Smoking is an idle time activity.

Idle Theory was an inkling I had one sunny spring morning in 1975. I’d recently started building heat flow models at university, and was wondering how to judge whether one heating system was better (or worse) than another. The heat flow models had temperatures and masses and volumes, but they didn’t include “better” or “worse”. The usual way to judge was to find which was cheaper. But it seemed to me that a good heating system kept people more comfortable than a bad heating system. And thermal discomfort was something that people noticed and had to do something about: shiver, add more clothes, turn up the heat. Discomfort meant busyness. Equally the price of fuel and shelter and clothes was always paid with work, and work was another kind of busyness. People were either busily uncomfortable, or idly comfortable. In Idle Theory people were either frantically busy, or perfectly idle, or someplace in between.

I began thinking about economics in general as being all about people finding ways to live idle lives. You weren’t rich if you had a lot of money or property or gold: you were rich to the extent that you were idle. Economic growth entailed increasing idleness. And this was best done with useful tools: tools that got jobs done quicker. An axe will cut down a tree quicker than a stone. A donkey will make for a quicker journey than on foot, a horse an even quicker one, and a Ferrari quickest of all. A computer performs calculations much faster than any man can. The Industrial Revolution speeded up every kind of work, and made for an idler, richer society. And in their idle time people could drink beer and smoke cigarettes, and do other things they enjoyed doing for their own sake.

And I began to think about ethics as being all about increasing idleness. What was Good was what increased idleness. And what was evil was what decreased idleness. A fair exchange between two people was one in which both gained equally in idleness. An unfair exchange was one in which one person gained in idleness, and the other lost (e.g. theft). Fair exchanges required consideration: you shouldn’t just count your own gains or losses, but should also count those those of everybody else. You shouldn’t cheat. You should pay your debts. And you should keep your promises.

I also started thinking about biology in terms of idleness. All living things operated at some degree of idleness. And if they ever fell to zero idleness, working all thee time, they were at the point of death and extinction. Living things had their own built-in useful tools, like legs and wings and teeth and claws. And they were always inventing and refining new tools.

I thought about religion in terms of idleness. Heaven was a state of perfect idleness, and Hell a state of unremitting busyness. The Fall of Man had meant the end of an easy life, and its replacement by a hard one. Redemption would mean the return of an easy life.

I gradually expanded Idle Theory in all directions. I published it as a collection of essays. It was a rational, numerical,  systematic, internally consistent way of thinking about all sorts of things. I saw it as a way of giving science an ethical dimension it didn’t have.

I guess that, after 32 years, I only stopped thinking about it on 1 July 2007, when idle smokers like me came under existential attack. The antismokers don’t like idleness. They think people should be busy working all the time. It’s not tobacco or alcohol or sugar or meat that they really hate: it’s idleness. Their ideal world is a labour camp: that’s why they always build lots of them.

And now I’m in a war, fighting thieving, lying antismokers. I think that if smokers are going to win this war, they’re going to have to unite. They far outnumber the antismokers. So I’m more interested in trying to build bonds between smokers, everywhere in the world, in order to unite them.

Because the antismokers never stop:

Cuomo considers banning cigarette sales for six weeks amid Coronavirus outbreak.

This is pure, unalloyed, cruel, antismoking viciousness. Cuomo wants to take away smoker’s cigarettes just when they need them most, and when it’ll hurt them the most to lose them. And hurting them means keeping them busy, keeping them uncomfortable, keeping them working. There’s no justification for it, and it won’t help. But antismokers don’t need justifications, and they’re not trying to help: they’re trying to hurt. It’s all they ever do

In Idle Theory war is big busyness. In peacetime idleness increases; in wartime idleness decreases. The loser is the first to reach zero idleness death and extinction.

Tobacco Control must be destroyed. It must be utterly and completely destroyed.


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18 Responses to War

  1. Ryan S says:

    As a resident of Cuomo’s “kingdom” I can tell you that this megalomaniac would try to ban anything if it gave him points with so called progressives. In 2013, he smashed through, under the guise of an emergency, a ban on certain firearms. For our own good of course! In reality, to stick it to the rubes like myself who inhabit the country side and tend to not be of his political stripe. Meanwhile it has had no effect on crime rates. Then, plastic bags must go! We’re saving the environment now. Even though my bread, some produce and other things come encased in plastic. Oh and should you want paper, add 5 cents to your order per bag. So it’s juggle your goods or buy a reusable bag. (Which you must now disinfect after each trip to the store). Now, with no proven link between smoking and severity of an attack by the bogieman, the Karens of the world are again demanding to speak to the manger and snuff out any enjoyment. Cuomo may or may not abide. While he is one to try and outdo California on insanity, money talks and BS walks. It remains to be seen what is done. I switched to loose tobacco years ago and have a machine to stuff tubes. Cut my portion of those taxes to minuscule amounts. I’m sure it’s no different where you reside, but it if the masses of asses in the city scream loud enough, he may go along while once again sticking it to the rest of us.

  2. slugbop007 says:

    Various sociologists as far as back as the 1950s were writing about a future leisure society of less work, more play. The teacher of a former girlfriend of mine told her class in the early 70s that the leisure society would become a reality in the not too distanct future. I have been living relatively leisurely for the past 50 years.

    By the way, have you ever read Flaubert’s ‘Bouvard & Pècuchet’? Two old guys with lots of leisure time decide to explore all manner of subjects.


