One thing we need to dispense with is this curious notion that progressives are all about personal autonomy and choice. They aren’t. They’re that way about abortion. But they believe strongly that every other choice in life needs to be made for you by a benevolent government.
- Progressives don’t think you should have a choice about healthcare, retirement or education. Your kids should go to the nearest school, you should get Obamacare (or better, single payer) and government-controlled Social Security is enough for the likes of you.
- Progressives have backed off efforts to lower the drinking age. A number support bigger taxes on alcohol because they think it will cut consumption.
- Progressives are mixed on the War on Drugs and many support keeping sex work illegal.
- Numerous progressives favor a “soda tax” to cut consumption, praised Bloomberg for outlawing Big Gulps and want to use the food stamp program to control people’s appetites.
The latest is the long running War on Smoking. Not content with massive taxes, bans in public places, bans in private places and rules on smuggling that end up with street vendors selling “loosies” getting killed by cops, they now want to raise the age to buy cigarettes to 21 (because raising the drinking age worked so well). California is the second state to do this.
Now put aside the hilariously optimistic projections of how many lives this will save. Such projections have always turned out to be way too optimistic (see, e.g., lowering the speed limit to 55). Note the tone of the Vox piece: personal choice is irrelevant. What matters is the effect. If it means even one fewer person smoking, then eating away at the freedom of people old enough to fight in Iraq is worth it. There is no consideration, none whatsoever, to the idea of personal freedom … the seemingly quaint notion that if someone want to wreck their health, that’s their prerogative.
This is what progressivism has always been, since it slithered into existence a century ago: personal freedom doesn’t matter, all humans are assets and the laws should be written to maximize the utility of those assets to the state. Freedom and choice don’t matter; policy does. It’s why early progressivism favored things like alcohol prohibition, sex work prohibition and eugenics (seriously). They wanted to, as Mal Reynolds would say, make people better. And they still do.
I used to smoke but I don’t anymore. I regret ever having taken up the habit and I hope my children never do. But that should be their choice. An 18-year-old is an adult. They are more than capable of deciding whether or not to do something as stupid as smoking.