Tuesday, January 25, 2005
The Hypocrite Dumbass Award
Neal Boortz, Self-Important Nonsmoker
HARRIER INTELLIGENCE. Right-wing talk radio host Neal Boortz is on his high horse today. A news item about smokers caught his attention, and he commented on it in his daily feature Nealz Nuze:
This morning on CNN Jack Cafferty was a bit exercised over reports that more and more companies are not only refusing to hire smokers, they're firing them. They're getting fired not for smoking on the job .. but for just being smokers. Bad? No ... Good!
Neal likes being a provocateur, of course, and we take some of the tirade that follows this opening with a grain of salt, but our native inclination to let it go, as we do with so much of the antismoking hysteria, was overturned by his weaseling conclusion to the piece:
So there. If you're a smoker, don't direct your anger at me. I'm not your problem. YOU are your problem. You need to figure out why you hate yourself and why you're so bent on self-destruction. I don't know the answer to that question. You do. Start figuring it out.
Uh uh, Neal. You don't get off that easy. Ostentatiously self-righteous health choices are not synonymous with moral virtue, and risky lifestyles are not synonymous with self hatred. They are a choice. Are they an irrational and self-destructive choice? Perhaps. But it shouldn't take a genius to realize that some people do not place a higher value on longevity than on simple pleasures that accord with the ancient ideal known as 'carpe diem.' As a libertarian who constantly inveighs against the kind of statism that makes so many old people into helpless chattels during their final ten or twenty years of life, Neal, you should be able to understand that some of us would prefer to live life on our own -- not your -- terms for 65 or 70 years rather than stagger on into our nineties on a diet of veggies, Evian water, and sugar-free chewing gum. Instead, you seem pretty intent on imposing your own tediously mundane values on everyone else:
In Michigan Weyco, Inc. has a new policy. They won't hire smokers. They're also requiring all current employees undergo testing to see if they are currently smokers. Presumably this will be a step toward firing all smokers. Employment lawyers says this reeks of discrimination. Well, duh! Of course it's discrimination! It's discrimination against people with unhealthy lifestyles who are going to send your health insurance costs even higher. [emphasis added] It's discrimination against people who have been shown to have poor work habits and higher absences from the job. Oh .. and it's discrimination against the stupid and ignorant ... and people who stink. Now don't you think that these are all perfectly good reasons to discriminate?
Nothing like an argument for unregulated corporate despotism that's built on a collectivist platform of "us good, you stink." Stalin would no doubt approve the logic. As it happens, we agree that employers should be able to hire and fire as they choose. This is not the same thing as congratulating those who would fire all employees who are too fond of the color lavender, have been known to play poker in their off-hours, wear unfortunate colognes, or ride motorcycles on the weekends. Intelligent libertarians know that not all the freedoms afforded by their ideal form of government should be exercised. Most, if not all, will be exercised, including the freedom to engage in risky behaviors such as smoking -- and the persecution of unpopular minorities by those who feel themselves superior to the Great Unwashed. Only hypocrite libertarians commit the sin of arguing for the institutional enforcement of their own prejudices via mechanisms created by a welfare-state bureaucracy they elsewhere deplore.
Boortz's insurance discussion is an example of the latter kind of argument. He says:
Just consider health insurance. Unfortunately we have come to the point in this country where it is expected that employers will take care of most of the health care for their employees. This unfortunate situation is the primary reason health care costs are seemingly out of control in this country .. but that's another subject for another sermon from the Church of the Painful Truth. If you, as the employer, are going to be responsible for the cost of your employee's health care then you should be allowed to select employees, and get rid of employees based on any aspects of their lifestyle that would be unhealthy and, therefore, would cost you money.
