The Truth About Bitcoin

Tyler Cowen has yet another post up about Bitcoin. The topic is becoming an obsession with a certain type of libertarian academic. The mere mention of it has them thinking about how great it would if they were John Galt, just without all the hard work and danger that comes with it.  Whenever the topic comes up, they began chanting the all of the usual lines, like they are incantations. The comments sections of Bitcoin stories always have a weird cult-like vibe to them, but libertarianism is pretty much a cult now anyway.

The basic thrust of Cowen’s post is that Bitcoin is like any other commodity. Once a sufficient number of others get into the crypto market, the price for all of these currencies will fall to cost plus some tiny profit. In other words, he sees crypto as something like trading sheep or shiny rocks in the market place. Since the currency has no intrinsic value and there is no authority to set the value, the market sets the value based on utility or popular fads or some large manipulator buying or selling large quantities.

Putting aside my complaints about Bitcoin as a currency, the main problem with these digital-currencies is the same problem we saw in the Free Banking Era. Central governments hate the idea of a currency they cannot easily manipulate. That has been true since Pheidon. If you control the money, you control the people. Naturally, ruling elites will seek to control the money as a top priority. There’s also the issue seigniorage, which is no small thing. Wars have been fought over control of a single mint.

It has nothing to do with economic efficiency and everything to do with order. Order is what allows the best citizens of the polity to rise and remain at the top of the status system. It is also what allows the less talented to live something close to a sane existence. Order is how humans guard against the anti-social fraction that exists in every human population. Despite the fevered dreams of libertarians and anarchists, you cannot have a society without order. There has to be rules and enforcement of rules.

This natural desire for order naturally leads to a ruling class that is the final authority on everything, including the value of money. That authority, in order to be an authority, needs a method to control the people and thus the society over which they rule. Controlling the money is a great way to accomplish this. Controlling land or monitoring individual transactions is unworkable over the long haul.  The cost exceeds the benefit.

One simple way to control the populace is through the coining of money. That makes taxing easier for the authorities and it gives them control of trade and labor. It allows for the authorities to audit the citizenry to ensure compliance. There’s also the issue of seignorage, which has always been an important aspect of rule. Wars have been fought over control of a single mint. Having a bunch of competing currencies works against order and against efforts to impose order, therefore can never be tolerated.

Think about it this way. Let’s say I come up with a digital heroin. That is, a drug that can be transmitted on-line that you load on a flash drive, shove up your bum and get amazingly high for eight hours. Obviously, I’m not getting a lot of takers initially. The lack of customers means I’m losing money every time I make a batch. I manage to get a few takers to try it and begin to build a client base through word of mouth. I hit the same spots at predictable times and sell my digital heroin the old fashioned way.

This goes on for a while and no one is the wiser. The cops don’t care as it looks nothing like criminality from their perspective. The drug gangs don’t care at first because I’m not doing business on their turf. They are unaware of the threat I pose initially. But, they notice a drop in sales eventually as I build my business. Eventually they will figure out that someone is taking their customers. They may figure out it is me before they figure out what I’m selling or it may be the other way around, but at some point they put it together.

The drug gang will have three choices. Obviously, they can kill me, but that will require knowledge they may lack. They may know I exist, but not exactly where I exist. I could have advanced to the point where I’m selling my drug on-line. Drug dealers are not fools and they will recognize their lack of knowledge and see that as a risk in itself, perhaps a bigger risk. Killing me could create unknown problems. After all, I could be part of some much larger enterprise as unknown to them as the magic drug I sell.

The second choice is to figure out what I’m doing so they can either muscle in on my business or come up with a better way to compete. There is a reason we have such an array of street drugs. A clever guy creates a new product and the drug gangs eventually take it over and add it to their portfolio. The same guys controlling the weed sales in one area control the heroin sales too. Maybe they cut their prices or find some way to improve their product. Maybe they invent a new drug that is better than my drug.

