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Smoking is healthier than fascism

Barry Obama played an if-you-got-the weed-I-got-the-papers teenager in Hawaii’s real-life Dazed and Confused Choom Gang. Now that the high-school stoner has graduated to the White House, he rolls his eyes at those who roll their own—at least when it comes to cigarettes.

The president signed a bill on Friday that redefined stores that offer roll-your-own tobacco devices as tobacco manufacturers. The legislation effectively raises taxes on small-business owners from about $1 per pound of tobacco to $25 per pound.

The amendment appropriately found its way into a bill concerning transportation, which is precisely what smokers will now need to find the best deal. Like fuel-efficiency standards on auto manufacturers, the tobacco taxes reveal the government unmaking an industry that made America.

Friday’s anemic jobs numbers—adding just 80,000 new jobs in a nation of 311 million people for June—are the result of such mush-heading thinking in Washington. We lose our jobs when politicians lose their minds.

Obama began his presidency with a massive tax hike. The feds’ take from a carton of cigarettes jumped from $3.90 to $10.07. But the smoking snobs exempted pipe tobacco. They sought to punish The X Files’ Smoking Man but not Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes.

Cultural tics often masquerade as public health crusades. Wine is good; Four Loko, bad. Football causes brain injuries. Bicycling saves the environment. Marijuana is medicinal; cigarettes, carcinogens.

Government favoritism toward cultured pipe puffers over redneck cigarette smokers resulted in cigarette smokers rolling their own with cheaper (read: more lightly taxed) pipe tobacco. Thousands of merchants invested tens-of-thousands in roll-your-own machines that enabled smokers to put cheaper pipe tobacco into their cigarette papers. Consumers avoided paying both Phillip Morris and Uncle Sam. So Big Business and Big Government ganged up on the little guy—smokers, store owners, and small companies that manufacture the roll-your-own machines.

Taxes are bad for business. They are worse for freedom.

The animating force behind modern liberalism is the desire to micromanage the lives of others. The state decides where you go to school, what doctor you visit, and the pension fund you will contribute to. Liberal is another name for control freak.

Drinking Big Gulps, eating Happy Meals, and smoking Marlboro Reds isn’t good for you. But neither is fascism. The greatest threat to an individual’s health is an overbearing government.

The antidote to this public health crisis is choice. Freedom presumes the right to be “wrong,” to make choices another wouldn’t, to decide. Life is so much more interesting with millions of people making billions of choices rather than a few people making all of the choices.

Diversity is poison to conformist control freaks. A government prevented from directing the affairs of its citizens by remote isn’t likely to be emboldened to direct malefactors to the gas chamber or the gulag. Smoking is healthier than fascism.

The smoker-in-chief who crusades against the evils of tobacco is a symbol of the times. Governments forbid fireworks but this week past staged enormous explosive displays in the skies. They ban bookies but run lotteries. They inveigh against the evils of cigarettes while reaping billions in profits from them. Do as they say not as they do.

The Puritans outlawed smoking in public two years after establishing the Massachusetts Bay colony. Two years later, they banned smoking in private homes. Then, amidst bans on garish clothing, toasting healths, and working for outside the legally-controlled wage, they prohibited the sale and purchase of tobacco.

Barack Obama, Michael Bloomberg, and Max Baucus, who slipped the tobacco tax into this week’s transportation bill, don’t think of themselves as Puritans. They call themselves progressives. But there is a startling overlap between theocrats establishing government by god and secular politicians who play god by imagining an omniscient state. They know best.

The control freaks think we must be saved from ourselves. Who will save us from the people who would save us?

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