This falls into the "two wrongs make a right" category of reasoning. What, one wonders, would Boortz's position be if employers were not responsible for the cost of their employees' health care? Presumably, it would be the same: in a libertarian world, employers would still be able to fire smokers because they don't like them. Therefore the health insurance argument is a logically irrelevant disguise for the fact of Boortz's prejudice. It's also an argument that's eerily reminiscent of the decidedly anti-libertarian defense of motorcycle helmet laws. Motorcyclists take the position that if they bash their heads in an accident, they are hurting only themselves and have every right to accept such risks. The healthcare bureaucrats counter that the virtuous majority who do not ride motorcycles too often wind up paying the treatment costs of head injuries suffered by cyclists who do not carry enough insurance. This is an institutional argument which effectively demonstrates that in an era of government-mandated safety nets, the government owns every part of your body but your uterus (if you have one). In the bad old days before doctors, hospitals, and insurance companies locked their lips on the teats of government regulators, a motorcyclist would have have been able to ride helmetless and uninsured, and if he smashed his head on the pavement, a physician who believed in the quaint language of the Hippocratic oath would have treated him, and the cyclist or his surviving family would have been morally obligated to make good on the debt to the doctor and the hospital. Which of these scenarios better represents the libertarian ideal? A vast incestuous network of government agencies and insurance cartels which extort increasingly less individualistic behavior from the herd -- or a society in which individuals really are free to accept risks to life and limb that others prefer not to accept? Yet Boortz asks us to accept the flimsy proposition that the right response to the general loss of liberty in our society is further erosion of liberty for those the elect(?) deem to be deficient in secular virtues like health.
But Boortz is at pains to gloss over the specious and totalitarian heart of his position. He would have us believe that there is, in fact, a valid market-based argument to be made as well. He asserts that:
Generally speaking, smokers simply aren't as productive in the workplace as are non-smokers. They take more frequent breaks (to do drugs,) and they're absent from work more often due to illness.
And ... to cap it all off ... smokers
just aren't all that bright. In repeated trials smokers have
scored lower on intelligence tests than non-smokers. Smoking,
then, is an excellent way for you to get an immediate indication of who
has common sense, and who doesn't . OK .. I know that there are
exceptions, but across the board the rule holds. An employer who
has a policy of simply not hiring smokers, and getting rid of employees
who do smoke, is going to have a smarter, more capable workforce than
will an employer who hires these pathetic drug addicts.
Note that he is careful to use the word "trials" in preference to
"studies." Could this uncharacteristic (for Boortz) nicety of diction
be attributable to his own bent for railing against the various studies
undertaken by liberals to prove the existence of global warming, the
efficacy of affirmative action, and the correctness of innumerable
other progressive policy positions? We think so. He likes studies which
result in sweeping disparagement of those he disdains, regardless of
the fact that tobacco use has been the subject of frequent statistical
horseplay (ref. the fraudulent pseudo-research continually being
conducted to document the dangers of secondhand
smoke). He almost certainly doesn't like studies which disagree
with his views, such as the unwelcome finding that smoking is strongly
correlated with a reduced risk
of Alzheimer's. In this he's as much a hypocrite as the lefties
he's continually eviscerating in the carelessly written and punctuated
(though oxymoronically longwinded) apothegms of Neals Nuze.
And beyond that he is a
dumbass. Smokers less intelligent? Tell it to these
guys, Neal. But be prepared for the fact that some of them might
tell you a thing or two --
such as the idiocy of relying on math geeks to measure something as
subjective as productivity. If this prized commodity consisted only of
putting in hours at a desk, maybe there'd be more than smoke and
mirrors to your point. But productivity has to do not with hours served
but quality of output. Not to be rude about it, Neal, but you could
live to be 144 and you would not have been as productive as F. Scott
Fitzgerald, who gave us two truly great American novels before dying of
a heart attack at age 44. And don't try to tell us that no one in the
past knew that smoking wasn't healthy. Cigarettes were called "coffin
nails" all the way back in the twenties.
We can't wait to hear what you've got to say about lard-asses.
Heavens, to read your writing, one might suspect that you were some
kind of Adonis. Are you?
Oh. Well, shut up, then. So there.