Nanny state links

Bar Power — Via Adrienne, Ban the Ban volunteers are canvassing D.C. bars tomorrow night to rally the opposition to the smoking ban and make patrons’ and employees’ voices heard. If you support freedom, if you think bar owners should be able to decide for themselves whether or not to allow smoking in their establishments, or if you just want to flirt with libertarians, stop by one of the locations listed and sign a postcard that will be sent to the city council.

[Update 7/11/05: Adrienne posts her account of the event.]

Morgan Spurlock Watch — Radley’s started up a new weblog to debunk the many misleading or poorly researched claims of Morgan Spurlock. Any blog that links to the Cato Institute and Five Guys hamburgers must be good, yeah? Read it through RSS to avoid the daily glimpse of the Spurlock burgernipple pic.

Comments

  1. Zhubin says:

    Oh, come now. Those things are a menace to public health, and their negative impact far outweighs the tiny freedom associated with letting bar owners choose whether to allow smoking or not.
    And smokers’ freedom is hardly impunged – they can just go outside for a few minutes.

    Especially given this country’s burgeoning health care costs, a crackdown on public smoking should be the first thing on the priority list.

  2. Jacob says:

    How exactly does one decide when the benefits to public health outweigh the costs of individual freedom? When do the costs of eating fatty food, drinking too much, or not getting enough exercize warrant regulation? In New Jersey, a legislator just started puching for a ban on people smoking in their own cars. By thinking in terms of “public health” instead of “individual freedom and responsibility” one can justify the prohibition of almost any risky activity. The creeping paternalism of the left and its willingness to selectively crack down on behaviors of which it disapproves are one of the main things keeping me away from you guys. Honestly, I find that kind of petty tyranny almost as disgusting as the intolerance that characterizes the worst parts of the political right.

    I don’t find your recommendation that smokers can just step outside persuasive, either. If it’s really no inconvenience, then the ban won’t really cut back on smoking and won’t impact public health. You’re being either contradictory or disingenuous.

    On the other hand, driving smokers outside will make our already crowded streets even more packed with people standing around, blowing smoke in the faces of passers by, and dropping their butts on the ground. Then these problems, caused by the smoking ban, will become the justification for banning smoking outside a year or two down the line.

    If you really want businesses to be smoke free, give your patronage to ones that are and let others know that’s what you want. A list of 188 voluntarily smoke free bars and restaurants is available here:
    http://www.smokefreedc.org/restaurants.php

  3. Zhubin says:

    See, this is where libertarianism becomes just as doctrinaire as the Old Left communists. The speed and frequency with which you draw the slippery-slope theory from its holster is mind-boggling.

    Certainly there is a possibility of justifying any prohibition when we think in terms of public health instead of individual responsibility, but that’s no excuse to forego public health concerns. This is a complicated world that occasionally justifies some restrictions on freedom, even if the lines aren’t very bright. But we can draw, right now, a very bright line between public smoking and the public consumption of fatty foods or alcohol – the former negatively affects the health of those around the smoker, while the latter does not.

    When I speak of benefitting the public health, I don’t mean reducing the number of smokers – although the higher cost in terms of inconvenience will have that welcome side effect. I mean in terms of reducing the effects of secondhand smoke on those exposed to indoor smoking. Forcing smokers outside virtually eliminates this threat to public health, as it moves the smoke from the unventilated indoors to the outdoors, and the inconvenience this imposes on smokers is small enough not to be a concern.

    Once we put down the Freedom Flag and look at the situation rationally, the trade-off here seems entirely reasonable to me.

  4. Zhubin says:

    Oh, and regarding your concerns about smokers crowding the streets, that hasn’t been a problem here in smoke-free New York. And well-placed ashtrays – like those here in the City – will resolve concerns about cigarette butts, much like outdoor garbage cans have done with general trash.

