Nanny (Nanny State) Boo Boo

By: - April 6, 2007 8:09 am

Although I'm a day late, I can't pass on the opportunity to talk about the libertarian editorial from yesterday's N&O.  Bravely coming out against Prohibition, Brian Irving also made the daring point that the War on Drugs is not working.  Word to your mother, Bri, but what on earth does that have to do with Rep. Hugh Holliman's proposed ban on smoking in the workplace?  He's not suggesting banning tobacco or cigarettes.  He's not even trying to prohibit smoking.  He hasn't declared war on nicotine.  All he's trying to do, though apparently not enough legislators are brave enough to join him, is to protect workers from having to breathe second-hand smoke.  We know that breathing smoke from someone's cigarette is dangerous for our hearts and lungs.  Why not protect workers from something even Bush's administration has admitted is harmful?  I mean, really, if folks who deny global warming believe it, it must be pretty well established.

NANNY STATE CRUSADERS EMPLOY a flawed interpretation of "public health," to justify limits on personal freedom in order to protect us from ourselves. Originally, public health meant programs aimed at eradicating communicable diseases such as malaria, typhus and polio. Today, that includes the bird flu and chemical or biological terrorism."

Ah, here's the rub.  Brian doesn't believe that preventing the inevitable health complications of second-hand smoke is a worthy "public health" goal.  No matter how many times I read that paragraph, it still doesn't tell me why protecting people from conditions known to cause chronic sickness and death is "flawed" or somehow not within the purview of "public health."  No matter, however, since I did learn that the ban "isn't a 'public health' issue. It's about the fundamental idea of our Republic: individual rights and property rights."  Again, however, I don't see the point made convincingly, since businesses are expected to conform to many health and safety regulations, of which this would just be one more.  Besides that, there are provisions in the latest version of the bill exempting certain businesses, like bars that don't serve food and have a clientele over the age of 21, that serve only adults.  Thus Brian's snippy contention that the government is trying to treat us like little children is even less true.  If you're really not a child, you can have at it.  But you can't pretend that just because you own a property means you can do whatever you want inside it.  From fire-starting to child labor, the government has plenty of reason to regulate your business.

Finally, as far as I can tell, Holliman's bill would protect one of our most fundamental functions, if not rights, that to a clean breath of sweet, sweet air.  Air that's not owned by your boss or your coworker or the government.  Just air, that's all around us, and that, like chocolate, water, and "The Sopranos", is essential to life itself.

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