by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Control freaks want to run your life. They call themselves “public servants.”
But whether student council president, environmental bureaucrat or member of Congress, most believe they know how to run your life better than you do.
I admit I was once guilty of this kind of thinking. As a young consumer reporter, I researched what doctors said was bad for us and what products might harm us. Then I demanded that the state pass rules to protect us from those things.
The concept of individual freedom was not yet on my radar screen. I apologize. I was ignorant and arrogant.
But at least I had no real power. I couldn’t force consumers to avoid unhealthy things or pay for certain kinds of health care. I couldn’t force any business to stop selling something. Only government can do that. Only government can use force.
Sadly, government is filled with people just as ignorant and arrogant as I was. …
… I selfishly like smoking bans. I don’t like breathing others’ smoke. But the majority of us shouldn’t force our preferences on the minority, even if they do things that are dangerous. Smokers ought to be allowed to smoke in some bars, if the bar owners allow it. But today in about half the states, no one may smoke in any bar.
It’s totalitarianism from the health police. If secondhand smoke were dangerous enough to threaten non-smokers, the control freaks would have a point, but it isn’t. It barely has any detectable health effect at all.
Rule-makers always want more. At first, they just asked for bans on TV’s cigarette ads. Then they demanded no-smoking sections in restaurants. Then bans in airplanes, schools, workplaces, entire restaurants. Then bars, too. Now sometimes even apartments and outdoor spaces.
Can’t smokers have some places?