on the Right side of the aisle want government to provide nothing more then national defense (Grover Nordquist is in this camp). In his view, local fire suppression, trash services, libraries, indigent medical care, retirment – all would be the purvue of the private sector. OF course, the private sector would only provide what it could make a profit on . . .

    1. Speaking for my side of the aisle, few of us want privatization of basic services. I would include fire and police in that. What I am challenging though is the contention that the government should ALWAYS be trusted over business and ALWAYS does things better.

      And speaking of an example, look at the post office verses private shipping companies.

      1. Not a fair comparison – the Post Office, like Amtrak, can’t raise capitol the same way private corporations can, but both are considered quasi-private entities, and while Congressionally chartered, are not classic government agencies.

        And the post office does a great job – most of what I order on-line form vaiours sources I have shipped Priority mail, which gets things to me plenty fast (and usually at the 2 day minimum) and for a fraction of what Fed Ex would charge. Sure, first class stamp rates have gone up, but you can send a letter to anyone across the U.S. – generally in 5 days – for 45 cents. What does Fed ex charge for similar service?

  5. Sure, the post office does a good job for less money……..?

    1. No – they do a subpar job which is why they have to raise their rates every year. They are losing business dramatically.

      1. The business they are loosing is in their bulk mailing component, which is giving way to internet marketing (and which Fed Ex, UPS, DHL and the like don’t do anyway). Carriage of first class mail is running steady, as is their overnight and Priority product line. See above for thier real issues.

        Oh, and I’d like to know what your letter carrier thinks baout you rating his/her performance as sub par . . . .

        1. Between email and private carriers the post office will be a shell of its former self within 10 years. They can’t keep up with the changes in technology.

          1. maybe, maybe not. But being able to send my daughters birthday or Halloween card across three states for $0.45 and know the cards will get there is sure an incentive to do it. email won’t be able to replace the personality carried by such things.

            1. I recall my grandmother having a large box of letters sent to her by various family members over the years. I have very few of those for myself because 99% of my correspondance comes from email. We pay all of our bills online. I haven’t goten a paper paycheck in years. If the USPS wants to stake its business on greeting cards, good luck with that business model.

          2. I don’t think that’s true at all. The email problem is one that afflicts private carriers too. But low-cost small-item mail means there’ll always be a place for the USPS. It’ll be a smaller one, but that’s hardly its fault.

            1. Small-item mail will be obsolete in 10-15 years. The USPS can’t compete with private carriers on package shipping. You do the math.

            2. I don’t think that’s right. I was about to ship my favorite fountain pen for repairs to Miami, and that’ll be by USPS, because it’s cheaper, and provides the same delivery confirmation. I can’t imagine why I’d pay more for a private label.

              1. Reliability would be the first answer. The second would be recourse in the event it is lost.

                USPS only guarantees Express shipments, everything else is subject to being bumped. FedEx and UPS don’t do that. Also, try geting a package to a remote location with USPS in 2 days. Isn’t going to happen. The two big private carrriers have guaranteed coverage to almost every zipcode in the US.

                The bottom line is that if you aren’t in a hurry to get a package somewhere, trying to save money and aren’t going to be overly sad if it disappears – ship USPS. If you want a quality service, are shipping to a rural area or have anything over 2 pounds, pay a little more with a private carrier.

          3. Are people aware of your particular bias when it comes to shipping companies?

  6. With regards to the original post, what evil?

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