I’m not a Progressive. And I don’t think I’ve ever been a Progressive. I’ve never had any plans to improve the world. I think that before you can improve anything, you first have to understand it. And if you are to understand anything, you have to study it very closely and carefully. Because if you don’t understand it, chances are that the changes you make to it won’t improve it, but just make it worse.
And the way I see Progressives is that they’re people who’ve never studied the world that they want to change, and yet want to change it all the same, and always end up making an awful mess of it.
It’s not that I don’t think that there is such a thing as Progress. I think there is tremendous Progress being made. But my idea of Progress is one of increasing Idleness. And I think that the Industrial Revolution in which we got steam trains and steam ships and motor cars and airplanes and spaceships has seen an increase in social idleness all over the world. We started to get machines to do some of our work for us. It’s one of the reasons why there are so many games like football and golf being played everywhere. And also so much music is being played. For to play games and music you need the idle time in which to play them.
But pretty much all this very real Progress has been generated by inventors and scientists and engineers. It’s been the work of people who studied the world around them very carefully, and learned from it, and used their knowledge to invent and perfect and mass-produce countless useful (i.e. idleness-increasing) tools, like cars and planes and computers.
And most of these people weren’t Progressives. They didn’t have plans to change the world. They just wanted to build a slightly better motor car, or a slightly faster airplane, or a slightly better screwdriver or hammer. They made small incremental improvements. And it was all these tiny improvements that added up to make for quite tremendous Progress. And if the changes they made weren’t improvements, they dispensed with them, and tried something else.
Progressives always want to change the world right now. They don’t do things incrementally. They make large, sweeping, sudden changes.
Like smoking bans.
Sudden and sweeping smoking bans, imposed by law everywhere.
Smoking bans could have been been introduced incrementally. There were always places where people didn’t smoke. For example: churches. It was simply not done to smoke in church. And the same could have happened gradually and incrementally with all sorts of other places, by common consent. Maybe smokers would have gradually been constrained to smoking rooms. But there would always have been a place for them. Just like there are some areas where people can play football or play music.
But instead, the Progressives introduced sweeping smoking bans everywhere, overnight, by law. One day you could smoke inside a pub, and the next day you couldn’t. In Britain on 30 June 2007 you could smoke in pubs. Next day, 1 July 2007, you couldn’t. There was nothing gradual or incremental about it. Nor was there any attempt to assess whether it had been a success, whether people’s lives had improved as a result of it. I’ve never seen any questionnaire asking people whether their lives had improved (except the one that I helped to organise). It was deemed to be a success because there wasn’t an immediate revolt. People obeyed the law. On 30 June 2007 they smoked in pubs, and the next day, 1 July 2007, they stopped smoking in pubs, everywhere, all over Britain.
The Progressives in Tobacco Control had decided among themselves that it would be Progress if the world could be made “smoke-free”. And there was no negotiation with anyone about it. The Progressives knew better than they did. And that’s why the Progressives never were going to ask people whether the smoking bans they had imposed on them had improved their lives. They didn’t want to know. They didn’t want any feedback.
Real Progress is something that always happens slowly and incrementally and hesitantly. Because real Progress requires continually checking to see whether the latest tiny incremental change makes the engine more powerful, or the computer work faster. Because not all changes make things work better. But Progressives are always in a hurry. They want to improve things immediately, right now. They’re impatient. They can’t wait. And so whatever they do, it always makes things worse. Because it’s always an ill-considered rush job.
And the smoking bans that have been imposed all over the world were quite obviously an ill-considered rush job. They didn’t gradually evolve and spread from one pub to the next, or from one region to the next.
And whenever a rush job is done anywhere, at the outset it usually looks like it’s been a success. It takes a while for the defects to show up, for the paint to flake, for the windows to crack, for the wings to snap off.
So the smoking bans that were suddenly imposed everywhere at more or less the same time will gradually be slowly and incrementally ignored and eroded and dismantled one by one. And this will happen because they weren’t real Progress, but only had the appearance of Progress, and they were dreamt up by Progressives who would arrogantly impose their idea of Progress on everyone else.
The trouble with Progressives is that they’re impatient. They can’t wait for things to change of their own accord, slowly and incrementally. They have to try to speed it all up, make it happen quicker. And they always end up spinning off the road, usually killing a lot of people in the process.