The following letter appeared in yesterday’s Opelika-Auburn News:
To the Editor:
Nobody forces anyone to enter a particular restaurant. If the owner of a restaurant voluntarily allows smoking in his or her establishment, and nobody who dislikes smoking is forced to enter, then what is the problem? Going into a privately-owned restaurant where smokers voluntarily associate and then complaining about the smoke makes as much sense as going to a rock concert and then complaining that they won’t turn off the loud music.
Yes, smoking is dangerous to one’s health. So is mountain-climbing. Whether it’s a risk worth taking or not should be up to the individual to decide. I don’t smoke, but I can’t see that it’s any of my business whether others do.
What happened to the idea of free choice? Why can’t some restaurants allow smoking and others not allow smoking, and let everyone choose which restaurants to patronize? Why inject the violence of the state into a peaceful situation?
Other people will often make decisions in their personal lives that annoy us. They will worship the “wrong” god, have sex with the “wrong” people, buy the “wrong” things, forget to fasten their seatbelts, etc.
But they are human beings like us, not subordinates under our authority. So long as they’re peaceful, their choices are not ours to direct, just as ours are not theirs to direct.
Some of your readers appear to have forgotten the basic principle of civilized life: that other people are not our property.
Roderick T. Long
On a related subject, here’s a letter I wrote to Dear Abby (not published):
Your readers who supported the mother for turning her son and his friends over to the cops for drug use are confusing the legal with the ethical. Laws against drug use are profoundly immoral, since they treat human beings as though they were the property of the state; and this country was founded on the principle that an immoral law is not binding. “Second Guessing” should be ashamed of herself for siding with armed enforcers against her own son and injecting governmental violence into a peaceful situation.
Roderick T. Long
I agree with the non-smoking letter – provided the employees had a substantial say in the matter. For “substantial say” please read “own and control the place.”
The guy who makes the decision on whether or not to allow smoking in an unregulated environment is not the same guy who has to breathe it all day in exchange for tips, in most cases.
The guy who has to breathe it all day in exchange for tips can choose not to work there.
Mike: “The guy who has to breathe it all day in exchange for tips can choose not to work there.”
… so long as they have some choice over where they can earn their necessary means of subsistence, which minimum wage workers usually do not, and so long as when they do have a choice, those alternatives do have a no smoking policy, which they almost solely do not. I live in a fairly large city, and know of only one pub, bar or club that freely has a no-smoking policy. (Restaurants are a different matter, as they are regulated over here in Britain)
Roderick also says “so long as their activities are peaceful”; but it’s fairly obvious in this case that smoking does have negative effects on those around you.
Two wrongs don’t make a right, but one violent intervention by the state is best complimented with another and another and another….
Minimum wage reducing opportunity to work is a shitty excuse for imparting a ban on smoking in a private establishment. I’m sure you wouldn’t be hard-pressed to find servers who smoke, either. For those that don’t smoke, McDonalds is almost always hiring. Just don’t bitch that you have no other options because you wanted a guaranteed, market-ignorant wage then decide you have no place to work. I want to work for a million dollars a year, but – boohoo – I can’t find a job I like that pays that; there aught to be a law…
“The guy who has to breathe it all day in exchange for tips can choose not to work there.”
And you don’t like the smoking restrictions in your country/state/county/city, you can always move. (That was rhetorical, by the way.)
Pintofstout, I didn’t say I wanted a law to fix things.
“necessary means of subsistence”
This means whatever you want to read into it. This term is so vague as to mean anything. Value is subjective. Although Statists fear many things, an individual making up their own mind seems to be their worst fear of all. Whatever is not forbidden is compelled!
As far as a previous policy of coercion (perhaps, maybe) warranting another policy – in this case a smoking ban in the interest of employees – the same can be said for just about ANY situation that a worker finds herself in. Someone hawking glow-in-the-dark bracelets at a rock concert (loud music), working at a toll booth (car exhaust), etc.
Pointing out the atrophying of worker freedom due to a previous government policy is a good thing to remember, however. In fact, the atrophying of individual freedom at large due to social ignorance – not technically coercive – is also worth remembering.
I’m going to be fighting an uphill battle around here, so I won’t reply again, but a few points:
I didn’t really to imply that it’s minimum wage laws that are the issue, merely the fact that /lower wage/ workers don’t have much choice. I suppose they’d /arguably/ have more job choice if there were no minimum wage. Then again, as you say, two wrongs don’t make a right, and refusing them protection against passive smoking hardly compensates them for their lack of job choice.
By necessary means of subsistence, I meant something like a method of providing (at least) food, clothing and shelter for oneself and dependents.
It’s also worth noting that appeal to the choice of individuals is not solely a libertarian idea. The rest of us can also be very interested in freedom, and the fact that individuals should make up their own minds. It’s precisely that worry that leads me to think that regulation /might/ be beneficial if it gives workers the choice as to whether to inhale smoke or not. More generally, appealing to “freedom” in argument isn’t likely to settle the argument since that’s precisely what’s under dispute.
I stopped smoking in my house because my maid objected to the smell of tobacco smoke. I told her she could always quit if she didn’t like my smoking. But I figured India being a poor country there were few opportunities for her anywhere else.
Lately the maid has started objecting to washing dishes I use to prepare meat. She is a staunch vegeterian, like many Indians. I wonder what I should do.