Friday, November 23, 2007

More liberty in a former totalitarian state?

Just as millions of others do,

I enjoy tobacco use, or in my case abuse; and make no apologies for it. Others run around with cat or dog dander on their clothing making innocent allergics sick; in fact over 2000 people unexpectedly die every year due to anaphylactic shock thanks to 2nd hand animal dander.

On the other hand, no one has ever recorded the death of anyone due to a wiff of side-draft tobacco smoke. Side draft smoke is an annoyance issue and nothing else; yet we're passing laws left and right, ruining small private businesses, (usually small breakfast/lunch diners) as fast as we can.

I stumbled across this piece online that originally saw ink in The Moscow News no-less!

Smoking as a Libertarian Cause

It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their consciences.
C.S. Lewis

Moral busybodies are currently trying to ban smoking all over the world. Not just in public places, like post offices and government buildings, but private localities as well. France about to ban smoking in all restaurants and pubs, and Germany has adopted a similar policy. Ireland did so three years ago, and other countries in the EU are following.
Self-appointed protectors of the public good are busy patting each other on their sanctimonious backs without realizing - or giving a damn - that they are in the process of reversing centuries of painfully gained human progress towards greater liberty.
Am I being bombastic? Not in the least. The anti-smoking activist is a fundamentalist. Like a Marxist, he has found the road to utopia and sees it as his heavenly mandate to make sure everybody takes it. Most importantly, he believes in good and evil, and that there can never be a compromise between the two. The totalitarian can never accept that his are only one of many different legitimate values and that others should be allowed to disagree with them. Rather than accept this competition of ideas as a vital aspect of life, he prefers finding a final solution to every problem. While a liberal would try to find a compromise that would take into consideration the wants and needs of everybody - smokers and non-smokers - the fundamentalist cannot even fathom that a compromise is possible.
A fundamentalist does not recognize the autonomy of the private sphere - for him, there is no such thing. He does not recognize the difference between banning smoking in public buildings and banning it on private property. To the fundamentalist, the ‘public good' is paramount and always overrides private rights. He believes in social rights and collective interests, in absolute morality, not in freedom of choice and individual liberty. The fundamentalist always argues for the interest of the people, public welfare, and the benefit of all - as defined by him. He wants to make the world better for everybody by decree.
The anti-smoking fundamentalists have decided that smoking is morally wrong and therefore has to be banned everywhere. Nobody should be allowed to smoke at all. Not in public places, not in private places, not at home. The final goal of the anti-smoking crusader is to ban smoking completely. You don't believe me? I guarantee you that almost all of those in favor of banning smoking in restaurants would prefer a world where smoking was entirely banned.
But since we live in a more or less liberal society, openly arguing for this goal would be dangerous to the fundamentalist. So he employs the salami tactic, cutting up freedom one slice at a time. First came the public places. After all, non-smokers have to go there so it's not really fair to expose them to the hazards of passive smoking. Liberals could agree to that - completely forgetting that even here a compromise could and should have been found: smokers are taxpayers and help finance public services and buildings just as much as non-smokers, even more so in countries with excise taxes.
The second step for the fundamentalist is to redefine the public realm. They have decided that since restaurants and bars are open to the public, they are by definition public places. They ignore - deliberately - that restaurants and bars are private businesses. Going to a restaurant is not a necessity, it's a luxury. Non-smokers are not forced to enter restaurants that allow smoking; they can either go to non-smoking places or stay home. Non-smokers are not being discriminated against if they can't find a non-smoking restaurant to their liking. And if a restaurant does not allow smoking, it's not discriminating against smokers, either. It's the choice of the operator to decide whether or not he caters to smokers, non-smokers, or both. Smokers and non-smokers alike can vote with their rubles/euros/dollars/tugrik for whichever business they prefer. That's the essence of a free market economy.
But the fundamentalist doesn't like the free market economy. He prefers complete control over all aspects of life, both private and public. Nothing should escape the fundamentalist's benevolent control - everybody must bow to the necessity of the greater good, such as ‘public health', ‘public morality', ‘fairness', etc. Not that a liberal is opposed to any of these things, but unlike the fundamentalist the liberal believes in the right of a free person to make wrong choices. Liberals do not advocate license - they advocate liberty tempered by respect. The fundamentalist believes in neither liberty nor respect. He simply believes in the elimination of evil.
I agree that the world would be better off if nobody smoked, including myself. But I believe that the world would be worse off if smoking were banned. A fundamentalist does not understand this difference. Which is why there is no point arguing with him about this, but there is a point for those who believe in free enterprise and human liberty to stand up for their beliefs for a change. Defending the rights of restaurant owners to decide how they run their businesses is as good a start as any.
By Dietwald Claus

1 comment:

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