The standoff between the precautionists and the pragmatists essentially boils down to their orientation toward risk — should we aim for none, or much less than there is now — and the moral connotations they attach to it. The contest will not be resolved readily because any vacuum of information leads those with a precautionary temperament to imagine worst-case outcomes, mass-produce reams of nervous commentary, and sanctimoniously call for tight restriction on the freedom to engage in novel practices.
The CDC falls squarely in the precautionist camp. It gives disproportionate weight to skeptics’ unsubstantiated claims about e-cigarettes as it minimizes their estimable benefit and foments panic. This is bad for smokers who have tried to quit and can’t, bad for the integrity of public health as a field, and bad for the credibility of the CDC, whose tarring of electronic cigarettes is a shameful violation of public trust.The reason I specifically highlight those couple of paragraphs is because they encapsulate a nauseous aspect of modern life; namely the accelerating restriction - and often eradication - of our liberties in the name of absolute safety.
Another example from today - again on the subject of e-cigs - came courtesy of Robin Ireland commenting on Radio Leicester about the emergence of vaping bars (from 14:50 here). He is "uncomfortable" with bars that allow vaping because ...
"If it is suddenly seen as normal to be using a device inside, surely that's going to encourage copycat behaviour, it's going to encourage people to say 'oh yeah, that looks pretty cool, let's go and try that' and electronic cigarettes have some risk attached to them"Now, while I'm grateful to him for further illustrating that smoking (and vaping) bans have absolutely nothing to do with protecting bar workers - the only reason MPs voted for the Health Act 2006 which facilitated all this subsequent mass hysteria about smoking and e-cigs - he is effectively saying forget property rights, forget supply and demand, forget the concept of personal responsibility, individual choice and tolerance, everyone's liberties must be curtailed in case someone, somewhere, is exposed to an almost immeasurable amount of risk.
E-cigs have leaped onto the scene so quickly that they have placed a magnifying glass over people who believe in regressive and anti-social policies like Ireland obviously does. But it's not restricted to vaping, the attitude is everywhere and is severely damaging society's quiet enjoyment of everyday life.
As a recent example, the last sporting event I attended (with the boy) was ruined for most of those around me by a horde of stewards armed with petty rules and a hi-viz jacket which entitled them to enliven their sad lives at the weekend by bossing people around. The event was populated by mostly families, dressing up was encouraged and the crowd was cringingly middle class and obedient. Not that this calmed the massed ranks of dayglo-bedecked grumps one iota, mind, they were still eager to throw their weight around. A lesbian mum in front of us (from Brighton, natch) was told (rudely) she couldn't rock her baby to sleep where she was because she was standing briefly on the metre wide steps, oh and while she was at it, her bag was not stowed safely under her seat - he had travelled up 24 steps to do this. Out in the concourse, a squad was summoned by radio when four 11/12 year old boys were throwing a foam ball (sold at extortionate prices in the stadium shops) back and forth from ground level to a first floor staircase. Kids were monitored like vermin while seeking autographs and the whole crowd watched like naughty schoolchildren throughout the match. E-cigs, of course, were banned too and a vaper was moved 6 inches backwards because he was standing under a sign saying "smoking not allowed past this point". Despite the atmosphere being no more threatening than you'd find at a 10 year old's birthday party, you could have been forgiven for thinking the stewards were expecting another Heysel or a napalm attack.
This isn't an isolated incident, it is a daily and endemic facet of 21st century life. And it is vile.
Driven by an army of state-paid regulators, irrational detached politicians, health and safety professionals, public health alarmists, security 'experts' and their useful idiots, the "safety is everything, freedom inconsequential" mantra is applied everywhere to the detriment of society as a whole.
The new UK government is pushing ahead with the vile snoopers charter, civil liberties are regarded as inconvenient to lawmaking, and in the US, a would-be Presidential candidate has even gone so far as to have this 'doctrine' posted front and centre on his campaign page.
We often talk about how many brave lives were lost to protect our liberties; it's incredibly sad that it is costing none of those who are determined to take them away from us one by one in the vain pursuit of unattainable absolute safety. In fact, they are being rewarded for it, often with the taxes we have paid for the dubious privilege.
It's almost like Benjamin Franklin's words have been eradicated from historical record, for shame.