Freedom to destroy
I just learned of a recent brochure mailed by the Phillip Morris tobacco firm. Included in its message was, "America stands for freedom of choice. And that means freedom to choose to smoke or not to smoke."
It is a common misconception that in America one has the freedom to do anything he wants. Actually, we have the freedom to do anything we ought. Without accepting that responsibility must accompany choice, one will too often make the wrong choice. While one can argue that we have the freedom to make the wrong choice, too many wrong choices results in the destruction of freedom. We have the responsibility to discover truths so that we can wisely make the right choices, thereby maintaining our freedoms in this nation. Irresponsibility is an enemy to freedom.
The use of tobacco products causes death. Over 300,000 people die in this country every year from diseases directly related to tobacco. That is more people than have died of AIDS since we discovered it exists. Freedom should have nothing to do with whether a person participates in practices that have a high potential for personal harm. No one has the right to jeopardize the life, liberty, or happiness of himself or others.
Responsibility must be considered a higher principle than freedom or none of us will have any freedom left. When people learn to make responsible choices, we will all benefit by having greater liberty. We can discover what we ought to do and how we ought to live. If we refuse to make these discoveries, the government will dictate to us what the government has decreed we ought to do, as in Russia.
Michael S. Cole, M.D.
25 October 1988
Southwest Times Record