The Official Blog Of Edward Cline

The Welfare State of Mind

I was recently advised by my office manager, who was responding to the building manager’s office receipt of complaints, that I could not smoke outside near a side entrance to our office building, as I had been for years, because it offended non-smokers who were coming and going and who claimed to be super-sensitive to smoke, and also that somehow the smoke was also getting inside the building where the slightest trace of smoke also bothered them. I was advised to use the designated smoking area on the other side of the building. The catch was that this area, too, is subject to the same conditions.

I cite this incident because it underscores a phenomenon I have watched grow over five decades, from the first time I began to observe and evaluate men’s behavior to my current and far more incisive cogitations, which is how quickly and easily men submit to government authority and the consensus of the collective, and how inured they can become to being taken care of and protected. The anti-smoking campaign that has been waged for decades is merely one facet of the phenomenon. I suspect that much of the anti-smoking stances adopted by non-smokers is feigned and likely psychosomatic. Having been patronized and protected and legislated for by way of lobbies and pressure group warfare, they are amenable to more of the same.

My gut response to the advice could have been any one of the following: They don’t own the air. Shall I wear a Star of David, too, so that non-smokers can better identify and avoid me? What are they going to do about it? Beat me up? Call the Green Police? Behave like picture- and video- and insult-maddened Muslims? Pressure my employer to fire me if I don’t cave in? Ask the police to ticket me?

But the welfare state is not just laws or legislative acts that encourage individuals to become dependent on the State. The welfare state is first and foremost a “state of mind.”

A welfare state would not work if it did not inculcate, either by education, by mandated indoctrination, by incessant propaganda, or by cultural osmosis, the proper “state of mind” in a population, that is, to instill in men an individual’s alleged duty or obligation to submit to a consensus propagated by a variety of authorities, especially government authorities. A welfare state would evaporate almost immediately without first having pulled a fraud on the electorate. However, a welfare state could not establish itself without the overt or tacit approval of a large component of a country’s population. This consensus requires as well the consensual sanction or silence of the targets of a welfare state and its vanquished, ill-informed, or willing population and electorate. And if the opponents do not consent, they are simply ignored.

The process of securing such a sanction is stealthy and incremental, with the aim, conscious or otherwise, of eradicating that which the government has deemed as wrong and not in the public interest, together with the steady promotion of what a government has deemed to be in the public interest. It is interesting to note that a government that legislates against, say, smoking, or eating certain foods, or speaking truthfully about certain subjects (such asIslam), knows, as well as do the advocates of such restrictions and prohibitions, that it can legislate “for free,” that is, at the victim’s or taxpayer’s expense, but to combat those restrictions and prohibitions, it will cost the victim or taxpayer his time, money and effort, with no guarantee of success.

Welfare state laws have a tendency to become inert and immovable. So have welfare states of mind, which become proof against facts, statistics, logic, and reason. Welfare state law becomes a boulder which only dynamite, or revolution, can remove.

There was a time, a freer time, when today’s non-smokers would have not noticed the smoke around them, nor complained about it, nor feigned “sensitivity,” nor frowned with maniacal disapproval of smokers, nor made faces or uttered insults and deprecations or cautions not to smoke. These are the same mentalities who now check the mandated calorie counts on restaurant menus, or automatically read nutritional information on packaged food, or otherwise conform to the safeguards and wisdom of the moment, most of which is sheer, unadulterated hokum advanced by government scientists and their partners in the civilian world, the tax-exempt reformers for the public good.

If its propaganda campaign is successful – or if it thinks it is and puts out the word that it has been, even if it wasn’t and most people have ignored its imprecations – a government can pass a law without having to present much of an argument for its alleged necessity, or no argument at all. As with the assertions of Al Gore and his global warming friends, “The science is settled,” and there’s nothing else to discuss. Look at how ObamaCare was passed. Those countering the law must argue it in court or in books or columns, and, most daunting of all, against the “conditioned” prejudices of their next door neighbors, office mates, and random strangers who accost them with angry and often unsolicited disapproval of their behavior or opinions.

Which brings us to this point: That most Americans have developed a welfare state of mind. Whether or not it is European in color is irrelevant. They have been “conditioned,” or have allowed themselves to be “conditioned,” to become tolerant of totalitarianism, to become tolerant of the intolerable.

Daniel Greenfield had this to observe in his October 26th column, “Muslim Violence is Our New Law“:

Laws are decided by many things, but sweep away all the law books, the pleas from tearful mothers, the timed publicity campaigns, the novel legal theories and the greedy bureaucrats expanding their turf, and under the table you will find a gun. The first and final law is still the law of force. The law begins with the power to impose its will on others. It ends with the enforcement of that power.