The third option is to enlist the state to take out my business. I’m conducting business and that means taxes are involved. It also means a mountain of rules and regulations. My drug may be legal, but not paying taxes on sales is illegal. Not filing for a business license and not abiding by the laws governing record keeping are against the law. If I have employees, then I need to pay them and that means taxes, workplace laws, social security, Medicare and unemployment taxes. As any small businessman knows, there are a lot of rules.

Here we ultimately see the problem with Bitcoin. Disruptive technology is not ignored by the folks at the top of the established order. In the drug example, the established authority is the drug game, which served as a proxy for the state. In the above ground world, the state will defend itself from the threat posed by Bitcoin and they have many tools at their disposal. They also have tanks, planes, missiles and other military goodies. Bitcoin can only exist as long as the state allows it to exist. That means it will have to serve the interests of the state to survive, which brings us right back to where we are now.

Reconsidering The Drug War

For most of my life, I have been a drug legalizer. I came to this conclusion while sitting at a campus lounge reading Adam Smith’s treatment of the English Corn Laws. It struck me at the time that if you replaced “corn” with “drugs” you have a nearly flawless argument against prohibition. It was the sort of revelation common when you’re that age. It seems so obvious, you assume you are super smart for having noticed it for the first time.

You get older and see that damage that comes from the drug trade and you start to understand it is more complicated than libertarians believe. In fact, the drug issue is the best way to understand why libertarians are hopeless. They cannot see the larger social issues involved in wide-scale drug taking. They think it is a free lunch, where legalization results in all good and no bad. Nothing in this world works that way.

Still, I have stuck with the idea of legalizing drugs.  The cost of locking up a million drug offenders is high. Layer on the courts, cops and social service stuff and the war on drugs probably costs us a hundred billion a year on the conservative side.  These guys say that’s a good number, but this site puts the number much higher.

Put a million people in jail at $50K a man and you get 50 billion. The basic numbers alone have always struck me as proof enough that the drug war is a scam and a failure. It’s not as if prohibition has worked. Drugs are everywhere, cheap and increasingly exotic. Even accepting there is a cost to legal drug use, it has always seemed to me that the scales tip in favor of legalizing as Milton Friedman argues here.

There is another argument, one I’ve often used against libertarians when I don’t feel like hearing them go on forever about weed. That is, people are all for legal drugs until Walmart has a sale on their extra special brand of heroine. That’s when the women start mobilizing for the children. All it will take is one mother hearing that ad and the days of legal drugs are about to come to an end. Drug legalization is an idea that appeals to men, not women.

Libertarians hate that argument, because it is true. Libertarians, like liberals, have an uncomfortable relationship with the human condition. Their view of the world works perfectly, so they don’t want to hear any of the inconvenient stuff, because they throws off their model of reality. Libertarians are like all materialist in that they can’t change their mind on anything, but they won’t change the subject either.

This piece by Peter Hitchens gets to the heart of the matter. What sort of society do you want to live in as a free man? Do you want one where drug addicts fill the parks and drunks fill the doorways? Or, do you want one where the drunks and drug addicts find it hard to be drunks and drug addicts? If it is the latter, then the question is not about how we legalize. The question is how we come up with better forms of prohibition.

In that regard, Hitchens is correct when he argues against addiction as a disease. This exchange is good stuff. Drug addiction is not a disease. You don’t choose to get cancer or have a high blood pressure. You may have a predisposition to drunkenness or addition, but you still have some control over your actions. Addicts get sober, because they learn how to control those urges. It may be genetic, but there is still some control.

The fact is, in a healthy vibrant society, this is not a debate that is necessary. Wide scale drug taking, legal or otherwise, is a symptom of a society in decline. That’s another thing libertarians cannot face, so they stick to making specious arguments about the benefits of legalizing weed. I think if given the choice, I’d rather fight to keep drugs illegal, as a defense against decline, rather than give up and go gently into the darkness.

The Language of Fantatics

Fanatics not only deal in absolutes, they have a binary view of life. Everything is either completely one way or completely the opposite way. For example, normal people have a wide range of reactions to homosexuality. At one end are people who hate the gays and at the other are people who think the guys are great. Most people lie somewhere in between those two polls. The fanatic sees only homophobes and homophiles.

