Monday, May 14, 2007

Prohibition arguments

Hitch and Simon Hoggart line up on each side of the argument about smoking bans in today's G2. Hitchens wins easily, not (just) on the strength of his arguments but because Hoggart's are bafflingly bad.

Norm describes Hoggart's line as the 'usual counter-argument', which much of it is. I thought, though, he had something that really goes the extra paternalist mile. He argues, in effect, that not only is it permissible to treat smokers like children but that we secretly want to be treated like children:
"Smoking is not like drinking. Booze has its drawbacks, as a visit to any British town centre on a Friday night will demonstrate. But we drink wine and beer because we like it. People do not like smoking."
No, we do. He doesn't, obviously - but we do. Especially while we're drinking. And then there was this:
"Smokers do not regard the ban as an infringement of their ancient liberties. They think of it as a helpful way to help them help themselves."
It's ingenious at one level, I suppose: it's difficult to argue with someone who believes we really think what he thinks and ignores any evidence that might show many of us do not, in fact, think what he thinks at all.

Like, for example, when we say what we actually think.

Which is that most of us - whatever else we might think about the issue - really, unequivocally, certainly do not think of a smoking ban as a helpful way to help us help ourselves. Patronizing git.

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