One of the standard observations of the rationalist/Less Wrong/Bayesian self-improvement/Aretaevian crowd is that the existence of a smart person with an incompatible opinion should lower your confidence in your position. Karl Smith is probably smarter than I am, or at the very least better-educated and -informed when it comes to macro wonkery, and he’s unabashedly in favour of technocracy (not to mention the examination of emotionally-freighted economic issues with “sociopathic insouciance“). With that in mind, I’m trying to take my radical Hayekian/Rothbardian individualism with a pillar of salt these days: If smart and not obviously oblivious commentators like Smith think that technocracy is a workable thing, I should at least concede that I might be missing something.
But this… this is contemptuous patrician bullshit of the highest order.
First we find that
technocrats busybodies around the world are banning e-cigarettes. Why? Well, apparently it’s because they act like cigarettes, and cigarettes are icky and plebian and give unbellyfeel to all doubleplus-goodthink citizens. The facts that they make it easier for smokers to quit and reduce cancer rates are utterly incidental:
[P]erhaps the hollowest argument leveled at e-cigs, as voiced by experts in Australia, is precisely what makes the devices so innovative: they’re similar to the real thing. “Because e-cigarettes mimics [sic] smoking in both design and use, the ACT Health Directorate does not support [their use].” The technically advanced rebuttal to this assertion goes like this: so what? If the goal is to prevent diseases and deaths associated with tobacco consumption, who cares if the alternatives emulate cigarettes? What’s more, the evidence indicates that this is what makes e-cigs so effective. Part of breaking the addiction is addressing the behavioral aspect, the actual act of smoking a cigarette. In e-cigs we have an effective replacement.
So, if public health advocates are going to ignore the personal choice question — what and if people smoke is nobody’s business but their own, after all – they need good science to justify their assault on e-cigs. The research so far reveals the exact opposite; what we have is a product that helps smokers drop their deadly habit and live healthier lives.
Next, there’s the Obama administration’s decision to stonewall over-the-counter sales of Plan B birth control, despite an FDA study showing that it’s about as harmless as pharmaceuticals get. Aaron Carroll goes wharrgarbl:
This is basically Gardasil all over again, only with all the elephants changed to donkeys. Clearly slut-shaming is more important than young women’s reproductive health in an election year.