My Quiet Life My Quiet Life

smokin

Hitchens, from an interview with Reason in 2001, on smoking, and a distinction between government authoritarianism and paternalism:

He [Ralph Nader] leads a very austere, rather traditional mode of life. I met him first about 20 years ago. He contacted me, in fact, as he’d admired something I’d written. We met, and the main outcome of this was a 20-year campaign on his part to get me to stop smoking. In fact, he even offered me a large-ish sum of money once if I would quit. Almost as if he were my father or my uncle. Yes, generally speaking, he is a believer in the idea that government can better people, as well as condition them. But he’s not an authoritarian, somehow. The word would be paternalist, with the state looking after you, rather than trying to control you. But there’s some of us who don’t find the state, in its paternal guise, very much more attractive. In fact, it can be at its most sinister when it decides that what it’s doing is for your own good.

I certainly wish I wasn’t a smoker and wish I could give it up. But I’m damned if I’ll be treated how smokers are now being treated by not just the government, but the government ventriloquizing the majority. The majoritarian aspect makes it to me more repellent. And I must say it both startles and depresses me that an authoritarian majoritarianism of that kind can have made such great strides in America, almost unopposed. There’s something essentially un-American in the idea that I could not now open a bar in San Francisco that says, “Smokers Welcome.”