  5. Jacob says:

    I wouldn’t have been so harsh had you made that bright line clear in your first comment, but there you mentioned the rising cost of health care as as an “especially” persuasive reason to regulate smoking. If you can make that argument for smoking, you can make it for eating unhealthily, etc. (And, if you don’t, lots of other people do.)

    As for the slippery slope argument… While it’s overused in some situations, it seems sadly apt for the regulation of personal behavior. A few years ago it would have seemed silly to say, “What next, a tax on fatty foods?” Now that very proposal is taken seriously by many influential people. You can read Radley’s weblog, The Agitator, for almost daily examples of new lines being crossed.

  6. Zhubin says:

    Well, let me just say that there is a point at which I will start to support the regulation of fatty foods. We’re not there yet, but obesity in this country is being a serious problem, and I doubt even you will be able to say that there is simply no cost high enough before you will begin to support some restrictions.

    I checked out the Agitator, and let me say, I enjoy his assault on John Gibson, whose “My Word” columns have got to be the most aggravatingly asinine things I’ve ever read.

    But in any event, smoking is materially distinct from fatty foods, and I fully expect you to start supporting the ban.

  7. Jeff says:

    It’s entertaining to watch such a lively debate on a smoking ban from a place where public smoking is somewhat of a fait accompli. North Carolina has some of the most lax smoking laws in the country (along with the lowest cigarette tax). And yet, it’s still not too annoying – I don’t walk around coughing. Most smokers here are courteous enough to take it outside.

    Regarding Spurlock, I think Radley’s blog horribly mischaracterizes the arguments of the anti-fast-food types like Spurlock and Eric Schlosser. The true argument goes like this: The free flow of factual information is the keystone of a free society. If a person is prevented from getting all the facts, the market will fail, since inferior and even harmful products will succeed. A deluge of intentional misinformation by corporate marketing machines is gumming up the works of the market, so to speak – drowning out the other side of the story. We must, therefore, ensure that people can be well-informed enough to make an educated decision. In short, those who care about the public health need a marketing campaign as efficient as theirs. And if that includes making such publicity-stunt gestures as introducing regulations on fast food or suing Nabisco for the trans-fats in Oreos, so be it.

  8. Jacob says:

    Now Zhubin, it’s no fair criticizing my slippery slope argument when you’re just one comment away from jumping onto a sled.

  9. Jacob says:

    Your comment just inspired me to Google Gibson’s My Word column and read the first one that came up. Good God, asinine doesn’t begin to describe it!

  10. Zhubin says:

    Oh, I’m not about to jump on any sleds. The obesity epidemic is nowhere near costly enough yet, and these new studies that are saying the claims are exaggerated have also caught my eye. And the imposition of freedom it would require is MUCH more significant than against smokers, which alters the calculus further. I’ll admit, my increasing difficulty finding dress shirts in my size has me somewhat biased, but I’m willing to shed my prejudices to look at the evidence. I’m just saying that, again, this is a practical issue, and there IS a cost where regulation is justified. You disagree?

    If you’re like me, you’ll probably start reading him regularly now, just to enrage yourself. They’re not even real columns – it just sounds like they gave some old guy a pad and let him ramble. And that closing “And that’s My Word” makes me want to punch him in the mouth.

  11. Dante says:

    Zuhbin, the only reason you think you have an argument here is that you have chosen to foist the costs of will-less fatasses and smokers on yourself by supporting extensive public health systems. You thereby reason that this is your, or worse yet, “our” problem. You are my moral equal, not my superior and therefore are in no position to foist massive failures of personality and personal choice on me. Obesity is not my problem. If you choose to make it yours, fine; don’t call me and don’t send your gestapo to ask me to open my wallet ‘or else’.

    I’m glad I don’t run a blog b/c I couldn’t be as constantly cordial as Jacob. The bitterly indifferent part of me would rather pay for someone to forklift a 400lb coronary victim off the road than pay for his gastric bypass surgery. Your philosophy would force me to support his self-destructive behavior by absolving him of many consequences of his actions. That philosophy is a perverse and bankrupt one.

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