We the people, against the people…

Today’s news article in the NYT about law enforcement and others in power cracking down on smoking behavior included a very telling phrase: “singling out those previously considered victims of cigarette companies”. In other words, those who want to enforce what they have declared to be social norms have discovered that they cannot do so while keeping up the pretense that they are on the side of the product users who recognized rather different social norms.

I was reminded of a great observation in a book I recently finished (by that great political philosopher, Terry Pratchett).

Paraphrasing, the observation was that the problem faced by self-declared revolutionaries of the people is not that we have the wrong government — that goes without saying — but that we have the wrong people. In other words, the self-styled revolutionary has talked himself into believing that he is devoting his life to save the people from their oppressors. But he usually discovers, much to his frustration, the people do not really mind how things are — at least not enough to join him on the barricades.

So eventually, after breaking the power of the old guard, the Peoples’ Revolutionaries (c.f. Stalin, Mao, Castro, et al.) they have to start devoting their energies to controlling the behavior of the people who they were supposedly try to help because those damn people just do not understand what is good for them.

-CV Phillips

Just to add a little on this same NYT article, I was struck by the following:

But Dr. Glantz’s fiery demeanor changed when he was told about the cheerleaders’ punishment. Suddenly, he appeared skeptical. It reminded him, he said, of efforts to prevent minors from smoking by making it difficult for them to buy cigarettes.

“We’ve shown it didn’t work,” he said.

Well, if they don’t work, we might as well then remove the age restrictions. And considering his previous statement “The movies are the largest single reason kids start to smoke”, and his campaign to remove all smoking references from films or make them R rated, it would seem, since that is also an age restriction, that we have yet another inconsistency to add to the good doctor’s history.


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  • andrew  On February 19, 2010 at 7:57 pm

    ok people don’t know what is good for them but it is the role of leaders to show them not necessarily fools like mao or staline

  • Paul  On February 19, 2010 at 8:35 pm


    You may not know what is good for you but for me and many people I know, we have a better idea of how we should live our lives than any “leader”. Leaders are good excuses for people who don’t think they can handle determining their own paths.

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