I started reading Chris Snowdon’s free download book, Killjoys, yesterday, and on page 29 came across the notion of “a runaway train of authoritarianism”. And it prompted a question that I often find myself asking: Why are so many people such authoritarians? Why do they want to order people around? Why can’t they just mind their own business?
My thought this morning was that the authoritarians are planners. They make plans all the time. They make plans for themselves, and they make plans for everybody else as well. Planning is something that comes as naturally to them as swimming comes to fish, or flying to birds. They do it all the time.
And for such people the idea of a planned society is something that seems perfectly natural. Doesn’t a well-ordered, smooth-running society have to be a planned society? If there’s no plan, isn’t there just going to be chaos? Doesn’t a symphony in which dozens of different instruments are going to be played in concert have to have a carefully contrived score on which all the individual notes are set out in black and white for the musicians to follow? A musical score is a plan. And people like Beethoven and Mozart and Handel were musical planners. They were just like town planners, but working with music.
But as soon as there is a plan of any sort, whether it is for a town or a symphony, there must also be people who will follow the plan, play the notes in the correct order. Once the planners make their appearance, there must also be all those who have have been planned for. When Beethoven was writing his symphonies, he had in mind an orchestra of disciplined musicians. In fact he had in mind dozens of such orchestras all over the world. He had in mind an entire army of disciplined musicians doing what his plan told them to do, at precisely the time they were supposed to do it.
And if they didn’t do it, the conductor of the symphony would scold them loudly for hitting the wrong notes, or hitting the notes at the wrong time. And he might even fine them for doing so, maybe $1 for every bum note they played during the performance of a symphony. And in fact, he might even beat them with a stick. We should perhaps think of a conductor’s baton as not so much a instrument to wave around over the heads of the orchestra to keep time, but as a cane with which to beat them. We ought to imagine an irate conductor (perhaps Beethoven himself) stepping down from his podium, and giving the First Violin several well-aimed blows after he’d missed his cue. For the conductor of a symphony must force his musicians to play the notes in the score set out for them. He must force them to obey the orders set out in the score.
And what applies to musical plans applies to every other plan: people must be forced to obey the orders set out in the plan. Because if they aren’t, nothing will get done. They can’t be allowed to be free to do what they might want to do. They should be as obedient as soldiers unhesitatingly and unquestioningly carrying out the orders of their generals and captains and sergeants.
In this manner, planning must always entail the negation of freedom. People cannot be allowed to do what they want. They must obey orders, all the time.
And planning of any kind always entails coercion, as people are made to do what they are told.
Tobacco Control are a bunch of planners making plans for everyone. And their plan is to stop people smoking. They’d also like to stop them drinking as well. And eating meat and fat and sugar or salt. Their aim is to create a society as disciplined and obedient as any orchestra or any army. Smoking and drinking and eating are things that people want to do of their own volition, and doing things of their own volition is precisely what people cannot be allowed to do: they must do as they’re told, and they must do it unhesitatingly and unquestioningly. How else can the plan be carried out if they do not?
So the very first thing that must be done, in any planned society, is for all freedoms to be removed. People must be trained, slowly and painfully, to do as they are told. They must be banned from smoking (doing what they want) in a growing number of places. They must be punished (fined and taxed) for doing what they want. And if lies need to be told to induce them to stop doing as they want – like telling them that smoking causes lung cancer – then these lies should be told with a straight face to them again and again and again. For lying is just as much a form of coercion as using a big stick.
Yesterday I was quoting from the Lancet about the plan to reduce alcohol consumption:
“..the longer the delay in effective control, the more severe future interventions for alcohol will need to be.”
What the nameless author of this editorial is telling us here is that the planned future interventions are going to become more and more severe. And this was always bound to happen as the planners set out to impose their plans upon the planned. The coercion must always increase. The control must always tighten. The freedom of scope of the coerced must always be reduced.
But the only point I wish to make is that any sort of planned society must always be a coerced society. Anyone who ever sets out any plan of any sort is someone who is, at the same time, willing to possess the power to implement that plan, and impose it upon other people. Planners are authoritarians, and they must be authoritarians because without authority they can never impose their plans on anyone else.
But the first casualty in any military campaign is the plan. And so planners are always going to find their plans coming undone, becoming obsolete in a rapidly changing situation. And that also is a reason why planners are always trying to keep to the plan, and push it through ever more forcibly. But it’s also one of the reasons why all plans must always ultimately fail.
In this respect I draw attention to a plan to ban smoking from French movies
The debate was ignited after the Socialist senator Nadine Grelet-Certenais accused France’s film-makers of continuing to advertise for the tobacco industry.
“Seventy per cent of new French films have at least one scene of someone smoking. This more or less helps to make its use banal, even promote it, to children and adolescents,” Grelet-Certenais told the Sénat, the upper house of parliament.
Her remarks, made during a debate on the government’s plan to raise the price of cigarettes and tobacco, sparked the interest of the health minister, Agnès Buzyn, who said she would talk to her cabinet colleague, the culture minister, Françoise Nyssen.
“I don’t understand why the cigarette is so important in French cinema,” Buzyn said promising firm action to fight smoking.
Agnès Buzyn doesn’t understand freedom. She doesn’t understand that smoking is something that people like to do, and that freedom means being able to do what you want to do, not what somebody else wants you to do. For tobacco always has been closely associated with freedom, and always will be.
Agnès Buzyn is probably a Socialist just like Grelet-Certenais. And what do Socialists want? They always want a planned society – which is a society of control and coercion, devoid of freedom.