Friday, January 6, 2006

Taxpayer funded propaganda creepier than clowns

The State of Washington presents Ashtray Mouth. Warning: The disturbed contents of the webpage are likely to cause cigarette cravings.


HT: The Agitator

14 comments:

Mike said...

The most annoying thing about the entire anti-smok[er|ing] fad may be yet to come.

I harbour a dark dread that "smokophobia" will one day generally be recognized for the bigotry and bullying that it is.

This just might be among in the procession of popular crazes that will occur in our lifetimes. For example, look at how "gay" and "smoker" have way more than changed places in polite conversation within a generation.

All it would take is for people to get bored with anti-smoking and decide to focus more on witches or fat people instead.

Can you imagine all the obnoxious
"anti-smokophobia" human rights activists that will come out of the woodwork? The Toronto Star stories about dying people made sickly by years of having to smoke out in the cold and rain and lashing wind? Explosive reports on the trauma caused to children by exposure to that website's cross between Tim Burton and Julius Streicher? Bar owners finally FORCED to allow smoking so that smokers' rights are respected?

Would that make you swear off tobacco?

Phronk said...

Are you guys serious? How could this be anything but a good thing? I'd gladly give up my tax dollars to go toward anything which gets kids (or even adults) off smoking.

Saying this is bullying is kinda like saying we're restricting the rights of murderers by putting them in jail and telling kids not to stab each other. Smoking kills people...we didn't know this before, but now we do...and now governments are doing everything they can to keep people from killing themselves and others. I see nothing wrong with that.

MapMaster said...

Are you serious? You'd gladly give up your tax dollars to go toward government contracts to ad agencies to tell people what they already know. Great — I'm not one to tell you what to do with your money. So why bring it up? Unless you'd gladly give up other people's money no matter what they think of the idea. That's bullying if you ask me.

Phronk said...

Seriously serious? "Giving up other peoples' money no matter what they think of the idea", while putting it in a negative straw-man way, is the whole point of government and taxes, isn't it? We pay the government so that they can do what's best for the people. Smoking is deadly, whether you agree with it or not...the government should be doing everything they can to keep people (especially kids) away from it. This says nothing about the choice of adults to smoke if they want to; that's still their choice.

Would you call safe sex ads "bullying"? How about messages promoting healthy eating, or recognizing the signs of stroke? They all seem functionally equivalent to me.

Lisa said...

Baa Baa goes the red sheep.

Phronk;

You cannot seriously believe that governments act in the best interest of the people? I ask you to define the People's 'best interest' and to illustrate, on the basis of experience or rational argument, how governments succeed in defining and promoting this nebulous concept of public interest. The preferences of my neighbour do not necessarily coincide with mine, but so long as those preferences do not infringe on my rights to peacefully coexist, it is none of my damn business, nor yours. As I've asked before, if the people cannot be trusted to manage their own affairs, then how can they be trusted to elect just governors?

I also take issue with the false analogy expressed in your first comment here:

"Saying this is bullying is kinda like saying we're restricting the rights of murderers by putting them in jail and telling kids not to stab each other."

Should the smokers be herded off to jail? If smoking and fast food are so evil, why waste time with public awareness ads? Shouldn't we just ban it and be done with it? It hardly needs to be said, but there is a fundamental difference between smoking cigarettes and murdering people - although smoking might be harmful, it does not involve the use of force and it harms no one but the individual choosing to engage in the behaviour. Furthermore, your appeal to protecting the health of the children implies that the parents of today are incompetent and that only governments can be trusted to educate children about the potentially dangerous consequences of certain behaviours. Any law or regulation made in the name of the children will necessarily end up interfering with the rights of individual adults.

You say: ""Giving up other peoples' money no matter what they think of the idea", while putting it in a negative straw-man way, is the whole point of government and taxes, isn't it?""

Taxation is theft, pure and simple. The bandits that force us to contribute are worse than common thieves; at least the common criminal doesn't pretend to be acting in your best interest and generally leaves you alone once he has helped himself. If the money is forcibly taken from individuals against their will, it matters not what the purported use of those funds are. I've no problem with public service ads, as long as they are paid for with funds freely given - private agencies are thus free to promote their versions of good health. The government is not my keeper and I resent their violating nanny laws which are used to extract money from me so they can prop up their regime of force.

I wonder, have you no bad habits? Are you are perfect angel of virtue and good health?

Phronk said...

Ok, I'm going to try to keep this short, because we're getting into issues deeper than would be appropriate for a debate in blog comments. So let me just pick and choose some things to respond to:

"You cannot seriously believe that governments act in the best interest of the people?"

I didn't say they DO act that way, but that it's their purpose. Their goal. So maintaining the health of the public is moving toward that goal.