As a result, fanatics have a range of words they use to describe the undifferentiated other on the other side of the wall from them. People who agree with them, are inside the wall, while the people who don’t completely agree are on the other side of the wall. As a result, they have a lot of ways to describe the people outside the wall, but only one way to describe the people in the inside. They are the righteous, the anointed.

You see it in this article from Reason magazine about the Duck Dynasty guy. Even they call his comments “anti-gay.” In other words, because he does not fully embrace the latest fads with regards to homosexuals, he must hate homosexuals and wish them harm. he’s anti-gay. His brand of Christianity, like 99% of Christianity, considers sex outside of marriage a sin. Therefore, gay sex is a sin. That’s a statement of fact.

He said the same thing about bestiality and drunkenness. No one is upset at him for being anti-animal or anti-booze. The reason, of course, is those things lack a band of dedicated fanatics defending them. Sodomites have a phalanx of Progressive lunatics willing to attack anyone that gets too close to the walls. They don’t care why he does not embrace their position, they just see him as the ultimate evil because he is on the other side.

That’s the way it must be with fanatics. You are either with them or against them. There’s no room to be indifferent. It try to stake out some middle ground or you really are indifferent, they will force you to choose sides. It’s why their language becomes stark. You are either in favor of “gay rights” or you are anti-gay, a homophobe, a bigot, etc. You’re either on the side of the righteous or you are an enemy of all that is good.

The reason for this is, in part, psychological. The fanatic is most likely biologically driven to be a fanatic. As Eric Hoffer noted, the true believer will jump from one fanaticism to another, often participating in many at the same time. For instance, an environmentalist will also be a member of some Marxist group, a vegan and an animal rights nut. In other words, the cause is unimportant. it is being in a cause that matters.

Then there is the fact that the fanatic is often driven by a sense of self-loathing, which is why they seek to completely submerge themselves in the cause. They swap their hated sense of self for that of the group. You really can’t be too extreme when trying to cleanse yourself of that which you hate, which is you. What the fanatic thinks is worth doing, they will always assume it worth overdoing. It is what makes them feel free.

The fanatic probably has a use evolutionary use to humans. The rules of society need to be enforced. Society needs to be defended. Sacrifices need to be made for the good of the group. The fanatic can ensure his genes pass on by defending his group. In settled society, this trait probably adapted to settled life. Every society has its fanatics and every society has some use for them. That’s not an accident.

End of the Free Money Era?

It is easy to forget that the way things are now is not the way they have always been, which means the way things are now is not how they will be in the future. For instance, the giant book stores that are going out of business never existed forty years ago. For most of the post-war period, there were mall shops to sell best sellers and popular stuff and there were boutique book shops for the stuff aimed at serious readers.

Then with the invention of free money from the global financial system, every town in America suddenly had a massive book superstore. Barnes & Noble started out a rickety old warehouse in Boston. With free money, they built book warehouses all over the country. The story is similar with Borders Books, which started in Michigan. Now, they are going under as people remember that they don’t really read that much after all.

The same is true of casual dining. Thirty years ago, casual dining meant a local joint run by local people, often foreigners. Immigrants could start a restaurant, because it required more labor than capital. They could make it a family business. Then all of a sudden we are flooded with massive chains like Olive Garden and Red Lobster. Now it appears they may be following the path of Borders and Barnes & Noble.

In a move sure to set the culinary world and classy guys everywhere reeling, Darden has announced that it will either sell or spin off its Red Lobster restaurants.

Adding to the devastation, the company, which also runs Olive Garden and other fine-dining establishments, said it will suspend the opening of new Olive Garden locations and slow down new locations for LongHorn Steakhouses.

Why, you ask? Dear God, why??

Because Darden isn’t doing so good. It seems that consumers are turning their noses up at hoity-toity sit-down places like Red Lobster and Olive Garden these days in favor of cheaper chains like Chipotle.

