Assaulting Liberty Through Regulation
By: J.J. Jackson
In the early 20th Century the temperance movement was in high gear. Slowly, county after county then state after state passed laws prohibiting the manufacture, distribution and consumption of alcohol within their borders. The excuse of the temperance movement was that alcohol was evil and a threat to the public health and those claims were eventually ramrodded down the throats of the whole of the American people in the form of the 18th Amendment. Even in those days, those that would become the modern liberals of today were trying to mold society to their whims.
What they did was take something that most people enjoyed and consumed responsibly and focused on the deadbeats who would also get drunk, urinate in public, beat their wives, vandalize property and paint with a broad brush everyone that consumed alcohol. They then branded alcohol as â€œevilâ€ and â€œwickedâ€ and eventually won enough support for their own little crusade against liberty. Instead of punishing those that were committing crimes, which is what limited and just government is supposed to do, they punished everyone and shackled Lady Liberty.
We also know how well that worked out in the end donâ€™t we?
Sure we do. Thousands of people were out of work as breweries were shut down and the industries that supplied those breweries lost demand for their products. Backwoods distilleries popped up. Some of these illegal stills cut their alcohol with substances not fit for human consumption. Moonshine was being run by bootleggers all over the country. And even many of federal agents charged with breaking up the now illegal distilleries were involved in making illegal liquor because they could make more calling off sick for a couple days and concocting illegal brew than they could working for the government in a month.
Yeah, prohibition worked great didnâ€™t it? Ah yes the great and powerful government sure saved us from our liberties didnâ€™t they? Can you just hear the sarcasm oozing from my voice?
So what did we get for all this trouble? Not much except the eventual repeal of this absolutely silly attempt at controlling human behavior and liberty with yet another amendment. We again returned to a state where liberty, on this issue, reigned and we focused again on people that abused the liberty of others.
So you would think that we wouldnâ€™t try it again. You would think that we would have learned our lesson. But liberals donâ€™t think. Thatâ€™s the problem. Their rearview mirror is broken and they canâ€™t see history to learn from it.
Today there is a new bogeyman; a new â€œtemperance movementâ€. The latest cause celeb of the left in their pursuit of infringing liberty is of course none other than smoking. And make no mistake those that are driving us down this latest road to ruin are no friends to liberty.
Recently, for example, the county of Allegheny where my home city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is located, tried to join the growing list of places around the country that have banned smoking everywhere they could get away with it. Note that I didnâ€™t say they tried to ban tobacco or cigarettes. They wouldnâ€™t do that. Oh no, they just wanted to ban smoking such products in restaurants and bars, which they refer to as places of â€œpublic accommodationâ€. Places of â€œpublic accommodationâ€, just so you know, is code for private property government and nebby do-gooders want to regulate and need some auspices to do so.
What they really tried to do was tell private citizens who own private businesses that they could not allow their employees or their patrons to smoke in their establishments. Mind you this was after many of them had invested thousands, if not tens of thousands, of their own dollars in special ventilation and air conditioning systems to keep smokers and non-smokers separate from each other.
Now, maybe you are a liberal. And maybe you feel that is a good idea and that government should do this. If that is the case, I weep for you.
The smoking ban and the assault on private property was touted by those that promoted it much in the same way the prohibition movement was way back when alcohol was the boogeyman. It was deemed as necessary because smoking is dangerous and harmful to oneâ€™s health and as a result also to society. You know, since we now have a largely public healthcare system funded by tax payer dollars which in and of itself is unkind to personal liberty. Some of them even trotted out the old canard that smoking â€œcausesâ€ cancer despite the truth that it only increases the risk of getting cancer.
This is much like saying that depressing the gas pedal of a car makes it go forward. No, it doesnâ€™t. It only increases the chance of that happening. There are many other things that also have to be true in order for the car to go forward such as there being gas in the tank, the ignition being turned on, the car in the proper forward gear, and many, many other things.
