Anti-Smoking Campaign: Another Example Of Why Citizens Need To Be Vigilant With Its Freedoms

Well, that was one fun slippery slope, huh?

It's now illegal to smoke in your own car if there are children present.

Of course, the first instinct that may spring to mind is, as it was for my wife, 'I'm fine with that because why should other people be uncomfortable?'

There's so much wrong with that and points how deep paternalism under the guise of protecting us runs.

Mencken once said something along the lines of that the hardest part about freedom is to defend unpopular people who say unpopular things.

Indeed, we see how unhinged we've become from language laws in Quebec to climate change cultists demanding skeptics be imprisoned to college students shrieking for 'trigger warnings'. It seems, everywhere we turn the big fat punitive thumb of the state or thoughtless, weak-minded individuals want to curb freedom of speech and expression, or worse, silence it.

And make no mistake about it. There is a war on freedom of speech. If you don't see it, you're not observing hard enough.

The key here is to understand what 'you're fine with' does to other people. As Bastiat argued, it's important to examine the unseen or unintended consequences of one's actions or policies. Only then will you *see* the impact and from there to discern if it's faulty (which is usually the case because activist public policy is often based on faulty, illiberal premises). In other words, look at the results; something we do not do very well. The *idea* - or if you prefer - the good intentions of the idea prevails over the actual performance and result.

Back in the 1980s, it was argued embarking on a smoking crusade would inevitably end up as an assault on people's civil liberties in the private sphere. The reaction, for the most part, was 'you're paranoid'.

Who's paranoid now again?

Still not armed with an actual empirical study that concludes smoking causes cancer (as well as the absurd second and third hand smoke kills bull shit), we've all but destroyed the rights of a group of people who choose to smoke. We all make choices that another may not make for we are our own moral agents.

It's none of one's business how another person runs their own private life. I have no idea how it came to be accepted that it does. This is the soft-underbelly of tyranny in a democracy.

The anti-smoking campaign is filled with deceptions, hypocrisy and good old fashioned paternalism. The deception is the language used (and let's be frank, it is indeed a foul habit) to frighten people. The hypocrisy is the government's addiction (do not excuse the pun)  to the tax revenues (as they are with alcohol and gambling which destroy more lives than smoking ever could), and the paternalism is rooted in the assumption the someone else knows better and will demand through the coerced power of the law they act on your behalf in your *best interests*. Or more cynically in this case, 'for the children'.

The vapid notion that we have a *right* to intervene because they will *clog* up the health system is retarded. First of all, the system by its own design all but ensures it will be clogged. Second, everyone is forced to pay taxes on universal health including smokers. If they paid into it, then they're free to use it; to the extent they're *free* in such a rigid system.

Never mind that whenever a product is introduced into the market that has proven to be beneficial for people who want to kick the smoking habit, the government is there to make it illegal and drive it into the black market. 

That you *believe* this is the *right* thing to do is not a reason to form policy around it.  My wife said, 'Okay, so there's no conclusive proof but do you deny it makes lungs black?' This is how deep the zealotry runs. I pointed out people drink soft drinks that *could* lead to diabetes in cases where people are vulnerable to it. Should we ban it? While not a perfect analogy it was just to illustrate in how many directions this line of thinking can go. This hit hard because she loves Pepsi.

In fact, we can make an non-exhaustive list of foods and drinks potentially harmful to us. But here's the rub. We all are made up of different genetic make ups. One size fits all where consumption is concerned is asking to unleash unintended consequences. People will always find something sinister in something. Always.

Take climate change. Notice how climate change pimps ironically use the same sort of apocalyptic language we see in the Bible. They're probably unaware of it because they've dressed up their crusade in banal phrases like 'the science is settled' nonsense.

This is the part where I contend people are full of shit. But I digress.

Again, this is the evil side of the 'common good' fallacy. I'm of the opinion the common good is useless if you have no individual freedom.

Ask anyone and they will usually tell you they believe in liberty. But there really is an easy check list to determine if one really is. If you believe in 'balancing' free speech (including hate speech laws designed by government) you have abandoned the right to say you are. The second you accept policies and laws that infringe on the right on another person, you have decided to ignore your liberty impulsed. This is the part of the 'non-aggression principle' libertarians vigorously stand by. It's a powerful concept and one that takes internal understanding you can't save everyone and that you must accept people's decisions for they alone know what's best for them - right or wrong.

On yet another somewhat lame attempt to detract from this, is the use of 'what about seat belt laws?' as if they caught you in a trap - or the so-called 'you can't shout fire in a theater' line whenever the subject of freedom of speech arises. The latter is especially galling given it's perhaps the most misunderstood legal quip where the First Amendment is concerned. In fact, I hear it so often it made me wonder if anyone actually read the case that gave birth to it.

From The Atlantic:

"...But those who quote Holmes might want to actually read the case where the phrase originated before using it as their main defense. If they did, they'd realize it was never binding law, and the underlying case, U.S. v. Schenck, is not only one of the most odious free speech decisions in the Court's history, but was overturned over 40 years ago.

First, it's important to note U.S. v. Schenck had nothing to do with fires or theaters or false statements. Instead, the Court was deciding whether Charles Schenck, the Secretary of the Socialist Party of America, could be convicted under the Espionage Act for writing and distributing a pamphlet that expressed his opposition to the draft during World War I...)

So yes there is some consistency to the extent that people who use it as proof you can't say anything you want are aligned with the wrong side of what constitutes free speech as an absolute. Again, you can't balance speech. It's impossible. If you support it, you're misguided, misinformed and in the tyranny camp. Hate speech, moreover, is an invented term that is useless, meaningless, dangerous and fascistic. If you're a person who earns their stripes and bones in this area, you're doing your part to destroy liberty.

Or as TA puts it:

"Today, despite the "crowded theater" quote's legal irrelevance, advocates of censorship have not stopped trotting it out as thefinal word on the lawful limits of the First Amendment. As Rottman wrote, for this reason, it's "worse than useless in defining the boundaries of constitutional speech. When used metaphorically, it can be deployed against any unpopular speech." Worse, its advocates are tacitly endorsing one of the broadest censorship decisions ever brought down by the Court. It is quite simply, as Ken White calls it, "the most famous and pervasive lazy cheat in American dialogue about free speech." 

Read more on the subject from Ken Pope.

There's not doubt, in my view, libertarians are completely correct. Not only does it presume a basic and realistic understanding of virtues and vices in human nature, but it's a optimistic one to the extent humans can and should be trusted to run their own lives free of bureaucratic intervention.

The bottom line is, once again, what this law will likely do is negatively and disproportionately hurt low income families who are more likely to smoke. What's next? A war on Pepsi and chips?

Oh, T.C.! Now you're being paranoid!

Am I now?

The Americans have a saying.  Life, liberty in the pursuit of happiness.
A key component of this cherished concept is the idea of live and let live.

We live. But apparently we have to live vicariously through what other people deem to be appropriate 'happiness.' It's all so very, er, communistic. We seem to live to bust up and restrict other people's choices. 'Ooo, smoking is soooo icky and soooo not good for you! Ban it!'

Try and say, 'coffee has been *shown* to not be healthy. Maybe we need to restrict consumption' to such people and politicians.

Just pay attention to how they will ignore you.


Letting other people live is a problem for busy bodies and this is an essential part of being free.

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