Darden is one of the largest companies in the casual dining industry, with a market value of $6.7 billion, but its core chains have had stagnant growth, according to The New York Times. Last quarter the company experienced a 31 percent drop in net earnings. “The reduced unit growth will lower capital spending by at least $100 million annually,” the company said in a statement.

Red Lobster has 705 restaurants in the United States and Canada and had annual sales of $2.6 billion in 2013, but we guess that wasn’t enough for ol’ Scrooge Darden.

Putting aside the millennial snark from the writer, there could be a bunch of reasons for this that have nothing to do with the economics of chain restaurants. For example, Red Lobster is awful. It’s everything that is wrong with the American diet on the same menu, but made worse somehow. Olive Garden is better, but they tend to be over priced for what you get. Paying $25 for spaghetti seems wrong. In other words, whatever novelty there was to them has worn off and people now realize these places are not very good.

There’s something else going on with big retail. The rise of massive chain stores is due in large part to the credit boom. When you can get money at 2%, you will make different bets than when the money costs 10%. More important, you can make money from things with 2% money that you can’t with 10% money. Big capital projects like restaurant and bookstores can’t exist at borrowing rates at or above historic averages.

Cheap credit allows for a form of pump and dump that cannot exist under normal borrowing conditions. Cheap money allows for massive expansion, where revenue is realized today, but the cost of expansion is pushed off into the future. That draws in more money, allowing the original investors to get their money out with a profit. The chain expands until it runs out of room and then those costs come home.

Interest rates remain artificially depressed, but lending is not as free as we saw for two decades leading up to the crash. Giant corporations can get plenty of credit, but their customers are a different story. The Fed keeps pumping money into the system hoping the clogs eventually break free, but no one know if that will happen, before the consequences of loose money turn up in other parts of the economy.

Even assuming the smart Jews running the global finance system can keep the plates spinning forever, there’s another aspect to this problem. Cheap money allows for cost reductions by eliminating competition. These chain restaurants have killed off the local dine, for example, but rigging the supply chain so they get much lower costs. That works for a while, but there is a natural boundary. Costs never fall below zero.

The free money era feels a lot like a bust out. The boom and bust of giant bookstores, for example, left us with no bookstores. One company, Amazon, now controls 80% of the book business. The boom and bust of chain restaurants is about to leave us with no local restaurants, but soulless chain stores owned by some global capital group. It’s one company operating under a dozen brands, selling the same food.

Bad Bits

Block chain technology could be the great innovation that gets us over a serious hump into a low-work society. Or, it could be a clever idea that has no practical use. That’s thing with technology. It’s often not as useful as people assume initially. Many times the technology ends up in something completely different from what the inventors originally imagines. The microwave over is the best example.

The idea of a digital currency is fine as it already exists to a certain extent. The use of cash has declined, because people now charge everything or use a debit card. That’s an electronic version of your home currency. This is made possible by the vast digital network that allows you to engage in commerce digitally. Specifically, it allows people to convert their currency into a digital representation for transmission around the globe.

One of the primary attributes of currency is portability. Cash and coins are more easily transported than sheep or bales of hay. Converting sheep into coins, means the shepherd can turn his labor into something he can tote to the next village and trade for something produced by some other farmer. Currency makes the value of labor quantifiable and portable, which means it then move around in society as property.

Another primary attribute of currency is it is not easily destroyed. Coins are hard to destroy. If one is damaged, it can be exchanged at the mint for a new one. Similarly, paper money is quite durable. It does not decay over time if properly cared for by the holder. This is the bulk of what the US Bureau of Engraving and Printing does every year. Currency is durable and the replacement of that which is destroyed is predictable and orderly.

In this age, we have figured out how to increase the amount of currency in circulation to keep pace with natural attrition, but also the increase in labor. That’s a long topic that can be debated forever, but in theory, a slowly expanding money supply reflects growing efficiency and growing value of labor. In a perfect world, there would be no inflation and no deflation, as the amount of money would grow and shrink in sync with labor.

