Click for audio Who's Next in the Litigation Lottery?

The city of Detroit recently announced that it would join Philadelphia and other cities in a lawsuit to hold gun manufacturers liable for the costs of violent crime. It’s just the latest example of government’s abuse of the legal system to raise revenue outside of the democratic process.

The firearms industry is only one of a growing number of politically unpopular, but legal, sectors of the economy being targeted by government officials thirsty for money they can not raise in taxes.

The Clinton administration, for example, is suing tobacco companies to force them to pay billions of dollars for health care costs related to smoking—after Congress voted down steep new taxes on cigarettes.

This new and undemocratic form of raising taxes threatens every American business. Today it’s gun makers and tobacco companies. Tomorrow, it may be fast food restaurants or automobile makers that are forced to hand over millions for heart attacks or car accidents.

It’s an attack on the democratic process when government forces legal businesses to pay for the misuse of their products or their customers’ free choices. If law makers cannot raise taxes through the legislative process, they should not abuse the legal system to do so.