One of many marvelous products to come into its own in the last year is the e-cigarette. It looks like a cig. It pumps nicotine into your body like a cig. But you don’t light it and it doesn’t fill your lungs with cancerous crud. It is a water vapor, nearly entirely odorless; and, so far as anyone can tell, it is entirely harmless.
It is exactly what the doctor ordered and millions have responded. It is helping people give up the cancer sticks and coffin nails and replacing them with vapors. We are talking about a gigantic improvement over sticks of gum and patches, neither of which address the urge to suck and puff smokey stuff.
For good reason, there is a now a vibrant culture of vaping out there, and it is getting bigger by the day.
This is serious innovation, and it follows a course we’ve come to expect. Ten years ago, no one would have imagined that such a thing as an e-cig would exist outside science fiction. Nevertheless, some scientists worked with some great entrepreneurs to make the future better than the past, and in a matter of months, these marvels appeared on the shelves, expensive at first but now falling in price.
You might think that the anti-smoking fanatics — these people that have regulated and taxed the industry to the point of destruction all over the world — would celebrate. After all, e-cigs are the best-ever replacement for tobacco. Surely this is a cause for celebration!
Nope. Apparently, for our current political culture, the need to spread as much misery as possible is a more important goal for government than getting people to quit tobacco.
Attorney generals from 40 states are begging the FDA to intervene and stop the e-cig industry. Some states have already passed legislation to regulate them like regular cigarettes.
There is something about this technology that has the control freaks in a state of frenzy. Health nazis are in a panic, trying to figure out how to shut down the industry, tax it exorbitantly, or otherwise drive it out of public life forever.
The implications of this trend are very interesting. No one has demonstrated that e-cigs are harmful in any way. Why is government so down on them? What could possibly be the point of a crackdown here? If government claims to favor our health and well-being and does things that improves our lives, why not just let this industry flourish? The tech behind it is so great and wonderful that you might think it had been invented by the do-gooders themselves, if they were actually capable of inventing anything or marketing anything at all.
Why the lust for a crackdown?
The reason comes down to the most salient point about government that no civics text wants to talk about. In theory, the political system exists to enhance our well-being. Its purpose is to make us safe, make us wealthy, protect us from our own folly and sin, to make commerce and community possible, to punish bad guys, and administer justice when possible.
That’s the theory, but then there’s the reality: nothing the state does that is worth doing cannot be done better by people themselves. That’s especially obvious in our time when the forces of innovation and progress are entirely on the side of markets, while governments are left behind to wallow in their own bureaucratic and politicized mire. Given this, what are states to do?
The goal is always and everywhere control. They override our free choices and replace them with their own will. That necessarily means reducing the quality of our lives. And this they have done in nearly every area — they wreck consumer products daily, shut down websites we love, override innovation, harass entrepreneurs, tax the successful, and otherwise try to hold humanity back as much as possible.
H.L. Mencken might just sum this impulse up in the word Puritanism, which he defined as the haunting fear that someone, somewhere might be happy. That’s part of it, but there is more going on here, it’s even worse. Governments have targeted not just happiness, but choice itself. Whatever is not illegal is mandatory.
We should celebrate the e-cig industry for daring to go outside the plan, to innovate despite every attempt to stop innovation, to make our lives better off even as the political culture seems dedicated to making our lives worse off.
Open those vaporiums and vape dens, and do it right away before the government makes them illegal. In the near future, we might find that places where people can go to safely suck flavored water infused with nicotine are going to be called vape-easies where the middle class can break bad by doing nothing harmful.
E-cigs are only one of thousands of technologies that the market is making to improve our lives — to make us wealthier and freer. Why not configuring our lives and our societies to cause them to rest more fundamentally on the voluntary interactions of people rather than on the force relationships wrought by government control?
This is the thinking behind the new venture Liberty.me. Liberty.me is the place to keep up on and participate in all these developments, with it is e-cigs or Bitcoin or the private generation of electrical power.
E-cigs might seem like a small thing. They represent something bigger.
In the end, human progress is made possible only through disobedience, by the flouting of authority, by the tendency on the part of the minority of revolutionaries to smash the status quo and replace it with something better, regardless of what political elites might think.