That last bit is what gets lost in discussion about Bitcoin. A crypto-currency has a finite supply. The cost of getting the first “coin” is X. The next coin is X plus some small additional amount. The next coin is X plus a slightly larger amount. This continues on at a predictable rate until the final coin is minted. The cost of minting increases with each coin so the cost of minting coin X is less than the cost of coin X+n.

This means the coins increase in value over time. A single currency unit of labor, for example, will increase in value. Put another way, the amount of lawn work I can buy with a currency unit today will be less than I can buy tomorrow. That makes the currency deflationary by design. In times of great technological progress, it will be wildly deflationary. In this way, it has the same defect as hard money. It’s cyclical.

Now we have another big problem with Bitcoin. It is easily stolen. The QR code *is* the money, not the bit of paper on which it was printed. Try stealing a coin on paper currency through the television and see how that works for you. For better or worse, stealing hard money, so to speak, means physically taking to from the holder. There are no special precautions one need take to keep their money safe when it is physical coin or paper.

With Bitcoin, there’s no truly safe place. Worse yet, you don’t know it is stolen, in this case, unless you try to use it. There’s also the problem of the vault where you keep your money suddenly disappearing. If you keep your coins locally and your hard drive fails, you coins are gone. If you store in the cloud and the cloud company disappears, your money disappears with them. Bitcoin is by definition, a fragile storage of value.

Now, this raises two other issues. One is the currency is not self-validating. I can examine a coin or paper and determine if it is real. I do not require a third party. Bitcoin requires validation of each transaction. That third party is a network of computers, but they are not anonymous. To work, they must keep a record of every transaction of every coin. That means the third party tracks your every move in order to function as a validating authority.

Everything about Bitcoin says it cannot be a widespread currency. At best, it can be a short-term transition point. Person X wants to give Person Y money, without using the above ground financial system. Person X then converts money into Bitcoin, sends it to Person Y, who immediately turns it into real money. if you are a drug dealer or a revolutionary, this is useful. To everyone else, it is a pointless novelty.

Rule By Girls

As I grow older, it is clear that the most supercilious and ridiculous cohort in modern society is single young females. Young women with anything on the ball have snagged a husband and are on their way to becoming mothers. They may lack experience, but they have a grip on biological reality. The single girls are stupid and they have heads full of feminist nonsense, convinced the world wants to hear from them.

That comes to mind when I saw this this morning. Jennifer Lawrence is probably well intended, but she is a clueless dimwit who hit the lottery. As she makes clear, we know about her because her name was picked out of a hat. She and a bunch of other young girls willing to sleep with a director for a job are a dime a dozen in Hollywood. She got lucky and slept with the right guy. That does not make her a genius.

Anyway, you see this sort of nonsense turning up all over the culture. Commercials for TV shows are full of the “strong woman” playing the role of the man. The ideal modern woman is the leading man of the fifties in a Lycra jump suit. The leading men are the sorts popular with middle-aged homosexuals. The feminization of American society is just about complete. The only thing left is to have an openly gay president.

This will not end well.

The Death of National Review

Mark Steyn’s response to Jason Lee Steorts may be the end of his relationship with National Review. While not explicit, he is clearly making the point that Steorts is both a homosexual and a homosexual activist. Rich Lowry will most likely side with his editor and Steyn will be sent packing. Lowry is a mouse of a man, who is allowing himself to be bullied by a belligerent homosexual. If he was a man, he would fire Steorts and be done with it, but that would take self-assurance, which Lowry lacks entirely.

At this point, there are only two reasons to read National Review. One is Mark Steyn and the other is Kevin Williamson. Williamson is phony in many ways, but he will take an unpopular position on occasion. His writing style is a bit ponderous, but it is better than most of what you get these days. It is just a matter of time before National Review looks more like the Nation than anything Buckley imagined. It is another example Conquest’s second law. Then again, conservatism was always just right-wing Progressivism.

The decline of National Review is a bit shocking in its speed. Rich Lowry has proven to be a ridiculous person and a coward. It was always clear that his main skill was in snuggling up to Buckley and O’Sullivan. That type is familiar to anyone who has worked in a organization of more than three people. Usually this type is quite ruthless once they get power. Instead, Lowry is turning out to be quite incompetent. Again, he is a ridiculous mouse of man, who has no business being in charge of anything.

