Sunday, September 03, 2006

Hearing on new anti-smoking ordinance on Sept. 11

I plan on attending the hearing on the proposed anti-smoking ordinance which will be held in the City-County Building. The proposed ordinance would prohibit smoking in all public places except for private residences, hotel rooms that are designated as smoking rooms, private clubs, and tobacco shops.

I do not smoke but I am of course opposed to this ordinance because it violates the personal liberties of individuals and the property rights of business owners. But since nobody on the City and County Councils seems to give a flip about personal liberties or property rights, I intend to point out the following:

1. The new ordinance will cause locally owned restaurants and bars to lose business since it will drive away customers who smoke. The only establishments that smokers will continue to business with are places that have drive-thru or delivery service. In other words, the only places that will not be harmed by this are fast food joints and pizza parlors.

2. The new law would cause more "brain drain". Many young adults, including college students and recent graduates, smoke. Some have a regular habit, others smoke only in social settings. They all go to bars and restaurants in order to socialize and meet people. If this ordinance passes, these young people will have to choose one of the following:
A. Give up smoking.
B. Give up their social life.
C. Leave Allen County.
Which do you think they will choose?


  1. If you're honest, you should probably just stop with the principled argument that a ban violates liberty and the pursuit of happiness and the freedom of assembly. If that doesn't convince people, then practical arguments of questionable evidence probably won't either.

    For instance, as someone who lives in NYC, I heard both those arguments - and others - posited when our Mayor was pushing for a universal ban. And I actually believed them. Problem is, neither turned out to be true. Businesses, including bars (we don't have many bowling alleys), haven't been hurt in the slightest. And re: brain drain, what city has more college-educated 20-somethings than NYC?! The ban certainly doesn't seem to keep them away. (Of course NYC has other things to offer them, which obviously FW lacks, but that's another story. Actually, there might be an argument there somewhere. But still... )

    Now as a fellow libertarian, I completely agree with you and would vigorously oppose a ban. But I wouldn't do so on pragmatic grounds. I mean come on, to be honest, there really aren't any. Smoking sucks (even 99% of smokers say so) and second-hand smoke, though not as unhealthy as some would have us believe, certainly in no picnic to be around. In other words, it's no use trying to convince (a majority of) people on pragmatic grounds that they'd be better off without the ban. They wouldn't be! But it's of every use trying to convince them that such heavy-handed laws are a slippery slope toward totalitarianism. John Adams said, "Nip the shoots of arbitrary power in the bud, is the only maxim which can ever preserve the liberties of any people." That's the only real argument. That's the only one that is worth making. Sadly, of course, it won't work. Principle is almost non-existent in the governing or the governed.

    That said, though, it's still fun being a libertarian, no?!

  2. Robert,

    Sorry, I kind of just jumped right in and rambled. Bad form, though; I should have introduced myself. I read your blog occasionally, as I do others in my hometown of FW, and I happen to be a die-hard libertarian. I really wasn't disagreeing so much as I was coming along-side you in your efforts. Keep up the good work.

    Scott Greider

  3. I plan to leave Allen county not because of smoking regulation, but because of the proposed consolidated government. I think centralized government will respond even less to citizens than it does now.
    If the reorganization doesn't happen , the mayor of Fort Wayne said he will aggressively seek to annex unincorporated areas. Not a good deal for me either.

  4. I am honest, Scott. First of all, a Libertarian can usually get better results when he makes his arguments on pragmatic grounds rather than principle. For example, take the draft. I say that conscription is involuntary servitude and is prohibited by the 13th Amendment. Someone else says that all Americans have a duty to serve. The conversation is deadlocked, and I can't get anywhere. But if I say that a modern military needs highly trained specialists and not more cannon fodder, then I start to make ground.

    I sincerely believe that, at least on the south side of Fort Wayne, this will drive away restaurant customers. I know the issue of brain drain is very important to Mr. Crawford. And in any realpolitik discussion, jobs will always take precedence over public health. Healthy people who want to be healthy will have trouble staying that way if they do not have a job and cannot afford to see a doctor. People who do not want to be healthy will always find a way to slowly destroy themselves, job or no job.

    And what is pragmatic (or at least perceived as such) in a city of 8 million is way different from what is pragmatic in a city of 220,000. Your city stopped growing because of restrictive housing regulations, but people still want to live there. Fort Wayne on the other hand has numerous vacant houses. I pay less in rent to live in a house than what you would pay to live in a studio apartment. The rent is cheap in Fort Wayne because not very many people want to live here. Any new law that further restricts our freedoms will only serve to drive more people away.

  5. Robert,

    I SOOO agree with Scott on this one. I strongly encourage you to focus on property rights and personal liberty. Those are the real issues, as you've already said.

    So what if the council doesn't give a flip? You're not going to fix any of that by falling into their trap and giving them pragmatic arguments. You only leave yourself open to easy outs, they will be able to find cases where what you say did not happen.

    It's so screwed up now and if anything is going to change we are going to have to continually beat the drum of the basics of libertarian philosophy. No one will ever even begin to think about those things if you keep avoiding it to be practical.

    Here's how screwed up it is: down here they used an example of a Cheddar's that was smoke free and how they are busting at the seams they are so busy. No one bothered to mention that the place went smoke free VOLUNTARILY. Instead, they used this as an example of why the government needed to get involved in a smoking ban!!! Can you believe that? If we don't help keep the focus where it should be then we deserve to have crap like that thrown at us.

  6. Having argued this in several locations (Indy, Fishers, Carmel, Greenfield, Franklin), here's my two cents:

    Take the side of the business property owners and extol their right to choose.

    When I spoke before city and town councils, I conceded the health aspects outright, and shifted the debate to the issue of property rights. I also pointed out that nobody went to a bar expecting a health spa. But mainly, in the United States of America, a business property owner should have the right to set his own policies within his four walls.

    Point out also that those business which had the foresight to choose a no-smoke policy voluntarily would lose the edge they once had if every other business was also made smoke-free by force of law. A universal no-smoke policy *penalizes* those who voluntarily chose it.

    In the end, the council will pass a measure, but if you are persuasive, they may well water it down. At the very least, you the candidate will have business owners who will be ready to support your campaign, and thereby put pressure on those who would write such laws.

  7. I like what Mike Kole said. Some people argue for liberty, others argue for the greatest good for the greatest number. I firmly believe that liberty is the greatest good for the greatest number.

    This is what I will do. I will concede the health aspects. I will say that allowing restuarants to choose whether or not to become smoke free will give customers the choice of what kind of environment to eat in. Restuarants that are smoke-free would be wise to advertise that fact so to attract the kind of customers who want to eat in such a place. When I do have a family, I will take them to non-smoking restaurants. I will not be taking them to the After Dark Bar, so I really do not care what transpires there.

  8. Jeff, try to stay for just another year. For the first time ever, Libertarians will be running for city council and mayor. If elected we will not annex any neighborhood against the wishes of its residents. Personally, I think that any neighborhood that wishes to withdraw from Fort Wayne should be allowed to do so as well.