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Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Where There's Smoke, There's Government Intrusion

From LewRockwell.com:
This is still a free country, right? Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation to more closely regulate the wages that firms pay workers and to more strictly regulate tobacco products by putting them under FDA supervision.
The Los Angeles City Council also approved a one-year moratorium on new fast-food restaurants in a 32-square-mile low-income area in the city; the poor, after all, have “above-average rates of obesity” and must be protected from themselves.
Perhaps the government may just want to ask people if they are poor before we let them enter certain restaurants.
Barack Obama promises a national ban on smoking in public places. Such micro-managing of people's behavior will likely only get worse, as anyone who has been to countries such as Sweden can attest.
Heh, I shouldn't be surprised about this from Obama. That proposal just makes the federal government even more powerful. Shouldn't such an idea be reserved for the states instead of forced on the states by an intrusive federal law or regulation.

Here's something else worth noting:

Proposals such as Obama’s for a national ban on smoking in public places have their own problems. The ultimate objection to smoking focuses on the harm that it imposes on others. The evidence for harm from second-hand smoke is extremely weak, but, for the sake of argument, let’s accept the claim.

Environmental problems arise because the costs of polluters’ actions are passed on to other people. The classic case is the “common pool” or “overfishing” problem. Fishermen tend to overfish an area until the fishery is depleted. If one fisherman lets a fish go so that it can spawn, there is no guarantee that another fisherman won’t catch that same fish. But this problem is eliminated in privately-owned fisheries, such as private lakes or fish farms. If a fishery is running low on fish, the owner can leave fish to spawn, knowing that no one else will catch them.

Outdoor air pollution suffers a similar “common pool” problem; if too many individuals or companies emit too much pollution, the combined result can produce illness and even death. Everything from cars to power plants emits byproducts that can be classified as harmful, but no one would argue that we should eliminate cars and power plants because their pollution costs outweigh all their benefits. Similar to fishermen out at sea, individual car makers or factory owners are unlikely to take into account the cost that their pollution imposes upon others. Altruism only goes so far. This creates a legitimate space for government intervention – governments can regulate pollution levels by limiting, taxing, or otherwise restricting pollution emissions.


Allowing the government – whether federal, state, or local – to regulate pollution may be necessary, but we can only watch with dismay as the government uses this authority to steadily expand its coercive powers. In doing so, it inevitably begins mandating solutions to tangential “problems” that are best left to the market to solve. Solutions that actually make the country poorer.
I know that people can argue about whether second hand smoke is sound. I can't say I've done enough reading about second hand smoke but I can certainly pick up that even amongst doctors or scientists there is a disagreement over the merits of second hand smoke. This is one reason why I can't support these smoking bans. Plus the fact that such ideas can be seen as fads of the moment.

Now if there is a need for a national health-care system this would bother me:
When I visited Sweden in back in 1979, Swedes were worried that binge drinkers were damaging their health. But shouldn’t how much people drink in the privacy of their own home be their own business? Not to other Swedes, who worried that the government health care system meant they would have to pick up others’ medical costs.

I watched the television news in horror as police broke into homes and took people to detox centers after neighbors alerted the government to people who they felt were drinking too much. But they were equally outraged that people would do things to their bodies that would make others pay for their health care.
I don't want people feeling that they have a right to intrude on what I do in the privacy of my own home. Especially if I am to be responsible for my own behavior and how it affects me. It shouldn't boil down to because everyone else is paying for it.

Also wouldn't it just be better to change the system if you're concerned about having to pay for someone else's risky behavior? I certainly don't want to pay for treating someone else's risky behavior. Indeed I don't want to be an enabler either. But I sure don't have any intentions to intrude on someone else's privacy thinking only of myself.

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