13
Dec
11

Bare-faced paternalistic contempt

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.

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3 Responses to “Bare-faced paternalistic contempt”


  1. December 13, 2011 at 22:08

    I don’t think Smith usually argues that our actually existing government makes decisions on a technocratic basis.

    • December 13, 2011 at 22:12

      Nope; I think Smith’s in favour of technocracy the same way I’m in favour of anarchocapitalism. Great idea if culture and institutions can support it, but I wouldn’t want to try it out tomorrow.

  2. December 14, 2011 at 12:26

    What really makes my head explode about the damn Plan B thing is how often I’ve seen someone say “they want to sell birth control over the counter to teenage girls!!!!”

    …Did they put the condoms behind the counter and start regulating them when I wasn’t looking?


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