post by Bill Gardner
It's a great tweet: names a culprit, cites a source, states the writer's opinion, gives a cogent reason, and links to a source, all in 140 characters.
Jacob is a "Mixologist, writer, barista, magician, libertarian." The odd picture to the right is from his blog. It depicts some men consuming drinks through a bone luge -- a drink is being poured down through a hollowed-out bone -- possibly where Jacob tends bar. Kind of like a bong for cocktails. It has an arresting paganism, which I expect is a component of the pleasure. Anyway, Jacob is right, it would be absurd for my to deny that his subjective pleasure in consuming alcohol through an animal (I HOPE) femur can raise his subjective well-being.
I get it about being young, reckless (and male?). I participated in several high risk outdoor sports before I had children, and my life is much richer for it. However, the 'luge' trope is absurd: Binge consumption of alcohol or drugs is at best a degenerate form of adventure; at least in my view, but as Jacob correctly notes, I am arrogant.
But what about liberty? I am not arguing that government should ban bone lugers from employment. My point is that I do not see a compelling argument against employers choosing not to hire them. By extension, we should have no public policies protecting access to employment for smokers (or bone lugers). This is, I believe, consistent with Mill's view that
The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not sufficient warrant.
I do want to see smoking go away, and I think social pressure is what makes that happen. ("Social pressure" is not, I think what Mill means by "exercising power".) To that end, I think it is legitimate to ban smoking in public places, and for employers to refuse to hire smokers if they judge that to be in the interest of their firms.
Having conceded that smoking may benefit Jacob's subjective well-being, can I still say that "smoking is a vice that benefits no one"? I certainly can, if it's understood that benefit refers to the long-term well-being of smokers, and those who depend upon them, rather than immediate subjective well-being. In that sense of benefit, there is nothing to be said for smoking or binge drinking.