Nicotine Fiends

The media and politicians are reacting with remarkable skepticism to the giant tobacco deal. Concessions from the cigarette manufacturers that nobody would have predicted a couple of months ago are now being treated as laughably insufficient. Maybe the companies really are playing the government for a sucker. But one argument for that proposition, offered repeatedly over the last few days, is clearly wrong. It is noted that the deal sent tobacco stock prices up. Therefore the market thinks the deal is good for the tobacco companies. Therefore it must be a bad deal. So goes the argument. But any voluntary deal on any subject is, by its nature, beneficial to both sides. (This is not merely a small point of logic. It is the moral basis of free-market capitalism.)

If any deal that is better for the tobacco companies than no deal at all is, by definition, a bad deal, then all possible deals are bad deals. If you wish to reject the whole idea of negotiating a grand settlement with the tobacco companies, that is one thing. But you cannot discredit any particular deal by noting that those companies are better off with it than without it.