Law either has force behind it or it does not, and if it has no force behind it then it is an optional thing that is subject to custom. And every now and then the law is challenged, not with novel legal theories or with petitions, but with force, and it either responds with force or submits to a new law. That is what we call revolution.

But law is not merely “force” or a gun under the table. It is also a “state of mind” that can work to an individual’s benefit, or to his enslavement. It is unwritten law that employs the threat of social ostracism and unspoken prejudice. The welfare state is merely soft totalitarianism, which ultimately leads to the hard kind. It is the freshet of scalding water and rocks that precedes the onrush of lava and pyroclastic gases that can extinguish smokers and non-smokers alike. For a concrete lesson in the progress of totalitarianism, read the fate of the West Indian city of St. Pierre during the eruption of Mt. Pelée in 1902.

As the politicians and “experts” of St. Pierre wished to assure the citizens that the ominous rumblings and intrusions of Mt. Pelée were nothing to worry about, let’s get on with this election, politicians and “experts” have been assuring Americans for decades that there’s nothing to worry about, as well, so let’s get on with the business of life, except that you can’t do this, that, and the other anymore. St. Pierre was obliterated, and 28,000 people perished who adopted a particular “state of mind” that their routines and prejudices and customs and the urgency of an election were far more important.

Proper law in a civil society sanctions the use of retaliatory force in answer to the initiation of force, against individuals and against a nation. On this premise, 90% of the laws passed in this country since about the time of the Civil War are illegitimate (read unconstitutional), because they sanction the initiation of force against individuals or groups of individuals targeted for regulation or just plain looting in the name of a populist “public good.” This trend has resulted in the establishment of an implicit looting-by-principle welfare state. It takes time for the regulators and do-gooders and social reformers to accustom people to it, to get them to accept their wishes and laws as the norm and as how they believe men ought to behave in private and to each other.

America has been governed by Progressive politics for nigh on a century. Progressivism is merely a euphemism for socialism. Socialism is not Communism, it is not the wholesale nationalization of everyone and everything. It is the conscription of individuals to serve a “higher” purpose than their own existence while leaving them a modicum of property and freedom to act and produce, so long as their property and actions and production serve the government’s purposes. National Socialism is Nazism, or fascism. Men wearing jackboots and armbands and kepis carrying banners with odd-looking symbols are optional.

The Progressives of the 1930’s, for example, detested the German American Bund, not because they disagreed with the Bund’s national socialist ambitions, but because the Bund was too blatant a tip-off to their own ambitions. When your ambition is to draft a whole population into a campaign for eventual total power, you don’t go around crudely parading your intentions. You don business suits and flaunt your degrees in sociology and political science and economics and apply for a seat with the Brain Trust and wail constantly that “something must be done” about whatever it is that someone else is wailing about.

By way of coincidence, and to tie this essay back to the smoking incident, on October 24th an interesting academic paper was published by Basil Aboul-Enein of San Jacinto College in Pasadena, Texas, “The Anti-TobaccoMovement of Nazi Germany: A Historiographical Re-Examination.” In it, Aboul-Enein recounts the anti-smoking and anti-tobacco research conducted under the aegis of Nazi science and research. After detailing the various programs instigated by a régime determined to fashion a healthy, smoke- and alcohol-free “master race” that would rule the world, astonishingly the author approves of those programs. He naturally notes with disapproval the “research” conducted on Jews and other “inferior” races, but gives the anti-tobacco programs and propaganda a free pass.

Today, the case of smoking has been partially solved by the discovery of the deleterious effects of passive smoking. The fact that second-hand smoke can kill non-smokers has provided a prevailing argument to interfere with smokers’ behavior. However, considering the American Public Health Association ‘code of ethics’ regarding the rights of the individuals to achieve community health, health education programs and priorities should be thoroughly evaluated using courses of action and strategies that ensure opportunities for input from the community.

No, let us not observe the deleterious effects of “passive” smoking, or even of smoking itself. There are no credible studies or statistics about especially “passive” smoking killing anyone, and those studies and statistics are government generated or government-grant subsidized. Give a “scientist” an a priori conclusion to reach, and he’ll “prove” anything to keep the money rolling in.

