Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Economic Rationalism And Smoking

In what is perhaps the greatest news story/public policy on the face of the planet, read the following excerpt from an article in today's Age titled Chinese Ordered To Smoke Until They Drop:

LOCAL government officials in China have been ordered to smoke nearly a quarter of a million packets of cigarettes to boost the local economy during the global financial crisis.

The edict, issued by officials in Hubei Province, in central China, threatens to fine officials who "fail to meet their targets" or are caught smoking rival brands manufactured in neighbouring provinces.

Even local schools have been given a smoking quota for teachers, while one village was ordered to buy 400 cartons of cigarettes a year for its officials.

This is part genius and part rational. While the absurd(ist) moron in me is giggling with excitement about this, I find it hard to see how this is very much different from Rudd's cash-splash. Spend, dammit, spend. Don't save, don't invest in the future, spend now. Even if it means putting a shotgun to a child's head and screaming at them to start smoking, (slight exaggeration here), we must support the economy at all costs.

In fact, if you expand this out a little, this is the very argument put forward by the Australian coal lobby et al. that we can't afford to impose hefty carbon debts on high polluting industries. Jobs (as an abstract economic quantifier) are for more important than the health or well being of the people inhabiting those jobs, their families or those in their community. So smoke up, kiddoes, because Jobs are jesus, and the Economy is god.

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