The interesting thing to watch is whether the people controlling the money figure out that NR is in a death spiral before it becomes impossible to reverse. The current conservative movement is dead and it is about to be replaced by something new. We are headed to a demographic age, where your position on race determines your politics, not your position on economics. Will NR figure this out or will it still carry on like it is 1985? History says the latter and that the publication will be gone in a decade, maybe sooner.

The Beta War

Chateau Heartiste is generally credited with popularizing the term “beta male” as a term of art to describe the over-class definition of masculine. The site is a Mecca for “game” theory, which is different than game theory. In that world, dividing the male population into betas and alphas is important, so it makes sense. The guys reading that site may not want to be hairy chested he-men, but they want to get laid and if that means being a little butch in public they will do it. That view of masculinity is under assault by the Left.

The war is taking an odd turn this week. Mark Steyn takes on the hilarious story of the Duck Dynasty guy getting axed for being a public Christian. Steyn’s take is that it is a part of the stifling of non-leftist speech. He’s certainly right that the Left wants to stamp out religion, particularly Christianity. The list of things that are unmentionable in public grows longer every day and most of Christianity is now on the list.

The hysterical reaction of National Review’s homosexual conspiracy theorist, Jason Lee Steorts, shows there is another angle. The Duck Dynasty guys are emblematic of the traditional American male. That’s the guy who shaves because he has to, likes blowing things up and shooting guns. You see guys with big beards and bandannas and you assume they are not to be trifled with, unless you are a tough guy. Guys like Steorts hate these people because their mere existence puts the lie to effete culture.

There must always be a balance in civilized society, between the sorts of guys who settle things with their fists and the type who settle things with words. It’s the tension between John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. You need both, but the West is now desperately short of the John Wayne type and over flowing with the Jimmy Stewart type. A world run by Jason Lee Steorts is a world ripe for conquest or worse, a world ripe for conquest by women. That’s where we are now.

Stupid Smart People

This story in the Washington Post suggest the health care debacle will have an impact on the midterm elections. One thing we learned from the Nate Silver experience is that polling does not tell us much of anything on its face. The polls today have little correlation to what will transpire on election day in November of 2014. Whatever you may think about his methods, he was more right than wrong in 2012, so I it is not a bad idea to take his word for what it all means, which is not much right now.

Then again, when you see stuff like this it is hard to imagine things getting better for the Democrats next year. This should be the honeymoon period as goodies get dispensed and the Democrats take credit for it. Obama should be enjoying good numbers, as the people tend to get sentimental about the siting president at this stage. If people are angry about Obama’s polices and by extension the Democrat agenda, imagine how people will feel when the bill comes in 2014. Things look gloomy for them.

On the other hand, the Stupid Party always finds a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, so it is safe to assume they will not gain much from the health care issue. That’s the thing though. Why are they so predictably stupid about these things? How is it that these people got to this point? They are not retarded or even dimwitted. It takes a degree of cleverness to be a politician, even at the town level. When you get to national politics, you need to be a shrewd operator. Why are Republicans so bad at politics?

Of course, it is not just the Republicans. They are the most egregious, but the fact is, all politicians are quite stupid in their execution. Further, they have clueless people on their staffs and there is an army of people in the policy side who get everything wrong. Look at the Bush people. Most of his advisers were smart Jews from the neocon side of the party and they got everything wrong. In fact, they came close to destroying the Republican party. Again, it’s not just Republicans. It is the entire political class.

Look at Obama. According to Steve Sailer, Obama is above average in IQ at the minimum. He thinks he is in the top-2% or maybe higher. John Derbyshire makes similar arguments. John approaches the political-IQ issue a little different. He points to Obama having a high verbal-linguistic intelligence. That high verbal is a huge advantage in politcs, relative to math aptitude. Derbyshire and Sailer are first rate on the IQ beat so if they think Obama is an elite IQ, they are probably right about it.