Aboul-Enein wanted his academic colleagues to be certain he wasn’t condemning Nazi science:

The Nazis were primarily interested in preventive medicine and public health to the end effect of serving the National Socialist ideals of advancing a healthy and vigorous German public. The promotion of these lifestyles only fitted the grand scale of racial hygiene movement. Since Nazi wishes were to encourage its citizens to live a healthy life, it seemed only logical that such a State sought to discourage or ban what was seen as harmful to its cultural health. Nevertheless, tobacco remained a legal product even under state funded anti-tobacco propaganda and legislation. The level of ambivalence observed in Nazi anti-smoking policies indicate the necessity for a clear and consistent body of federal and state laws that present a clear message regarding smoking and tobacco use.

German Nazis never had a monopoly on “grand-scale” hygiene movements. The decades-old anti-smoking movement in America has branched out into all sorts of realms, to food and soft drinks and exercise and even sex. That was only to be expected. If you allow your mother-in-law to decide on the kinds of curtains you’ll hang, she’ll wind up refurnishing your whole home.

Anti-smoking zealots in and out of government smirk at accusations that they’re behaving like Nazis or fascists. Robert Proctor, writing for TheAnti-Defamation League, however, puts an interesting context on Aboul-Enein’s findings, without having read Aboul-Enein’s paper. There was something inherently evil about all aspects of Nazi science, including tobacco research:

The problem with the “science vs. fascism” thesis is that it fails to take into account the eagerness with which many scientists and physicians embraced the Reich, and the many scientific disciplines which actually flourished under the Nazis. Anyone who has ever examined a V-2 engine will have few doubts about this, and there are numerous other examples. During the Nazi era, German scientists and engineers either developed or greatly improved television, jet-propelled aircraft (including the ejection seat), guided missiles, electronic computers, the electron microscope, atomic fission, data-processing technologies, pesticides, and, of course, the world’s first industrial murder complexes. The first magnetic tape recording was of a speech by Hitler, and the nerve gases Sarin and Tabun were Nazi inventions.

The men who conducted the anti-tobacco research and vetted Nazi efforts to eliminate it especially in women and employing the Trojan Horse excuse that it was for “the children,” were not paragons of moral esteem.

How can we explain the fact that Nazi Germany was home to the world’s foremost tobacco-cancer epidemiology and the world’s strongest cancer prevention policy? Do we say that “pockets of innovation” existed in Nazi Germany, resistant to ideological influence?8 What if we find, on closer inspection, that Germany’s anti-tobacco research flourished not in spite of the Nazis, but in large part because of the Nazis? And would it then be appropriate, from a moral point of view, to cite such research in scientific studies today?

I ask this last question partly because the two tobacco studies I have just discussed have, in fact, been repeatedly cited by postwar scientific researchers, though rarely with any mention of the social context within which they were carried out. There is never any mention, for example, of the fact that the founding director of Schöniger and Schairer’s Institute was Karl Astel, Rector of the University of Jena, a vicious racial hygienist, and an SS officer. One never hears that the grant application for the Institute was written by Gauleiter Fritz Sauckel, chief organizer of Germany’s system of forced labor and a man hanged after the war for crimes against humanity (most leaders of Nazi Germany’s anti-tobacco movement were silenced in one way or another after 1945).

Far be it from today’s researchers to be so fastidious and honest as to cite their illustrious predecessors. Proctor cites many more of these creatures. Proctor, however, is also torn between placing any value on Nazi anti-tobacco research and treating any tobacco research today as a valid field that can exist without government encouragement (or without the example of a health-conscious Führer or Surgeon General).

I raise the questions I do about Nazism and science because it is poor scholarship and perhaps even dangerous to caricature the Nazis as irrational or anti-science. What we have to look at more carefully is the relationship between science and ideology at this time. It is not the case, for example, that the papers on tobacco epidemiology I have mentioned were uninfluenced by Nazi ideology.

This is indecisive hand-wringing. Proctor logically asks:

The complicity of German physicians in the Nazis’ crimes against humanity is a well-established historical fact. Explaining that fact is far more difficult. Why were German doctors such avid fans of fascism? Why did nearly half of all German physicians join the Nazi party?

It is not difficult to explain. So many German doctors were of a welfare state of mind. German philosophy, German culture, and that culturally inbred deference to “authority” unique to Germany prepared them for it. Just as so many American doctors are of a welfare state of mind, and are registered Democrats, ready to submit to the intricate, ten thousand dictats of ObamaCare, and who welcomed its passage because it guarantees them a release from independence and allows them to work for a “higher” cause. One may say the same thing about American insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, and the makers of medical and surgical supplies, not to mention middle-aged patients and the “elderly,” that pathetic generation of “boomers.” My “generation,” by the way, which I’ve disowned.

