As some of the Internet protests SOPA, an intrusive government effort to regulate the Internet, we should keep in mind that government is in business to do exactly that.
Intrusive government is the only area where liberals, conservatives and libertarians are all on the same side against pesky progressives who consistently want to use the government to regulate whether or not you can buy goldfish and virtually anything else in your lives.
If you think cultural mullahs are a little weird in their war on cigarettes, harken back to the 17th century Ottoman Empire. Emperors were also big believers in big government and Sultan Murad IV understood that once power was centralized in one person, you could basically get away with anything. Want to ban cheese? You can do it. Murad apparently didn’t like coffee – maybe he owned Big Tea, maybe he was convinced coffee caused cancer or that if people would pay more taxes on it and fund coffee awareness campaigns, it could save billions of dollars in future health expenses or whatever pretend economics Big Government fans use for rationalization.
As Adam Cole at NPR tells it, “The sultan was so intent on eradicating coffee that he would disguise himself as a commoner and stalk the streets of Istanbul with a hundred-pound broadsword. Unfortunate coffee drinkers were decapitated as they sipped.”
Did it curb coffee drinking? Not in the least. Instead, onerous over-regulation simply makes casual criminals out of people so they ignore you and drink coffee and the real criminals get rich. Think American Prohibition in the 1920s. It did nothing at all to stop drinking but John F. Kennedy’s dad made so much money he could buy enough votes in Chicago and Texas to make his kid president.
The best ‘awareness’ campaign, even more inspid than the anti-smoking campaigns we endure in California (and I don’t even smoke, that is how annoying they are) is this one:
That’s right, English women were concerned that coffee made men impotent – they would become French.
Was there any evidence for their concern? No, it was the precautionary principle run amok. 300 years from now our descendants will regard anti-science crackpots against GMOs with that same patronizing condescension we do the War On Coffee from the past.
Drink Coffee? Off With Your Head! by Adam Cole, NPR