Like the gas pedal of a car, if smoking, or even second hand smoke for that matter, â€œcausedâ€ cancer or any other disease then everyone that smoked or was exposed to smoke would have that disease. But we know that is not true. So we are back to the fact that smoking simply â€œincreasesâ€ the risk of getting cancer.
Well la dee freaking dah! If thatâ€™s all it takes to ban something Iâ€™ve got a whole list of such things that need to be banned based on the fact that they â€œincreaseâ€ the risks of people being harmed. These things range from driving which increases peopleâ€™s risk of being in a fatal car accident, to swimming which dramatically increases the chance of one drowning, to sky diving which greatly increases the risk of people getting messily splattered all over the concrete. Should we ban these activities in public as well?
Then there are others who said that the ban would be a good thing because they did not like going to their favorite restaurant or bar and having to put up with smokers, which they claimed, put them at risk. To which I asked the question, â€Why just simply not go there?â€ Then I asked what gave them the right to tell Joeâ€™s Bar on the corner that he could not let his patrons have a cigarette on property he bought and paid for. I still, to this day, have not received a reasoned answer that did not involve someone believing that they have the right to pursue their happiness (i.e. eating at a particular restaurant) at the expense of someone elseâ€™s liberty (i.e. their private property rights).
Then of course there were the cries about â€œthe childrenâ€. Aw. We all got teary eyed at that one. Even me as I opened up my humidor, picked out a nice cigar and lit up. Taking a long puff, allowing the fine smoke to tickle my pallet I recalled far more hazardous things that happen to children.
Just last week for example we had an example where two women here in Pittsburgh left their young children locked in a bed room while they went out to the local bar. Five of these children are now dead because they decided to play with matches and were not being supervised when they burned down the house.
Yes, Iâ€™d say there are certainly more harmful things to children than my occasional cigar. Neglectful parents more worried about their own pleasure than their childrenâ€™s welfare comes to mind. And of course the excuses for these women have already started as to why they should not be at the very least partially accountable.
I think that is where the whole desire to regulate the behavior of others comes from; people not wanting to be held accountable for their own actions. Or maybe it isnâ€™t not wanting to be held accountable but simply being unable to control themselves. Either way there are many people that are eager to seize upon these types of attitudes and enslave those that cannot or will not be accountable for their own choices while punishing the rest of us as well.
The good news is the county smoking ban here went down in flames. This of course lead to lots of hand wringing and whining by those that really wanted it. I am certain that these are the same people that need government to tell them how many gallons of water are in their toilet and also, most likely, how to properly wipe their posteriors after using it.
Those that seek to control others really wanted the ban because the second they would have been able to ban smoking, again but not ban tobacco, cigarettes, etc., in restaurants and bars it would have been a stepping stone to banning smoking everywhere including in private residences â€œfor the common goodâ€. If you think otherwise you havenâ€™t been paying attention.
But despite the crash and burn of the Allegheny County smoking ban the Commonwealth is pondering a state wide smoking ban for much the same reasons as the county ban was proposed. Again, they are not going to ban cigarettes and other tobacco products which they decry as bad, evil and a pox on our society mind you. They just want to tell us how to use our private property and that we cannot use it to partake of perfectly legal indulgences such as smoking.
And maybe when all is said and done we here in Pennsylvania will give up our liberties just as the people in New Hampshire did when they recently passed a similar statewide ban. Apparently that Stateâ€™s motto has now been changed from â€œLive Free Or Dieâ€ to â€œFreedom? We Donâ€™t Need No Stinkinâ€™ Freedom!â€
J.J. Jackson’s weekly articles are available at Liberty Reborn along with other exclusive content not published anywhere else.
J.J. Jackson is a libertarian conservative author from Pittsburgh, PA who has been writing and promoting individual liberty since 1993 and is President of Land of the Free Studios, Inc. He is the Pittsburgh Conservative Examiner for Examiner.com. He is also the owner of The Right Things - Conservative T-shirts & Gifts The Right Things. His weekly commentary along with exclusives not available anywhere else can be found at Liberty Reborn.