In terms of economics, what currently is should be of very little importance: what matters, and that we should seek to understand, is the process that brought it about and that will create what will be in its place.
Why should we think that government officials are better at acting “rationally” than those they regulate? Even if we were to concede that smoking deserves to be restricted, why should we think the government can do it in a reasonable way?
Economic history is possible only because there is an economic theory capable of throwing light upon economic actions. If there were no economic theory, reports concerning economic facts would be nothing more than a collection of unconnected data open to any arbitrary interpretation.
Statistical data is merely history, but a competent historian does not simply let the events speak for themselves. He arranges them according to the ideas underlying the general notions he uses in their presentation. He does not report facts as they happened, but only relevant facts.