Smoking in cars is safer than state tyranny

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cigarette-110849_640Not smoking in cars full of children is a good idea. However, many good ideas result in awful laws, and the ban Parliament is about to pass is one such.

Smoking in general is a rotten habit, as I can testify from 30 years of personal experience.

It gives you bad breath, morning coughs, emphysema, lung cancer and, when done while driving, holes in your trousers. Hence suggesting that people desist is good advice – but punishing them for not taking it is worse than even cancer. It’s despotism.

That sound medical ideas can be used as an instrument of tyranny has been demonstrated by every political state in modern history, not least by Nazi Germany.

Firm believers in their own version of the NHS, the Nazis showed how it could be used for crowd control. And just like today’s bureaucrats, they emphasised preventive medicine, with nutrition featuring prominently in their health propaganda.

In the same spirit the Nazis also waged an anti-smoking campaign that would be the envy of today’s EU. It was their scientists who first established the link between smoking and lung cancer, and as a result lung-cancer statistics in Germany continued to be better than in other Western countries for a couple of decades after the war.

Like most research, this proceeded from the starting point of an axiomatic assumption, in this case that smoking had to be bad because the Führer was good, and he didn’t approve of lighting up.

It wasn’t just smoking either. Chemical additives and preservatives were roundly castigated by the Nazis, wholemeal bread was depicted as morally superior to breads made from blanched white flour. And, like our today’s bureaucrats, the Nazis disapproved of medical experiments on animals (unlike us, they had no shortage of enthusiastic human volunteers).

Modern ‘democracies’ seem to be envious of the Nazis. They too would love to have the same power over us, though if possible without the stomach-churning business of gassing millions of people.

When they use medicine to that end, their rationale is strikingly similar to the Nazis’: the good of the state.

Years ago I mentioned to a friend that any state punishing people for not wearing a seatbelt is by definition tyrannical. This sort of thing is none of the state’s business.

But it is, objected my friend. If you get injured as a result of not buckling up, it’s the state that’ll have to pay for treatment, through the NHS. The state pays its money, so it makes its music.

That, I replied, is the best argument against having an NHS I’ve ever heard, and yet another proof that, when the state does a lot for you, it’ll inevitably do a lot to you. My friend looked at me with touching concern for my mental health (now he too has severe misgivings about the NHS, and it has only taken him 25 years).

What I’m advocating isn’t a staunchly libertarian position but vigilance. In fact some wielding of state power is advisable, as for example in banning the use of hands-on mobile phones while driving.

It’s not counterintuitive to suggest that holding a phone to one’s ear compromises the driver’s control of his car. This may endanger all sorts of innocent parties on the road, meaning that the danger isn’t confined to the extension of the driver’s home, his car.

By the same token, a man who likes to shoot an air rifle at paper targets in his flat thereby commits an eccentric act, but not one that’s anyone’s business other than his wife’s. The same man firing the same rifle at pedestrians passing by in the street below ought to be punished.

Whatever next? What else will they ban for our own good, what other sound ideas will they try to enshrine in laws?

For example, exercise is good for you, you can’t deny that. So how about a law punishing anyone who doesn’t do half an hour of callisthenics every morning? Compliance can be monitored with strategically placed CCTV cameras – who says surveillance should be confined to outdoors?

And how about equipping every supermarket till with a saturated-fat counter linked to the cash register? I can just hear that metallic pre-recorded voice, saying, “This is Cholesterol Watch. You’ve exceeded your allowance of animal fat, so put those bangers back or risk persecution, you irresponsible bastard.”

Really, if our legislators have nothing better to do, I could suggest any number of alternative pastimes. For example, in their spare time they could learn valuable skills, such as plumbing.

Considering their general level of competence, our houses will probably be flooded as a result. But at least we’ll be freer.

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