Oh! Someone may cry: What about all those people who are really sensitive to smoke? Well, it shouldn’t be anyone else’s problem. You don’t advocate putting shackles on everyone for the sake of a minority. Living doesn’t mean a guaranteed existence. Living doesn’t mean nationalizing homes and restaurants and parks and appropriating private property to placate and coddle minorities based on their likes, dislikes, or “sensitivities.” Those likes, dislikes, and “sensitivities” can include the ingredients of food or the nuclear composition of wall paint to accessibility of the wheelchair-bound to a 7-11.You leave people alone to sort out their own business.

So, it’s just not a matter of laws and legislation to force Americans in the preferred statist direction. The British tried that in the 1760’s and 1770’s, and lost a continent. The generation that made the Revolution possible was the “greatest generation.” It did not have a welfare state of mind. It isn’t’ even just about smoking or health, either.

It’s about rejecting the notion that one owes allegiance and deference to the collective, to the State, and to anyone who has “sensitivity” problems with freedom.


The Deer Crossing Principle of Social Policy


A New Kind of Civil War


  1. Unknown

    Another great essay…while obviously the smoking thing is just the launching point, I'm reminded of a story an Objectivist friend told. He was at O'ist convention and L. Peikoff was asked why it's acceptable for an Objectivist to smoke when we know it's bad for you. His response was to take out a cigarette and smoke it right there in the auditorium (presumably a non-smoking venue by that point).

    I also, while not endorsing all of Breathed's observations/politics (including stance on smoking, I might add), certainly miss the modern golden age of comics, and Bloom County in particular.

  2. Unknown

    Grr. I meant to edit that to say "we know the health risks" as it can be read to be rather heavy handed. I.e, I personally concur with the idea that a risk (i.e, behavior that could be construed as detrimental to life, and hence contradictory to being an Objectivist) is acceptable should other benefits derived from an activity be deemed to be worth the risk. For instance, while I'm personally a (mostly) ex-smoker, I ride motorcycles and will for as long at it's feasible for me to do so…. I also frequent blogs of various politically undesirable reactionary hothead infidels and very likely have my IP address on file thusly….

  3. Edward Cline

    Another point I might have elaborated on is that one is expected to act as an unpaid enforcer of the welfare state, and a self-disciplined one, as well, by conforming to statist norms of behavior and patronizing those corrupted by a welfare state of mind. Another retort I've used in reply to a pious non-smoker is: "You wouldn't say that to Bogart."

  4. Ed

    I spent part of this year in a western state famous for its Republican, mind-your-own-business social attitudes. During this time, the state's capital city passed sweeping anti-smoking legislation, banning tobacco in bars, parks, and city streets. The great outdoors in this great outdoorsy state was not, evidently, great enough to sustain the assault from a few burning cigars and cigarettes.

    Just a whiff of tobacco smoke, with its deadly carbon monoxide and other toxic pollutants, was enough to kill The Children™ and other sensitive beings, the bill's advocates claimed, citing discredited but pervasive government propaganda.

    Testing a theory of mine, I asked the anti-smoking zealots whether they would favor–in an effort to remain wholly consistent in their support of outdoor-smoking bans–outlawing charcoal grills in the public parks. After all, the carbon monoxide and other toxic pollutants belched from charcoal grills must be many thousands of times more deadly to The Children™ and other sensitive beings, given the fact that the volume of smoke from one grill must exceed that of a thousand cigarette smokers. Would the citizens of this great capital city be willing to give up their barbecues, for The Children™?


  5. Drew

    My son came home from kindergarten the other day with his peach yogurt wrapped in a plastic bag containing a condemnatory note to my wife for sending a substance that causes one of the teachers to have a "reaction". I also recieved an email from the principal about the need to be aware of the allergy sensitivities at the school. The teacher, apparently, had to go home that day, because the minute amount of peach allergen in the air was too dangerous!

    This is the same teacher that dumped out a garbage bin so the kids could sort the trash according to recycleables.

    I love the smell of a bit of smoke outside. I don't smoke, but I like the faint smell wafting off a patio. I like to smoke cannabis only. I'd love to burn one with you Ed, and here your stories, thoughts, and opinions with a little wacky-tabacky induced mental tangents.

  6. Tim C

    Heh, grills…sigh, just how long before charcoal is outlawed or we have to catalytic converters on our Webers etc…

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