California has effectively decriminalized marijuana (possession of less than an ounce is a civil matter roughly equivalent to a speeding ticket — a rarely written speeding ticket), and the state has a medical (ahem) marijuana program that is, for the moment, largely unregulated. At the same time, the state is launching a progressive jihad against “vaping,” the use of so-called e-cigarettes that deliver nicotine in the form of vapor. The state public-health department says that this is justified by the presence of certain carcinogens — benzene, formaldehyde, nickel, and lead—in e-cigarette vapor. But by California’s own account, all of those chemicals are present in marijuana smoke, too, along with 29 other carcinogens.
If that seems inconsistent to you, you are thinking about it the wrong way: For all of its scientific pretensions and empirical posturing, progressivism is not about evidence, and at its heart it is not even about public policy at all: It is about aesthetics.
The goal of progressivism is not to make the world rational; it’s to make the world Portland.
Progressivism, especially in its well-heeled coastal expressions, is not a philosophy — it’s a lifestyle. Specifically, it is a brand of conspicuous consumption, which in a land of plenty such as ours as often as not takes the form of conspicuous non-consumption: no gluten, no bleached flour, no Budweiser, no Walmart, no SUVs, no Toby Keith, etc. The people who set the cultural tone in places such as Berkeley, Seattle, or Austin would no more be caught vaping than they would slurping down a Shamrock Shake at McDonald’s — and they conclude without thinking that, therefore, neither should anybody else. The wise man understands that there’s a reason that Baskin-Robbins has 31 flavors; the lifestyle progressive in Park Slope shudders in horror at the refined sugar in all of them, and seeks to have them restricted.