Saturday, January 21, 2006

Surrounded by Fascists

Linked from "The United Pro Choice Smokers Rights Newsletter", a highly amusing and sensible report of a young man's demolition of his teacher's arguments in support of a smoking ban recently passed in New Jersey. Be sure to read "New Jersey Smoking Ban a Strike Against Freedom" by 16 year old Thomas Facchine, who "has a keen interest in economics and music, and is surrounded by fascists."

Our teacher, in expected fashion, shrieked panegyrics for the bill and its aim. He explained how the just and insightful men who voted in favor of the bill had finally honored his right to clean air in bars, restaurants, clubs, and bowling alleys (note, casinos are exempt under this legislation due to "political necessity," see above links). A few other students in the class seemed to agree with him. They nodded in approval as they reasoned that because smoking is bad for your health, it should be outlawed, for interest of the "public health." Right?

I remained silent for most of my teacher's ranting, but I found I could only let so much penetrate the minds of my classmates' uncontested. After a sarcastic comment about the soon-to-follow suspension of habeas corpus, I found myself subject to the inquisition of my history teacher. He asserted his previous statements, attempting to prove that because it was violating his right to clean air, law needed passing. Let us assume that I do have a right to clean air. Does that imply that I have the right to dictate what other people do with their bodies and their time in a situation where I choose to surround myself with a physical risk? No, it does not. Never does my personal preference provide justification for the violation of another person's property rights. I contended, in the company of a largely apathetic class, that an individual has the right to their bodies, and all other property that they possess. Thus, even if it harms an individual, that individual has the right to engage in that activity, so long as it does not infringe on any other individuals' rights.

My teacher rebutted by claiming that he possessed the right to be healthy and free of second hand smoke.

Let us now assume that I own a room, dubbed Room A. Further assume that a certain friend of mine owns a room, named Room B. Both rooms are opened for the purpose of some sale of a good (to be consistent, assume it to be a bar). I elucidated that as the owner of Room A, I had the right to either allow or disallow smoking in it. No one has the right to come into my room and demand, by edict of law and by point of a gun, that I must forbid the use of tobacco on my property. To do so would be a violation of my property rights.


Robert McClelland said...

First off it's ridiculous that you're regurgitating this pap from a snot nosed kid who is merely regurgitating the talking points of second hand smoke murderers. What? If you can invoke fascism, I can most certainly refer to people who subject other people to their carcinogens as second hand smoke murderers.

Anyway, let's apply this puerile logic to another situation. Lets say I own a room and decide to serve hamburgers to the public in that room. And lets say that I make those burgers from spoiled meat. According to this insipid logic, if anyone were to force me to not serve spoiled meat to the public it would be a violation of my property rights.

MapMaster said...

Your example begs the question: Are you proposing to own a room that serves hamburgers to the public made from spoiled meat that are fraudulently claimed to be of unspoiled meat? If not, and you admit the burgers are made of spoiled meat, then the public is exposed to the same decision of weighing the same marginal benefits and costs that it is in the smoking room. They willingly obtain the risks. If so, however, and you do not admit your burgers are made from spoiled meat, you are perpetuating a fraud and a crime — an entirely different matter than your analogy proposes to suggest.

Anonymous said...

Mapmaster might be missing the essential point. The employees of the Spoiled-Meat Room will all have to injest the spoiled meat as well. delivery people, service people; anyone going into the room will consume spoiled meat whether they agreed to beforehand or not. Certainly the pro-spoiled meat faction will argue that these people can get another job, but that argument belies reality.

MapMaster said...

Certainly the pro-spoiled meat faction will argue that these people can get another job, but that argument belies reality.

What reality does that argument belie? Before the law changed a couple of years ago, I certainly would not have undertaken employment in a bar or any place with a smoking area with the delusion that I would not be exposed to cigarette smoke. I'm not suggesting that public institutions should allow smoking — I have no opinion on that — but I can't think of any private institutions that people are compelled to go in. Even delivery or service people are capable of weighing the benefits of their job versus the fractional costs of temporary exposure to smoke or, in the case of most, residual effects of smoke (for most, I should think that the costs would be less than incurred driving on busy city streets). In any case, at a societal scale the marginal benefits of protecting a very few people from the marginal costs of exposure to second-hand smoke are far outweighed by the heavy-handed expropriation of property rights.