Tobacco Smokers: America’s Most Persecuted Minority

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[Editor’s Note: following reports that the Biden administration is preparing to ban menthol cigarettes and flavored cigarettes, the following is a short article by Murray Rothbard composed in August 1994.]

Quick: Which is America’s A lot of Persecuted Minority? No, you’re wrong. (And it’s not Big Business either: among Ayn Rand’s more ludicrous pronouncements.)

All right, consider this: Which group has been progressively illegalized, shamed and denigrated initially by the Establishment, and then, following its lead, by society at large? Which group, far from coming out of the “closet,” has been actually forced back into the closet after centuries of strolling happily in the general public square? And which group has tragically internalized the value-system of its oppressors, so that they are deeply ashamed and guilty about practicing their rites and custom-mades? Which group is so brow-beaten that it never thinks of defending itself, any attempt at which is openly condemned and ridiculed? Which group is considered such sinners that making use of doctored statistics against them is thought about legitimate methods in a worthy cause?

I refer, obviously, to that once happy race, tobacco-smokers, a group as soon as revered and coveted, but now there are none so bad regarding do them reverence.

So low has this group sunk in the general public esteem that, in hurrying to their defense, I am obliged to explain that I myself am not and never have actually been a cigarette smoker. Can you think of needing to put in such a disclaimer against special pleading in behalf of the rights of blacks, Jews, or gays versus oppression?

The crusade against cigarette smoking is only the currently the majority of virulent example of among the most deadly forces in American life: left neo-Puritanism. Puritanism was notoriously defined by my favorite writer, H.L. Mencken, as “the haunting worry that somebody, somewhere, might more than happy.” The major issue with the Puritans is not a lot that they were a dour lot, but that they were believers in the harmful Christian heresy of “post-millennialism” that is, that it is male’s duty to develop a thousand-year (offer or take a few centuries) Kingdom of God in the world as a prerequisite of the 2nd Development of Jesus Christ. Considering that the Kingdom is by definition an ideal society devoid of sin, this indicates that it is the doctrinal task of believers to establish a sin-free society. But developing a sin-free society, of course, indicates taking stern steps to eliminate sinners, which is where the rub can be found in.

Now I recognize that in being obliged to depict the crusaders as neo-Puritans, I remain in a deep sense underestimating to the initial Puritans. The original seventeenth-century New England Puritans were not a lot crusaders as individuals who wished to establish their own sin-free Kingdom in their own new settlements, their own “city on a hill.” The initial Puritans, too, were Calvinists, who believed in Christianity and a Christian commonwealth as a strict code of Scriptural and God-determined law. But throughout the years, the initial Puritanism was replaced, specifically by a wave of pietist revivalism in the late 1820s, by a far more crusading and hence enormous version of Protestant Christianity: what is technically known as “post-millennial evangelical pietism” (PMEP). This PMEP took specific root amongst the ethno-cultural descendants of the old Puritans, individuals who became referred to as “Yankees,” and who had moved from New England to occupy such areas as upstate New York, northern and eastern Ohio, northern Indiana, and northern Illinois. (No, “Yankees,” as in “damn Yankees,” did not imply simply “Northerners.”)

This brand-new, and malignant, kind of PMEP, of neo-Puritanism, which literally controlled all the mainstream Protestant churches in the North for actually one hundred years, had the following traits: (1) Creed, or liturgy, is formalistic and unimportant. So long as you are a Protestant, it doesn’t matter what church you come from. Churches do not matter; the only thing that matters is the person’s redemption. (2) To accomplish redemption, the private should think and need to be free from sin. (3) “Sin,” nevertheless, is extremely broadly specified as essentially any practice that is pleasurable, in particular, anything which may “cloud your mind” so that you may not attain redemption: in particular, liquor (Satanic force Rum); any activity on the Sabbath other than praying, checking out the Bible, and going to church (and not the Roman Catholic Church, the instrument of the Antichrist in the Vatican); (4) Considering that each individual is weak and based on temptation, his redemption needs to be aided by the federal government, whose doctrinal duty it is to stamp out such events for sin as liquor, activity of any secular sort on the Sabbath, and the Catholic Church. As one historian aptly summed up the PMEP attitude towards the State: “Federal government is God’s significant instrument of redemption.” After all, how are alcohol or Catholics to be marked out by persuasion alone? (5) (the crucial icing on the cake): You will not be saved unless you try your darndest to optimize everybody else’s redemption (i.e., get the government to mark out sin).

