Is there anything more hypocritical than someone who avers a commitment to the public good, who values personal sacrifice in service of society, who declaims the noxious influence of big business in America, who preaches environmental protection--all while puffing away?I didn't realize that being a liberal required one to be a utilitarian - I'll have to think this over on my next smoke break.
Smoking, in this schema, is purely a want--there is nothing necessary about smoking, except in the sense that an addict "needs" a fix. Thus a good liberal would never consider smoking, because it is a clear instance of sacrificing the public good in favor of satisfying personal desires.
Such social consciousness is almost too obvious to explain. And yet it doesn't seem to matter to the legions of liberal smokers. (How many? There are no statistics that I can find on the political affiliation of smokers, but anecdotally I know of several dozen, many of them friends, who will be just thrilled by this column.) Instead, they offer excuses. Many admit that smoking is bad but that it is their small indiscretion while fighting the good fight. But such an argument is blatantly self-serving: It's pretty arrogant to assume that one's contribution to society is significant enough to accommodate such indiscretions. Others say that smoking is such a minor infraction that it shouldn't matter in the grand scheme of things. Perhaps, but then the same goes for the passing pleasure they receive from a cigarette. And it's not a matter of what a single cigarette does to the smoker or those around him, but the cumulative impact of the thousands of cigarettes each smoker will consume in a lifetime.
For the most part, though, liberals smoke because they simply haven't considered the fact that doing so runs against their political values. They don't see a connection between the ideas they espouse and the choices they make in their own lives--and so there is no disconnection, no hypocrisy to be felt in the first place. Ignorance, in other words, is the true last refuge of scoundrels. And liberal smokers.
I'd say that Risen obviously hasn't considered the fact that being a moralizing asshole also runs against his liberal political values - unfortunately, being a moralizing assole seems to be a standard requirement for being a liberal in the first place.