So, why did Obama sign off on that stupid health care program?

Even if you want to dismiss the argument that Obama is smart, the army of people around him are certainly not blockheads. Pelosi looks like an opium addict, but she did not get to where she is by being stupid. Chuck Schumer is a smart guy. He got a perfect score on his SAT, when that counted for something. Surely the army of policy experts involved in creating the bill were smart enough to know that the bill they created was going to be a political disaster. There really is no way to blame it on stupidity.

How is it that so many smart people could be so stupid? The explanation offered by partisans is that this unfolding disaster is part of a sinister plan to turn the country over to a single payer. That sounds good when you write it down on the napkin at the bar, but in reality it looks like madness. These people are wired to be politicians and politicians always seek to be on the good side of the voters. Even rabid ideologues avoid crossing the people until they have total power.

If the plan is to smash the system and then rush in with a replacement, this is a ham-fisted way to go about it. If you’re so clever to scheme this sort of way, you should be clever enough to remove your fingerprints. If this does collapse private insurance in America, liberalism will be discredited for a generation, maybe forever. The folks replacing the demolished system will not be radical socialists. Now, radical socialists do suffer from a weird form of myopia, but are they really that myopic?

That still leaves a long list of incredible stupid statements that work against the interests of these bright people. Obama admitting that he just learned that insurance is complicated probably lost him five points of support. Pelosi’s crazy act makes even her most fanatical supporters cringe. Then you have back benchers like Debbie Wasserman-Schultz. How in the heck can we explain her existence? The inescapable conclusion is the political class has a large number of very smart people who say and do outlandishly stupid things.

We may be led by smart people, but they do outlandishly stupid things.

Liberal War on People – The Smoking Front

The Left is slowly working to ban the electronic cigarettes. Their reasoning has nothing to do with science since science clearly says these things are vastly less harmful than smoking. The second hand smoking claims, always dodgy in terms of science, evaporate with these things. What comes out of the smoker is water and no one has ever claimed harm from second hand water vapor. Plus, there’s no smell. That’s one of the major selling points, so, the liberal scolds had to come up with a different excuse:

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said the ban would make it easier to enforce the city’s Smoke-Free Air Act, which banned smoking in bars, restaurants and other indoor public spaces.

“Because many of the e-cigarettes are designed to look like cigarettes and be used just like them, they can lead to confusion or confrontation,” Quinn said.

So these anti-smoking zealots just hate smoking so much, they don’t even want to see images of it in public.  Therefore, in order to make it easier for the scolds to harass people enjoying themselves, they will now pretend virtual smoking is real smoking. This really does make the point that it was never about public health. It was always about imposing their values on others. It’s not even about the values, so much as the act of forcing people to comply with their rules. It’s about the scold getting scold the wicked.

Smoking is unhealthful and it is proper to encourage people to avoid the habit. At this point, everyone knows this. The costs of deleterious habits should always be on the person engaging in them, where possible. Smokers should be charged a hefty premium on their insurance and taxes levied on tobacco. Banning smoking in closed spaces is fine, even though the science is dodgy. Bars and restaurants that permit smoking should post a sign over the door making it known. Let the market sort that out.

Vaping, from observation and a little research, is a far less harmful activity than smoking and not a burden on others. It may pose no harm at all. If the nicotine is removed, you’re left with an asthma inhaler. The stuff in these things is propylene glycol, the same stuff they use in some inhalers. It is used in all sorts of food and medicines, approved by the FDA for decades. Sucking in anything but air is probably posing some risk and there may be some unknown risks with these things, but they are less harmful than smoking.

Sensible public health policy should always encourage the sorts of trade-offs that improve public health. In this case, giving people an incentive to switch from tobacco to vaping would be the wise policy. yeah, it looks weird seeing people wrapped in a cloud of vapor, but it beats seeing them outside the door smoking. Instead, the busy bodies are running around looking for a reason to torment those hooked on nicotine. It’s a good reminder that the people who rule over us are petty miserable tyrants.