cigarettes are code for proletarian

boddhisatva kbevans at
Sat Dec 12 04:27:56 PST 1998

To whom...,

I'd like to amplify what Jim Heartfield said. The bourgeoisie want workers to believe that they are only allowed to prosper when and if it fits into the bourgeois concept of the order of things. They are meant to prosper only if they are worthy (have 'merit") and only to the extent that in does not deface or detract from the Manor, Squire, or, the world as the bourgeoisie deem it should appear. Much of the movement against tobacco has been entirely bourgeois and has taken place in bourgeois communities first. This is inspired by the bourgeois desire to try and keep the bad effects, cost and proletarian unseemliness of tobacco from impinging on the bourgeoisie. That has been the main thrust of anti-tobacco legislation. The real argument about tobacco is different altogether,

First there is the issue of caring. The original impetus for that bourgeois legislation came from the health community which largely saw the tobacco issue as one of caring for people who are vulnerable. This is entirely convincing. The problem with an addictive drug is that it cannot be consumed rationally. By this I mean that a person cannot make a rational, uncoerced decision to consume the drug because he has no idea what it is to be addicted. Even if his initial decision is informed, his subsequent decisions will not be rational, as anyone who has tried to quit cigarettes can attest to. It's reasonable to keep people away from being coerced into danger and bad health.

On the other hand the argument is liberty. That is also convincing. At the end of the day, rational people must negotiate innumerable dangers in life and cannot be treated like children and kept from those dangers at the cost of their freedom. Democracy is at one level giving the largest possible number of people the ability to do the wrong thing and hoping that they will do the right thing.

Regulation that is both uninspired by caring and hostile to liberty is not worthwhile. At the same time a "thousand points of light" ,or noblesse oblige, is inadequate to care for the needs of vulnerable people. My conclusion is that so long as the empirical evidence suggests that people are still unaware of or unresponsive to the fact of tobacco's addictiveness, it should be regulated strictly. If people then decide to change the regulations and hang themselves, that's their problem. Once people are well informed, they should be at liberty to do themselves in, so long as they don't hurt anybody else. I would say that America is not yet at that stage.

At the same time, those who are granted the liberty to do themselves in must still be cared for. That is the key departure from a libertarian ethic. A socialist, I think, understands that he has to care for the people that make mistakes and that is part and parcel of liberty. Socialism pushes liberty to the extent that it requires caring to work. Capitalism/libertarianism uses caring as a patch, to keep a bad system rolling. An attempt at "socialism" without this tension of liberty and caring is at best a tyranny of the majority. Socialism is not a system of universal regulation.


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