Friday, 19 March 2010

We have nothing to lose but our fun

Just read another interview with the incomparable Doug Casey, about "fun."
Now this is a matter which is perhaps closest to my heart, and I think really encapsulates everything else that is going on in the new world order of things.
Alcohol, tobacco, firearms, sex, drugs, rock n roll. Are there any more glorious six terms in the world? It's pretty much the antithesis of Celente's Harvard, Princeton, Yale, bullets, bombs, banks.
It is these things that make life worth living, along with food. And yet they are regulated, taxed, "educated" against, banned or otherwise pushed underground.
It's a big subject, and I admit it's making me angry just writing this. But I'd like to start with smoking.
Because I suspect that it is not bad for your health. And I know for sure that it should not be banned anywhere.

L: What would you say to people who don't want to breathe other people's smoke? Isn't it a violation of their rights when a smoker fills the air with fumes they don't want to breathe?

Doug: It might be, but it might not. It's a matter of property rights. If someone comes into your house and blows smoke in your face, that certainly is a violation of your rights. But if you're in a restaurant or airplane and the owners are okay with smoking, no one is violating your rights. You have the right to leave or fly another airline, but you don't have a right to impose your personal air quality standards on others, in their places. In these types of situations, it's not the smoke that's the problem, it's unclear property rights.

And I like what he says a bit before that:

It seems like all these chimpanzees get a new meme in their heads, and that becomes the new way it is. Fashion totally overrules principle.

So the smoking ban is a way of pushing bar and pub owners around, and generally undermining freedom, like They do, with a pseudo-scientific idea backing it up, that it's bad for you, and bad for those around you.

Ah yes, the science. Now, I'm reluctant to get into this, because even if they released mustard gas the government would have no business banning them. In fact, if they released mustard gas the government would be making a killing selling them to the CIA and the Taliban. They have no business banning anything.

But I'm becoming more and more aware of a gap in any persuasive evidence that smoking causes lung cancer, or any illness. Diet and food, yes. Smoking? Show me the evidence. Given that we spent 100,000 years in the palaeolithic era sucking up cooking fire fumes, and that the most successful of our ancestors did this most often, I have a hard time with a few lit sticks being a big deal.

There is a caveat to this. I suspect that because of the intervention of government with their regulations and so on into the tobacco industry, it has created large conglomerates (discussed here) and perverse incentives which have decreased the quality of the cigarettes. They add ammonia and god knows what else, in order to get tobacco into the blood stream quicker, and make them burn faster. This is why I smoke roll-ups.

Anyway, there's a great online book by Lauren Colby which is worth a read, and contains a few gems:

There is an Internet News Group devoted to smoking (alt.smokers). Recently, a participant called the Office of Smoking or Health, in an effort to find out how the government arrives at its estimate of 450,000 annual smoking related deaths. After repeated calls to different individuals within the government, it turned out that nobody really knew how the figures are compiled.
Quite frankly, I do not know whether there is a risk to smoking, or not. I do know that "risk" is not the same as causation. Philosophers, from Plato to Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, have been fascinated with the word "cause", and have written many learned treatises on the subject. My great grandfather was working on a bridge construction site in 1927, when a careless driver jostled him. My great-grandfather became startled, lost his balance, and fell through a hole in the bridge. Not being able to swim, he drowned in the river below. Was the cause of death (a) drowning; or (b) the actions of the careless driver; or (c) the loss of balance; or (d) the existence of the hole in the bridge flooring; or (e) not being able to swim?
In this book, I have shown that the case for a smoking/lung cancer connection is by no means proven. Certainly, there is no case whatever for a connection between ETS (second hand smoke) and any disease, nor is there are any case for a connection between cigar and pipe smoking and lung cancer. The case for a connection between cigarette smoking and lung cancer rests on the slim reed of a science called epidemiology. But all epidemiological studies, predicated as they are on statistics, are subject to so many co-factors and confounding factors as to be subject to innumerable different interpretations.
You may want to refer to this page also, which refers to sources that indicate smoking may alleviate or help prevent Parkinson's, TB, skin cancer, breast cancers, Alzheimer's, schizophrenia, and others. I'm not saying these claims are "right" either, just that they are hypotheses just as valid as "smoking is bad for you."

A word on that last hypothesis. As Karl Popper has said, a good hypothesis is one that can be falsified. The above hypothesis has been falsified. Take a look at the list of the ten longest-lived people ever, in the world. The top two smoked for most of their lives. And if more information was available (I don't have time to research them all) you would probably find that 5 or 6 of the others also did.

So this falsifies the theory that smoking is bad for you. Well, some may say that they would have lived longer than that if they had not smoked. But that doesn't really wash, does it? We've had billions of attempts at creating long-lived people, and these are the best we've come up with. End of story.

I wouldn't mind if it were just commonly wrongly assumed that cigarettes were bad for you - because they would then have more of an edgy, sexy image, and that would benefit me. But it's that Big Government thing again, sucking all reason to live from our bones. And, scarily, it's happening all over the world.

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