"although smoking might be harmful, it does not involve the use of force and it harms no one but the individual choosing to engage in the behaviour."

There are many valid arguments against that. Second-hand smoke hurts more than the person smoking. You could go deeper and talk about setting a bad example for other people, etc etc. I think we agree that actions in our own home which affect nobody but ourselves ought not have any outside (e.g. government) involvement. However, smoking is not, in many cases, such an action.

"your appeal to protecting the health of the children implies that the parents of today are incompetent and that only governments can be trusted to educate children about the potentially dangerous consequences of certain behaviours"

I do imply that some parents are incompetent. In an ideal world, that wouldn't be true. We don't live in an ideal world. The government isn't the ONLY source of education, but they are one source, and the one at issue here.

"Taxation is theft, pure and simple.....I resent their violating nanny laws which are used to extract money from me so they can prop up their regime of force."

Well, that's a weird radical and paranoid opinion. I'd ask you to explain a better alternative, but again, that's beyond the scope of what we should bring up here.

"I wonder, have you no bad habits? Are you are perfect angel of virtue and good health?"

No. I drink, eat things which are terrible for my body, and occasionally, smoke. However, what *I* do should have no bearing on my opinion on what is rational and/or right.

"Baa Baa goes the red sheep."

Ah yes. Labels simplify things, don't they? Too bad they, too, have no place in rational argument.

MapMaster said...

"Giving up other peoples' money no matter what they think of the idea" … is the whole point of government and taxes, isn't it? We pay the government so that they can do what's best for the people.

That's a new one on me, and would have come as a great surprise to the founders of both Canada and the United States. (Personally, I pay taxes because I'd go to jail otherwise.) What a depressingly vague and subjective standard for governance — and a useful tool for wiping out individual liberties, precisely because what's "best for the people" is so undefinable. But it's still in your best interest! The problem facing your definition of government is the question of who gets to decide what is in best? Not you, apparently… some elite trained for the purpose in the social and health science faculties of universities? (No offense intended, by the way, I'm in the same faculty that you are.)

A catalogue of the actions governments have taken regarding smoking includes: the expropriation of private property in the form of tax revenue from people like myself for a political purpose I do not agree with; and the expropriation of private property rights by banning smoking from private establishments. Do these not constitute greater harms in your eyes than second-hand smoke, especially given that with the exception of public institutions, people are free to patronize private establishments or to avoid them?

Lisa said...

First They Came for the Jews

First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left
to speak out for me.

Pastor Martin Niemöller



Phronk:

On what basis do you judge this notion of the best interests of the collective legitimate?

In response to my question "You cannot seriously believe that governments act in the best interest of the people?" you respond:

I didn't say they DO act that way, but that it's their purpose. Their goal. So maintaining the health of the public is moving toward that goal.

What do you mean when you invoke the best interests of the people as the purpose and justification of government? How are these so called best interests determined and on the basis of what authority? Saying the justification and purpose of government is to promote and protect best interests is meaningless if collective best interests are non-existent. The same people that are apparently incapable of acting in their own best interest individually, are trusted to rule over others via the governments they elect. Not only do you fail to explain the legitimacy of gang rule, but you also seem to acknowledge that governments do not always achieve this nebulous goal.

There is no such thing as a healthy collective, but only healthy individuals. The consequences attached to risky behaviors are a much more effective deterrent to bad habits than government warnings and higher taxes. People will always act against their better interests, but until that behaviour interferes with the life and liberty of another individual, that behaviour is merely *bad* but not immoral or wrong.

A moral foundation for government is impossible, because government necessarily involves the use of force. Association is not voluntary, and obedience mandatory. I refer you to this post and the comment section for more on this subject.

Yes, smoking is potentially harmful to individuals, but the government should not be protecting people from themselves and they shouldn't be spending taxpayer dollars to promote the popular scapegoat of the day. I'll totally respect the wishes of individuals if they ask me to refrain from smoking in their establishment or home, but that is between me and the property owner, and the government has no right to intervene. Furthermore, my being seen smoking in public can hardly be said to cause moral or physical harm. I am not responsible for the choices of others and I can hardly be said to have caused any smoking behaviour of another person.

Lots of things are bad for people, like for example car exhaust - should we ban cars because they are harmful to public health?

You say:

However, what *I* do should have no bearing on my opinion on what is rational and/or right.

Are you suggesting your actions are not rationally motivated or that you cannot be expected to know what is right until the government tells you what is right and proper?

Now, if you'll excuse me for a while, I'm going to tune into the federal leadership debate, where the various gang leaders will try to convince the people that they have more right than the other guy to your money and health.

