I could never emulate the economist Irving Fisher — and not just his use of index numbers. He was a perfervid purist. He didn’t just defend “the success” of Prohibition, he looked forward to the day when coffee, tea and bleached flour would be outlawed, too.
Hey, I love my coffee. You’ll have to pry my cup from my cold, dead fingers.
Of course, many forms of purism are obviously hygienic. But take purity beyond persuasion, into force, that’s not safe for anybody. And fraud? Weasel-wordy purists aren’t against lying for the cause, either.
Take the hookah.
Hookahs are to tobacco-smoking what bongs are to marijuana-smoking: A water-filtration-based, easy-to-share drug delivery system. In “Putting a Crimp on the Hookah,” the New York Times quotes one hookah smoker as saying he’s unconcerned about the health effects, since he only smokes it about once a month. The author then states “But in fact, hookahs are far from safe.” As Jacob Sullum of Reason magazine points out, both can be true. Tobacco smoking isn’t exactly healthy. But occasional imbibing of water-filtered smoke is almost certainly better for you than regular cigarette use.
The New York Times focuses on the next leg of the “ever-shifting war on tobacco,” the prohibition of “hookah bars.” Though there’s some talk of protecting second-hand smoke victims, it’s pretty obvious that this war is really about squelching a “vice” by force.
Which is itself worse than vice.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.