On Blasting Cigs

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New piece up over at The Hipster Conservative. A modest proposal: let the lads smoke their cigs.

I would like to venture a modest, if only slightly ironic, defense of tobacco use. I think a reasonable vindication can be made on three grounds (note to Big Tobacco: we have yet to receive your payoff. Please deliver the money in non-sequential $10s and $20s). First, the long march against smoking stigmatizes yet another social and communal ritual, something we are desperately short on in today’s society. Second, the occasional use of tobacco really isn’t that dangerous. Third, in our over-sanitized, bureaucratic age, smoking serves as a necessary form of revolt.

I wanted to write this after reading a great piece in The American Conservative by Casey Chalk but I thought it could be beefed up. Mainly what motivated me is the instinctive, visceral backlash I have to tut-tutting lectures by the likes of Ezra Klein and Matt Yglesias. It is these types who seem think that the penultimate of life is to eliminate every possible factor that may or may not raise your chance of dying by a few standard deviations from the norm.

This trend in modern politics, especially health politics, will only get more and more overt as the creative chaos of the market dictates some kind of wider social safety net, in particular when it comes to health care coverage. If I have to pay your health bill, why can’t I tell you what to do? The problem with this Vox approach is it presumes that the purpose of life is to not enjoy it but rather prolong it as much as possible regardless of how joyless and sterile it is.

The main reason purpose I wanted this piece to serve as a form of rebuke to the boring nerds who want to be the vanguard of some brave new world. While I’m not advocating for unhealthiness or addiction, I am advocating to blow smoke in the smug faces of people who are seemingly addicted, not to nicotine but rather to telling everyone else how to live their lives.

While conservatives cannot fully embrace Proudhon’s naïve anarchism, they can empathize. The growth of the modern regulatory state has, as Birzer points out, created a “cult of power” that must have “one group, one community, one nation in which all personhood is lost, as the individual is stripped of his relations and made a naked individual equal to other naked individuals held together only by Leviathan, the resulting monster.” Every day there is yet another call from self-appointed experts to ban fireworks, ban cars, ban guns, ban playground games, ban walking home, ban Uber, ban fat, ban sugar, ban chocolate, ban sodas, ban booze(!) and, yes, ban best friends. Creating the New Man in Year Zero is brisk business. While this is not a call to ignore all expert advice, nor to cook oneself up a hearty helping of Tide pods and wash it down with a nice draught of raw sewage, it is a call to metaphorically blow cigar smoke in the bespectacled, lightly bearded faces of these smug would-be nannies. While conservatives have been naturally averse to rebellion since 1688, in our liberal age, a little social rebellion now and then can only be a good thing.

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