  3. slugbop007 says:

    Beats me how Governor Cuoma could come up with a connection between smoking tobacco and COVID-19. It shows what an ignorant ass he is. I don’t think that his father was that bad.


  4. Александра Собина says:

    Maybe smokers could go out and light a fag at the same time and place as a protest, also to show our numbers?

  5. slugbop007 says:

    I just read this piece in The Guardian a few minutes ago. Something about approaching a New Utopia. Following Guardian standards and no other, of course. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/mar/29/coronavirus-fears-rediscover-utopian-hopes-connected-world


  6. Howdy Frank.

    Not to be off topic or anything, but anyone heard from Gary lately? Peter? Emily? Ross?

    • Frank Davis says:

      I saw most of them in the Smoky Drinky Bar on Friday.

      • RdM says:

        It’s perhaps a little odd, that there are just a few regulars.
        What is it about us that makes that so?
        Slightly gregarious?

        Happen to have a laptop with camera an microphone, or a PC with external same?

        I think Frank wanted it to be available for a wider audience, and it is.

        Why aren’t other people joining in?

        Don’t have the hardware?
        (It’s cheap to buy, if just an external webcam with microphone)

        Don’t want to be seen “in public”, even in this very small group?

        Hard to imagine, we are just people, and already ‘talk’ – write – online.

        No answer so far.

        Maybe just personal reasons, whatever they are?

        A few have come and gone.

        It’s still a mystery.

        ~ Ross

  7. slugbop007 says:

    Thanks to forcesnl, when I finished reading the article I noticed a link to Velvet Glove, Iron Fist. I clicked on the link and am now listening to my second podcast. Informative and entertaining.


  8. smokingscot says:

    It hasn’t escaped our attention that the two states, California and New York, that have the highest confirmed and dead from coronavirus are also those with the highest barriers to smokers and – consequently – the lowest claimed percentage of smokers.

    It’s unlikely many others will and even if they do, have no way of saying so without being mauled in the comments section.

    To then go on and say that from data sets provided from China, smokers appear to be far less likely to be infected with the virus in the first place and have as good, possibly slightly better chance of surviving even if they are infected.

    Now it would take a supreme masochists to try that postulation in any MSM outlet.

    However the Health Commissioner, for NY, a Mr. Howard Zucker, claims that his data set from Italy paints a completely different picture, albeit one that is not actually backed up by concrete evidence, rather by assumptions; namely the reason why more men die than women is because men smoke and the other sex does not. And smokers will need ventilators, all of them, not just some of them,. So by his logic, if he can get people to quit smoking two weeks before their peak is reached, then they’ll have greater lung function and so won’t need ventilators, so freeing them up for the good people who have never smoked, or have quit.


    Given that logic, it plays well with the majority who, of course, do not indulge in bad habits. However we know perfectly well that smokers with the finances to manage would have stocked up on tobacco products to last well past the 6 week embargo. Those who don’t have the cash, well they’re up the creek, or will have to buy from whatever source will spring up to cater for them.

    However the underlying issue is New York’s total lack of preparation. They do not have even the gloves, masks or protective gowns for health professionals, let alone the number of ventilators they’ll need for the period of peak infections, so in effect he’s trying to deflect attention to his own incompetence..

    Now I’m pretty hacked off at what that shyster has done, though I have no reason to be, I gave up serious outrage when Scotland banned smoking in end of life hospices and their grounds. That was just cruelty, a naked form of sheer spite and malevolence.

    The newspaper link came from Rhys comment yesterday.


    There are very real issues that have emerged from up front experience with CV. To be included in those at greater risk of complications and thus ventilators are the obese and long term drug users – and the USA does have its fair share of both.

  9. Timothy Goodacre says:

    Yes it is now a war and we must win it !

  10. Joe L. says:

    You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. And what I mean by that–it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.

    — Rahm Emanuel

  11. Clicky says:

  12. smokingscot says:

    “An unusually low prevalence of current smoking among hospitalized COVID-19 cases in China was observed when considering the population smoking prevalence. The prevalence observed in the 7 studies analyzed was less than one-third the expected prevalence.
    This preliminary analysis, assuming that the reported data are accurate, does not support the argument that current smoking is a risk factor for hospitalization for COVID-19, and might even suggest a protective role. The latter could be linked to the down-regulation of ACE2 expression that has been previously known to be induced by smoking.”


    So let US (smokers) be aware that even those who are studying COVID know damned well that our habit DOES NOT make us more vulnerable to the pathogen and may even provide some form of protection.

    Do bookmark the source and H/T to Dick Puddlecote for putting it on his Twitter feed.


  13. RdM says:

    I thought these links interesting and worth reading:

    “Europe has a recurring problem with “self-destruction and collective suicide”.”
    Read the transcript.

    Comments are worth reading.
    And, linked off that and also worth reading, so included here as well:

    12 Experts Questioning the Coronavirus Panic

    Notably, the next post on malagabay shows German deaths are very low comparatively.

    So some people question lock-downs.

    It’s eerie here, twice I’ve taken a bus to the supermarket and back in the last few days, and each time I have been the only passenger. The time before, just one other.

    Still, pleasant conversations with bus drivers.
    The last one quite English. young, friendly, nice.

    I told her about the smokydrinkybar concept but didn’t get to give the address before my stop.

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