Milestones on the Road to Hell

Elected officials often claim to favor certain legislation out of a sense of duty, rightness or moral obligation. It is oftener the case that those officials instead favor certain legislation because it in turn promises to keep them in power enjoying the perks, privileges and enrichments that their positions of authority garner for them.

In order to ensure this outcome, elected officials must get re-elected to positions that allow them to manipulate the law. But re-election to powerful political office can be difficult for candidates who respect the Constitution and proper purpose of government; which is to protect individual rights rather than violate them. It is much easier to win re-election by simply supporting and passing legislation that pleases a majority of voters in reckless disregard of its fidelity to our founding principles of individual liberty, free markets and limited government.

Rep. Melanie Wade Goodwin (D) (Montgomery, Richmond), in a recent email, has promised us her vote in favor of a ban on smoking in most private businesses legally defined as “public” – NC House Bill 259, Prohibit Smoking in Public Places. The bill is co-sponsored by local representative Susan Fisher.

The purported purpose of the bill is “to protect the health of individuals in public places and places of employment from the risks related to secondhand smoke.” The actual result of such a bill would be to violate the individual rights of private property owners who choose not to exhibit government-approved behaviors.

Representative Goodwin states that she favors this legislation because she “likes to breathe clean air.” Heaven forbid that Rep. Goodwin should also like to be a naturalist.

And she makes a further incredible and sweeping statement that she would in fact “like to ban smoking entirely.”

Setting aside the blatant totalitarian implications of this position, her immediate concern is that she does not “want to pay for someone else’s Medicaid expenses for complications from asthma or emphysema, their lung transplant, or their cancer chemo because they can’t afford private pay insurance and they use our Medicaid resources.” And she compares a ban on smoking to requiring seatbelts, saying that “taxpayers should not be required to pay for the results of people’s poor choices.”

I agree. Taxpayers should indeed not be required to pay for the results of peoples’ poor choices. However, this is what taxpayers get when they vote for socialism. Taxpayers pay for everything that the government deems desirable to provide. The beneficiaries of this distribution of wealth are seldom those who have produced that wealth. If they were, there would be no reason to confiscate that wealth in the first place. (The moral justification for this mentality stems from a misapprehension of the “general welfare” clause in the U.S. Constitution.)

Rather, and more important, the beneficiaries are more likely to be a poll-tested voting block who can perennially catapult elected officials to office and return them to their positions of granting largess to tax-consumers at the expense of society’s producers while reaping the prestige, perquisites and rewards that redound to their own benefit as a consequence of their retention.

Rep. Goodwin rounds out her argument by stating that “When the people who suffer don’t get to make the choice, as in second-hand smoke exposure, their smoke-related illnesses are tragic and needless.”

This is simply untrue. People who suffer are not deprived of their ability to choose among options in the marketplace. Both smokers and non-smokers can make the choice of where to work, dine, or congregate in other ways, of their own free wills without the cloying help of a paternalistic state. The only thing that can stand in their way is the police power of the government; which is precisely what Rep. Goodwin proposes. Rep. Goodwin would force private property owners to cater to her constituency at the expense of their own voluntary choice to cater to someone else.

Rep. Goodwin’s arrogant and condescending good intentions notwithstanding, the House Bill to ban smoking in public places is a heavy-handed and immoral violation of individual liberty. In a free society, individual property owners decide on what their smoking policy will be and allow mature, free adults to voluntarily decide on whether or not to patronize those businesses. If smoking is universally disfavored in society, then those businesses will either suffer or modify their policies.

It is the supreme mark of political cowardice to ignore the sworn duty to uphold the rights of individuals and instead pander to the shifting preferences of a voting block that can help to sustain the officeholder’s position of authority and their subsequent ability to blithely tinker with the lives and liberties of free Americans.

###

REFERENCES:

1. Rep. Melanie Wade Goodwin (D) (Montgomery, Richmond)
http://snipurl.com/1didv

2. NC House Bill 259, Prohibit Smoking in Public Places
http://snipurl.com/1di48

3. Email Correspondence:

From: Melanieg@ncleg.net
To: rhodarmerx15@…
Sent: Sun, 18 Mar 2007 8:07 AM
Subject: RE: HB 259 – Prohibiting Smoking In Public Places

I would love to ban smoking entirely. There are 170 of us in both chambers of the Legislature, however, and I am just one vote. To respond to your point, I am all for freedom of choice, but I don’t want to pay for someone else’s Medicaid expenses for complications from asthma or emphysema, their lung transplant, or their cancer chemo because they can’t afford private pay insurance and they use our Medicaid resources. Limiting smoking is, in my mind, like requiring seatbelts — taxpayers should not be required to pay for the results of people’s poor choices. When the people who suffer don’t get to make the choice, as in second-hand smoke exposure, their smoke-related illnesses are tragic and needless.

From: rhodarmerx15@aol.com [mailto:rhodarmerx15@…]
Sent: Fri 3/16/2007 11:58 PM
To: Rep. Melanie Goodwin
Subject: Re: HB 259 – Prohibiting Smoking In Public Places

Then don’t go into establishments that allow smoking. That’s freedom of choice for the “private” business, and freedom of choice for the individual. I thought Democrats were all for freedom of “choice.” Guess not!

I’ve never smoked, but this bill is insidious in it’s governmental heavy handed nature on individual liberties. The reason the government doesn’t ban smoking is because they don’t want to lose the revenue off the smokers. Oh those tax dollars! How the NC State legislature “loves” this abusive tax system, and the additive nature of endless amounts of “our” tax money. Don’t have enough money, just go to the poor old working guy, and pick his pocket. If you, and the other legislators really cared about second hand smoke, you would lobby to ban smoking all together.

Thanks for your response.

Kathy Rhodarmer.

From: Melanieg@ncleg.net
To: rhodarmerx15@…
Sent: Fri, 16 Mar 2007 4:10 PM
Subject: RE: HB 259 – Prohibiting Smoking In Public Places

I’ll be supporting this bill. I like to breathe clean air. Thanks for writing to advocate your position.

Melanie

From: rhodarmerx15@aol.com [mailto:rhodarmerx15@…]
Sent: Fri 3/16/2007 3:44 PM
To: Rep. Melanie Goodwin; Rep. Deborah K. Ross; Rep. Paul Stam; Rep. Bonner; Stiller; Rep. Martha Alexander
Subject: HB 259 – Prohibiting Smoking In Public Places

I’m watching this legislation very carefully. And I “Strongly” urge a “NO” vote on this bill, as it infringes on our individual liberties and freedoms. If you wish to make smoking illegal, then do so, but stop with this effort at denying individual persons the liberty and freedom to assemble at consenting “PRIVATE” businesses to indulge in a lawful, legal act of smoking, if they so chose. I’m so sick of the nanny state NC has become!

Are we founded on Socialist, nanny state principles, or on capitalist, free market principles? It’s sad to see NC and the nation, move ever farther from the Founders intent.

VOTE “NO” ON THIS BILL!

Kathy Rhodarmer

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About Tim Peck

Unaffiliated Objectivist
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