Equipped with this five-point world-outlook, the neo-Puritan PMEP hurled himself (and herself, and how!) into a devilishly energetic, hopped-up, relentless crusade to stamp out these evils, and to set up paternalistic Huge Federal government on the regional, state, and nationwide levels to squash sin and to introduce a best sin-less Kingdom. In politics, this meant a full century of crusading versus liquor, and to keep the Sabbath Holy. (Do you know that in libertarian, anti-neo-Puritan Jacksonian America, the Post Office utilized to provide the mail on Sundays?) But considering that it would be plainly unconstitutional to forbid the Catholic Church, the PMEP alternative was to attempt to require all kids into a network of public schools, the things of which was to inculcate obedience to the State and, in the popular motto of the day, to “Christianize the Catholic” kids, since Catholic adults were plainly doomed.

It took archetypical neo-Puritan Woodrow Wilson not just to bring Prohibition to America, and therefore satisfy the PMEP’s most cherished dreams, but likewise to take PMEP crusading on to a world scale. For after the Kingdom was established in America, the next holy step was to bring about a worldwide Kingdom. (The Prohibitionist crusaders, nevertheless, soon discovered their dreams of a liquor-free Europe rushed beyond repair.)

The ethno-religious group that felt the most severe injustice from the fanatical harridans of the PMEP (for yes, the most fanatic crusaders were Yankee ladies, particularly spinsters) were the German-American Catholics and High-Church Lutherans. Both of these groups imported into America the charming and admirable custom-made of going to church on Sundays with their household in their finest finery, and after that repairing to a beer garden in the afternoon, where they could consume beer and listen to their precious oom-pah-pah bands. You can picture the reaction when crowds of PMEP harridans descended upon them sobbing “Sin! Evil! Smash!” for devoting what to the Germans was harmless, but what to the PMEPs was the severe double sin of drinking beer, and on Sundays! And, furthermore, both the Catholics and the German Lutherans wanted to raise their kids in their own parochial schools, and not in the secularist (or rather, PMEP) public school system!

The high-water mark of PMEP crusading was, obviously, the forbiding of all alcohol (and by constitutional modification, no less!). The result used to be typical understanding in America; absolute catastrophe: tyranny, corruption, black markets and more alcoholism as people went underground to get more intense “fixes” such as hard liquor instead of beer before the police officers could close in. And, obviously, arranged crime, which was almost non-existent prior to Restriction. Today, only groups happy to be criminals were offered to provide a much desired and demanded product.

This grim lesson utilized to be understood to all Americans, however it has actually been lost in the interest for current neo-Puritan crusades; versus drugs, and now versus cigarette smoking. What is little recognized is that the present reason for the crusade was also present throughout the old PMEP war versus alcohol. As the decades endured, the neo-Puritans utilized both doctrinal and medicinal arguments; liquor will not only send you to Hell, however would likewise destroy your temporal body, your liver, your body-as-a-temple. Liquor would cause you to beat your wives, have more accidents, and, a little later on, hurt yourself and others on the roadway. Progressively, throughout the years, the PMEPs married theology and Science in their crusade.

So what took place to the aggressively Christian features of neo-Puritanism, to the emphasis on redemption and on the Kingdom? Surprisingly, over the years, the Christian element slowly vanished. After all, if as a Christian activist, your major focus is not on creed or liturgy but on utilizing the government to shape everyone up and stamp out sin, ultimately Christ fades out of the image and government remains. The photo of the Kingdom of God in the world becomes secularized or atheized, and, in the Marxist variation, the secular sin-free Kingdom is produced by the horrible swift sword of the “saints” of the Communist Celebration. We have reached the grisly land of Left Puritanism, of a Left Kingdom which proposes to cause an ideal world without tobacco, inequality, greed, and hate-thoughts. We have arrived, in short, in the land of The Opponent.

Therefore, cigarette smokers! Are you mice or are you males? Smokers, rise, be proud, shake off the guilt troubled you by your oppressors! Stand high, and smoke! Protect your rights! Do you actually think that someone can get immediate lung cancer by imbibing a little bit of smoke from someone sitting twenty feet away in an outside arena? How do you describe the truth that countless individuals have smoked all their lives without ill result?

And keep in mind, if today they come for the smoker, tomorrow they will come for you. If today they grab your cigarette, tomorrow they will take your unhealthy food, your carbs, your delicious but “empty” calories. And don’t believe that your alcohol is safe either; neo-Prohibitionism has been long on the march, what with “sin taxes” (exposing term, isn’t it?), banning of advertising, higher drinking ages, and the neo-Puritan harpies of MADD. Are you all set for the Left Nutritional Kingdom, with everybody forced to confine his food to yogurt and tofu and bean sprouts? Are you prepared to be restricted in a cage, to make certain that your diet is best, and that you get the prescribed Compulsory Exercise? All to be governed by a Hillary Clinton National Health Board?

Cigarette smokers, if you have the guts to form a Cigarette smokers Defense League, I will enjoy to join a Non-Smokers Auxiliary! How about smokers as one important mass base for a conservative populist counterrevolution?

Post released in Irrepressible Rothbard.

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