In the last post, one commenter (Tlaloc) came down hard on the tobacco companies. Another commenter (Classical Liberal Anonymous) asked Tlaloc whether he was engaging in a moral argument. This was interesting because Tlaloc has generally thrown bombs at notions of foundational morality despite frequently engaging in moral argument. Tlaloc, perhaps sensing the implications, carefully distinguished his moral argument from any endorsement of universal moral values.
So, let’s work it out. The basic allegation by Tlaloc seems to be that the tobacco companies have immorally lied for profit and have sold an addictive drug for profit. The basic rules being put forth seem to be:
1. It is wrong to lie without a compelling justification (such as to save a life — e.g. lying to the Nazi S.S. about the Jew hiding in your closet). Lying for mere monetary profit is particularly bad.
2. It is wrong to subject others to the harm of unhealthy addiction for the sake of personal enrichment. It is further wrong to lie about the fact that one is doing that.
Now, here’s the money question. Why wouldn’t these rules stand up as universal moral values? When would it ever be right to lie for profit without any compelling justification? When would it ever be right to subject others to addiction for no better reason than to get rich?