written by Dr. Walter Williams
Prior to the 1930s, Germany was Europe's most hospitable country for Jews. While Jews were only one percent of the population, they were one-fourth of Germany's law and medical students. In some German cities, Jews were the majority of doctors. While Jews were only five percent of the Berlin population in 1905, they paid 31 percent of all income taxes collected. For Germany as a whole, Jewish income was more than three times the national average. In his book, Migration and Cultures, Dr. Thomas Sowell adds that Jews were so highly integrated into German economic and social life that in nearly half of all Jewish marriages during the 1920s one of the spouses was Gentile. During World War I, Jewish-American publications were investigated and prosecuted by the U.S. Government for writing favorably about Germany, a nation at war with the U.S.
Much of German history has been one of racial toleration. This is partially seen by their anti-slavery positions in Brazil and the United States. In the United States, Germans had a large hand in assisting runaway slaves by way of the "underground railroad." Germans also had an established reputation of getting along very well with American Indians.
So why the story about pre-Nazi Germany? I think examining it raises an interesting question that few bother to answer; namely, if Germany was so hospitable to Jews, relative to other countries, how in the world did the Holocaust happen? There are several alternative explanations such as Hitler's massive consolidation of government power. Then there's the fact that German culture places high values on regimentation and obedience to authority. An important part of the answer of how Germans came to accept Jewish persecution was a massive and successful Nazi Jewish vilification program. Germans being taught to think of Jews as inferiors and as people responsible for the post-World War I economic devastation made it possible for public acceptance of Jewish mistreatment.
You say, "Okay, you're right but what's the relevance to us?" There are about 40 million Americans who smoke cigarettes. Prior to the 1980s, all efforts to curb tobacco use relied on arguments pertaining to the health risks borne by smokers. The only way to achieve today's level of sustained attack on smokers and tobacco companies was to be able to create an argument that tobacco smoke harmed not only smokers but others as well. Through a fraudulent EPA secondhand smoke study, "Respiratory Health Effects of Passive Smoking," we have produced today's tobacco regulations. That's even in the face of devastating evidence that EPA's secondhand smoke study made subjective judgements, failed to account for important factors that could bias the results, and relaxed a crucial scientific standard to achieve the result the study was looking for. The "relaxed" scientific standard was the EPA's lowering of the confidence interval applied to its analysis from the more standard 95% to 90% - in effect doubling the chance of error. A federal court in Flue-Cured Tobacco Cooperative Stabilization Corporation v. EPA added that the EPA: "disregarded information and made findings based on selective information . . . ; deviated from its risk assessment guidelines; failed to disclose important [opposition] findings and reasoning; and left significant questions without answers."
As a result of both official and non-official fraudulent claims about the health effects, as well as the health care costs of smoking, there has been widely successful vilification of cigarette smokers and tobacco manufacturers. Lawmakers have little hesitance in imposing confiscatory tobacco taxes, in some jurisdictions one to three dollars per pack. Zealous lawmakers and other public officials have attempted to ban smoking on streets and parks. In at least a couple of jurisdictions there have been attempts to outlaw smoking in one's own home or apartment under the flimflam reasoning that neighbors are injured by secondhand smoke. Americans don't mind it at all to see their fellow Americans huddled in the winter outside of their workplaces in order to have a cigarette. In the state of Washington, a condemned prisoner was denied a last request for a cigarette. Last summer, California banned smoking in some of its prisons.
During a much more civilized era in our country, none of this could have happened. Nazi-like vilification tactics had to be employed whereby decent Americans were convinced that both smokers and tobacco companies are two groups of people deserving of any treatment.
I'm by no means suggesting that smokers are headed off to concentration camps and gas chambers, although they might have in Germany because Hitler was a rabid anti-cigarette zealot. Instead, I'm suggesting that the cigarette smoker vilification campaign is something about which we all should be concerned, whether we smoke cigarettes or not. These people who want to control our lives are almost finished with smokers; but never in history has a tyrant arisen one day and decided to tyrannize no more. The nation's tyrants have now turned their attention to the vilification of fast food chains such as McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's and Kentucky Fried Chicken, charging them with having created an addiction to fatty foods. Thus, the tyrants claim, fast food chains have contributed to obesity-related problems and growing healthcare costs. Like the anti-tobacco zealots they call for regulation, compensation for injury and taxes on foods they deem to be non-nutritious. In addition to fast food chains, these tyrants have targeted soft drink and candy manufacturers. Chinese and Mexican restaurants are also in their sights because they have meal servings deemed to be too large. In their campaign against fast food chains, restaurants and soda and candy manufacturers the nation's food Nazis always refer to the anti-tobacco campaign as the model for their agenda.
Walter E. Williams
Ideas on Liberty #20
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