Thoughts, essays, and writings on Liberty. Written by the heirs of Patrick Henry.

“To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead.”     Thomas Paine

December 5, 2007

William F. Buckley Jr.: Tobacco Prohibitionist

by Doug Mataconis

The founder of National Review, who has called himself a libertarian conservative in the past, calls for tobacco prohibition and makes the most absurd Nazi analogy ever in the process:

Stick me in a confessional and ask the question: Sir, if you had the authority, would you forbid smoking in America? You’d get a solemn and contrite, Yes. Solemn because I would be violating my secular commitment to the free marketplace. Contrite, because my relative indifference to tobacco poison for so many years puts me in something of the position of the Zyklon B defendants after World War II. These folk manufactured the special gas used in the death camps to genocidal ends. They pleaded, of course, that as far as they were concerned, they were simply technicians, putting together chemicals needed in wartime for fumigation. Some got away with that defense; others, not.

Those who fail to protest the free passage of tobacco smoke in the air come close to the Zyklon defendants in pleading ignorance.

The biggest problem with Buckley’s analogy, of course, is that people who smoke cigarettes do so voluntarily and, given the attention the health effects of smoking have gotten over the years, with more than enough information to lead to the conclusion that, in the long run, smoking is bad for you. Despite that, they choose of their own free will  to light up on a daily basis.  The victims of Zyklon B didn’t exactly have a choice.

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9 Comments

  1. Wow, perhaps Buckley should take the time to read his son’s novel (or better yet, see the great movie), Thank You for Smoking. The movie does a great job illustrating why smoking is the one area that has truly shown what real freedom is in its final showdown between Nick Naylor and the Congressional panel in a way that even a non-reader can see.

    Comment by trumpetbob15 — December 5, 2007 @ 2:28 pm
  2. Ron Paul picked up a couple more points. Rasmussen has him at 7% nationally now.

    Would you care to make a wager, Doug? I’ll bet even money he’s at a 8% nationally and hits at least one 10% in either NH or IA before the Tea Party (based on the date of the calls, not the release date).

    Slow and steady growth, Doug. We’re not going to get the overnight easy-come-easy-go type support that Huckabee’s enjoying for the moment. We’re in a battle of ideas and we have the munitions to speak our piece. It takes awhile to convince a voter, but once convinced, he ain’t goin back. :-)

    Here’s to the crazy ones.

    Comment by Jeff Molby — December 5, 2007 @ 2:31 pm
  3. Jeff,

    The comment is more than a little off-topic but that’s okay.

    Honestly, I wouldn’t bet against either of your numbers except to say that I doubt he will get close to 10% in Iowa.

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — December 5, 2007 @ 2:34 pm
  4. Sorry about the OT, Doug. Feel free to move the comment when you post an apology for claiming he plateaued (again). :-)

    Agreed that he’s more likely to hit double digits first in NH or NV, but the Des Moines Register has him at 7% already, so his growth there is basically tracking the others.

    Comment by Jeff Molby — December 5, 2007 @ 2:48 pm
  5. You Americans should still count your blessings.

    Here in the state of Victoria, Australia, we have been under a Labor state government for nearly 10 years, which has seen the following nanny-state measures:

    * Some of the lowest speed limits on the planet
    * Laws against driving whilst using a mobile phone
    * The lowest alcohol blood limit for drivers – 0.05 %
    * Smoking banned in restaurants
    * Smoking banned in bars and clubs
    * Smoking banned at all public places and sporting events

    And now there are 2 more ideas floating around that are probably going to be made into legislation:

    ** Parents not allowed to smoke in their cars if with children

    ** “Anti-alcohol laws” that give police to close down nightclubs for 24 hours if there is any violence, and to ban offenders from certain popular nightspots if they are caught out being drunk and disorderly.

    Comment by Jono — December 5, 2007 @ 5:02 pm
  6. Smoking is one of those weird issues.

    It’s nearly the only issue out there where Self-Interested Voting Hypothesis holds up according to Bryan Kaplin in his book “The Myth of the Rational Voter.” For whatever reason, when it comes to smoking, people are willing to break with their philosophical world view and go with whatever they find most convenient to there lifestyle….probably with the exception of the most principled libertarians.

    I get it. I hate going to a bar and smelling smoke. I actually enjoy going to bars more now that Ohio has a statewide ban and yet, the ban goes against my personal philosophy.

    As far as Buckley’s commentary….it’s poor. He should just apologize for having a view that he can’t possibly rationalize given what he supposedly stands for and move on…or better yet, say nothing.

    Comment by AT QB — December 5, 2007 @ 6:27 pm
  7. I tend to agree that going to smoke free bars is a far more pleasant experience than the days of going to smoky bars. I still don’t think that bars should be forced to go smoke-free…but it’s a much more enjoyable experience (of course I’m now too old and married to go to the bars very often, but that’s besides the point).

    That said, I’ve never been able to figure out why more bars didn’t try to go smoke free voluntarily. Back when I was in law school, I know that my entire group of friends largely avoided the bars specifically because there were no good smoke free options. A voluntarily smoke-free bar would have made a killing since I know my group of friends wasn’t alone.

    Comment by Mark — December 5, 2007 @ 8:39 pm
  8. AT QB,

    For whatever reason, when it comes to smoking, people are willing to break with their philosophical world view and go with whatever they find most convenient to there lifestyle….probably with the exception of the most principled libertarians.

    I’m one of those principled libertarians. I used to smoke, years ago, and now every time I go to a state where smoking is still legal in bars, I don’t like it. I had one weekend in particular where I was hanging out with friends who smoked in their home and we were going to bars where everyone was smoking. By the time I left at the end of the weekend, I felt physically ill. It sucked, and I vowed not to put myself back in that position.

    Yet I still oppose government smoking bans. They’re an assault on the rights of the property owner. I went into those bars knowing full well that there were people smoking in there, there was no force or fraud. I made a decision and it’s my responsibility, not the government’s, to make that decision.

    Comment by Brad Warbiany — December 5, 2007 @ 10:04 pm
  9. To be fair to Mr. Buckley, it appears to me that the Zyklon B references may be more pointed towards second-hand smoke than to first-hand inhalation. The old “for the children” routine.

    That’s not to justify his position, however. It’s simply how it read to me and puts the entire thing in a slightly different context. The point seems unaddressed in Doug’s commentary.

    Comment by CommiePuddin — December 6, 2007 @ 8:14 am

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