Thursday, May 7, 2009

Smoking Bans and Social Contracts

I'm having a very hard time sympathizing with opponents of the new smoking ban compromise, especially the crowd who have taken up the "Our Liberty is under attack!" line of argument. These cases usually come in the form of a cocktail mixed with economic impact assertions and the specter of Big Government looming over the masses ready to crack down on individual liberties at the first chance. This is all nonsense and simplifies the most important balancing act faced by any democratic society: the conflict between the rights of the individual and will of the people.

So let's forget about the economics of tavern ownership and the public health ramifications of second hand smoke for a moment and look at one of the anti-ban arguments:
This constant, ever-creeping control over more and more of our lives is a bad trend. This smoking ban is done to save us from ourselves.


It's all about saving us from ourselves, because they know better.
The italicized they (from the original) above is presumably the government, or more specifically the State of Wisconsin (though I'd be willing to agree it's nebulous enough to admit several readings). Unfortunately that's only half the story here.

It's not just the government that wants to ban smoking, but it's also a vast majority of the people. Last year a poll registered support for a smoking ban at almost 70% (we'll get to the attendant caveats about said poll below). That number has been growing over the years. Typically when public support for an issue is that high, interest groups start to rally support and put pressure on law-makers to take action.

And therein lies the conflict. There's been serious talk of a smoking ban in Wisconsin for around a decade now and during that time the balance between the rights of smokers to light up in bars has been weighed against a desire by the majority of the public to see a smoking ban. Wisconsin is now clearly at the point where an ever increasing majority of people are unwilling to continue to abide the habits of an ever decreasing portion of the population. That's not robbing folks of their liberties -- that's just part of the social contract members of a democratic society live under.

Now if there is any suspicion that the elected officials who brokered the smoking ban deal are, in fact, not acting in response to their constituents and are just doing this "because they know better," then the burden of proof is on the accuser. Where are the polls that show overwhelming public support against smoking bans? The poll cited above came from the American Cancer Society, which has a dog in this fight to be sure, but where is the public opinion argument coming from the anti-ban folks? And to anticipate the standard arguments about polling, etc. -- let's put it this way: is there anyone against the smoking ban who would put the matter to a statewide winner-take-all referendum? Probably not.

Social mores change -- and right now, thanks to decades of scientific studies and recent smoking bans elsewhere in the country, the vast majority of people in Wisconsin are arriving at the conclusion that smoking in bars is no longer an acceptable practice. They're coming to this conclusion at a time when the state legislature is agreeing with them, the state executive is on board, and the state courts don't have any problem with the change (all of which are institutions designed to hold in check the various "tyrannies of the majority").

To say that this the hijacking of "basic rights" is absurd. Over the course of a long period of time the state has weighed the balance between the will of the people to enact a smoking ban and the "rights" of the impacted individuals. That's how the system works.


No Tobacco said...

We are born in a smoke free world and it is just right that we strive to offer our children the same kind of environment. Be involved and help empower everyone by taking part in the yearly WORLD NO TOBACCO DAY which will be on May 31st!

Anonymous said...

в анусе у малолетки студенческие вечеринки онлайн видео порно видео онлайн школьницы изнасилования [url=][/url]