Brent Gilliard said...

Though you recieve my (figurative) applause for fighting for an 'ideal' world, I cannot fathom why you refuse to make the best of a bad situation.

All things being equal, the millions spent on anti-smoking campaigns should (theoretically) be more than justified by the savings in healthcare to dying smokers.

And if the government has to spend less, that means (again, theoretically) they should need less of your money. Which is good, right?

MapMaster said...

Heh, the government would need even less of my money if it didn't run healthcare. A pragmatic argument you make, but predicated on the same assumptions that collective interests trump individual interests and that they can be weighed politically. Oh, if the government can save a few bucks, who's going to argue with that? Except that the logic is entirely self-contained and self-referential, back into itself, one government program justifying the existence of another, and so on... Public healthcare conveys benefits too, but at a cost that can be measured not only in the tremendous drain on the financial resources of people but also on their individual liberties as well.

MapMaster said...

Although in this post, we're only hoping that the government doesn't continue using our money for anti-smoking propaganda — a very far remove from an ideal world. There are plenty of voluntary associations and institutions around for condemning or demonstrating against smoking — why does the government need to add "our" two cents?

Phronk said...

How are these so called best interests determined and on the basis of what authority?

The collective best interest can be determined by the happiness/health/whatever of the majority of individuals. It's based on the authority of empirical facts discovered by thorough research. This is a simplification, obviously, but something to aim for.

People will always act against their better interests, but until that behaviour interferes with the life and liberty of another individual, that behaviour is merely *bad* but not immoral or wrong.

Sure, I'll accept that premise, but then argue that smoking does, in many cases, interfere with the life of other individuals.

Are you suggesting your actions are not rationally motivated or that you cannot be expected to know what is right until the government tells you what is right and proper?

Yes to the first suggestion, No to the second. My actions are not rationally motivated; humans are not rational creatures. I give in to the urges and gut feelings programmed into my brain because they helped our species survive for most of its history, but now cause harm. I know that rationally, a cheeseburger will do me no good in the long term, but that doesn't stop me from grabbing one when I'm starving and too lazy to cook.

However, I don't think it's not the government's role to tell me what to do or believe. What I do support is the government distributing empirically validated information, so that I KNOW what IS rational. Whether I choose to be rational or not is up to me, but at least I can make an informed choice.

Lots of things are bad for people, like for example car exhaust - should we ban cars because they are harmful to public health?

That'd be one way to do it. Though I have a feeling, at this point, the costs would outweight the benefits. You need to weigh happiness and health, too...would we rather have everyone living to 100 but being completely bored at home because there's no way to get anywhere without a car? Or live to 80 and be happy for life?

Whatever. Like I said, this argument is getting too complicated for a place like this. It's been nice chatting with you guys and seeing a different point of view.

Phronk said...

That awkward sentence in my last comment should read "I don't think it's the government's role"....dang double-negatives.

And hey, that other dude brings up a good point. Even it's one program justifying another or infringes on liberties or whatever, from a completely practical point of view, it'll save everybody money. Mmm, money.

MapMaster said...

Well, I appreciate your coming here to get another perspective on things. Reading through your comments I wonder if our views of the world are so different that common ground cannot be found simply in blog comments, as you suggest, particularly on the subject of collective interests. But, given my editorial policy of not being able to help myself, I'll give it another go, of sorts, if you're still reading this thread.

Best interests are based on the authority of empirical facts discovered by thorough research. This is a simplification, obviously, but something to aim for. Isn't that precisely what individuals do, whether they are entirely successful or not? Most of us do, at least, and if a few people do not, does that justify taking the liberties of everyone else? Like I said before, there are plenty (way more than plenty) of voluntary institutions and associations that not only disseminate the objective facts or opinions about best interests, but are also willing to help those specifically unable or unwilling to look after themselves. Why does the government need to do this? (As an aside, those voluntary associations may be able to accomplish much more if their patrons were not so taxed.)

You suggest that a collective interest can be determined by the interest of the majority of individuals. Does this not condemn the minority to the arbitrary tyranny of the majority? Precisely why democracies have built-in restraints on the exercise of majority power, via constitutions and courts, so far as they actually work that is. I would submit to you, departing from my libertarian views, that government if it is to be constituted should protect its citizens from infringements upon the rights that all people share and that do not compete with each other — namely, simply life, liberty and property — and which do not force the government into deciding whose rights trump others'.

In any case, I would suggest that by endorsing the enforcement of collective interests, you are submitting yourself to the arbitrary discretion of others and that that discretion will be ultimately be determined politically — there may come a day when your own interest collides with what others call their interest, and you will be powerless. I hope that does not happen, and that's why I write.