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Jewish World Review
Nov. 30, 2005
/ 28 Mar-Cheshvan, 5766
In a truly free society, we don't all have to make the same decisions
Smoking can kill you. That's why I don't smoke, and it's why you
There. I've just done the only things that should be done in a
free society to stop people from smoking: I've told you that it's dangerous,
I've urged you not to do it, and I've even set a good example. If you'd like
other people to be healthy, you should also discourage smoking, too.
But if you'd like to be free, and you'd like your neighbor to be
free, that's all you should do. It isn't my business to come into your home
or business and stop you or your guests from smoking. If you like smoking so
much you're willing to give up years off your life 6.6 years for the
average man that should be your choice. I have no right to force you to
The busybodies, however, want to force you to stop. When they
get themselves elected, they can. Sadly, it's the busybodies who most often
run for public office. Most of us want to run our own lives, and help people
by selling them things, or offering them charity or advice any of which
they can take or leave. People who want to run other people's lives are ...
different. They are the people we should be most worried about.
I once interviewed the mayor of the tiny community of Friendship
Heights, Md. He got his town to pass the most stringent anti-smoking law in
America. It banned cigarette smoke outdoors.
"We're elected to promote the general welfare, and this is part
of the general welfare," he told me. After I interviewed him, he was
arrested for touching a 14-year-old boy's genitals in a bathroom at
Washington National Cathedral. The village council finally repealed his law.
Finally, we know what it takes to get an anti-smoking law repealed.
Unfortunately, the busybodies keep running for office and, once
elected, keep imposing new restrictions on our freedom.
So far, they haven't prohibited smoking entirely. So far. But
Tom Constantine, who ran the Drug Enforcement Administration under President
Clinton, once told me: "When we look down the road, I would say 10, 15, 20
years from now, in a gradual fashion, smoking will probably be outlawed in
the United States."
That is the road we're moving down. New York and California
already ban smoking in restaurants and bars. All but two counties of West
Virginia have some sort of anti-smoking law. Two cities in Georgia have,
like Friendship Heights, banned smoking in public parks. This week,
Chicago's city council may ban smoking in most public places.
The excuse is secondhand smoke. But there's only flimsy evidence
that secondhand smoke is harmful. Studies were done on people who lived with
smokers and were exposed to huge amounts of secondhand smoke at home and in
cars. The idea that restaurant patrons are threatened is silly, and it's
even sillier to fear exposure outdoors. But the politicians have become
Granted, secondhand smoke is a nuisance. But so are many other
If I don't like secondhand smoke and I don't I can choose
to go to restaurants that don't have smoking, just as I can choose
restaurants that don't have bad music. If I don't want to work in a smoky
place, I don't have to.
But when the politicians ban smoking in bars, people who
actually like old-fashioned smoky bars are stopped, by force, from enjoying
the kinds of establishments they like. Smoky bars cease to exist. Workers
who don't mind smoke are deprived of jobs. Can't the smokers have some bars?
Most Americans don't smoke. If we make it clear we want
smoke-free restaurants, many existing businesses will choose to go
smoke-free and new ones will open. That's a much better idea than
politicians imposing force on everyone.
Some people think the government must decide everything. But
when government decides, minorities, even large minorities, lose rights.
When we get to make our own decisions, we don't all have to make
the same decisions. Some of the time, at least, we can all get what we
want even when we don't all want the same thing.
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Give Me a Break
Stossel explains how ambitious bureaucrats, intellectually lazy reporters, and greedy lawyers make your life worse even as they claim to protect your interests. Taking on such sacred cows as the FDA, the War on Drugs, and scaremongering environmental activists -- and backing up his trademark irreverence with careful reasoning and research -- he shows how the problems that government tries and fails to fix can be solved better by the extraordinary power of the free market. Sales help fund JWR.
JWR contributor John Stossel is co-anchor of ABC News' "20/20." To comment, please click here.
© 2005, by JFS Productions, Inc.
Distributed by Creators Syndicate, Inc.
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