Thursday, February 04, 2010

The bureaucrats for whom freedom is unknown

I have said before that I despise smoking, I don’t like the smell and I hate walking behind smokers and don’t like walking through them outside buildings. So you might think I’d welcome what the Auckland Regional Public Health Service is calling for as reported in the NZ Herald.

ARPHS (why not say ARS) calls for what is effectively a ban on smoking anywhere but in one’s own home, which looks to me quite simply as the sort of nanny state authoritarian bullying that I thought was voted out in the last election. However, it would be a fair bet that those who “work” for that organisation are unlikely to have much philosophical truck with personal freedom.

The thought process appears alarmingly simple:

People smoke - it is bad for them - it's already illegal to allow smoking at places of employment, retail outlets and on public transport, so let's make it illegal everywhere else, except the home (that would be seen as too far).

Banning something that is bad for people is good. The very idea that perhaps it is morally wrong to do this appears to have not crossed their minds, after all it's for the "greater good" (as is the justification for all limitations on personal freedom). Fascists? Well, they wouldn't think so, they just think they are acting for the interests of others. However, they are treating the public as children. It's only one step removed from treating tobacco like an illegal drug.

So what should the response be to this?

Should it be to ask whether a study has been made as to the health benefits to non-smokers of the measures proposed? If not, why not? Why not come clean about what “public good” there allegedly is, or is there really none at all? I suspect the health benefits to non-smokers are virtually undetectable, after all the emissions from motor vehicles are in greater volumes and significantly more toxic (smokers don't die from a lung full of tobacco smoke, but you wont last long intentionally inhaling petrol exhaust).

Should it be to ask to what extent these measures are likely to reduce smoking? If not, why not? How about noting how effective these measures are at reducing illegal drug use?

Why are you not simply being honest about wanting to criminalise smoking other than in the private home? Or does that just show you up for what you are, as petty fascists wanting to change behaviour by force rather than persuasion?

Or, how about simply asking why the hell they think it is their business what adults do with their bodies on their own property or in public spaces?

Clearly the public health bureaucrats have no clue what private property means, and what private property rights mean, for long ago they surrendered the idea that you can decide whether or not to allow otherwise legal acts on your property.

However, they also seek to control public space. To have people prosecuted for smoking as a way of reducing the propensity to smoke. The idea that there are adults who voluntarily choose to smoke because they like it would bewilder them all.

How can people LIKE harming themselves? Well the joyless do-gooders who think they know best for everyone else can't grasp that not everything everyone does is “good” for them. Some people drink to excess, some people eat to excess and don’t exercise. Some people have unsafe sex. Some people take illegal drugs. Some people participate in dangerous sports.

The proportion of smokers who do not know it is bad for their health will be very low, so it isn't about that. Tobacco smoking has addictive qualities, but plenty give up smoking and the state has used other people's money for some years subsidising methods to do this. So the conclusion is that people smoke because they enjoy it.

People have freedom to choose to smoke or not smoke. Those who do should have that right on their own property or with the permission of property owners. Those who do not like it should prohibit it on their own property and not enter places where it occurs. Public (as in local and central government owned) locations should be places where people can peacefully go about their activities without initiating force against others, that includes smoking.

The only appropriate response to this proposal is incredulity.

It demonstrates the profound need for all policy proposals to government to be subject to a test of whether it enhances or detracts from individual liberty, and whether it represents the initiation of force or defending citizens from initiations of force or fraud. Such a simple test would see such proposals dumped in the inbox of the Labour, Green and Maori Parties who think that individuals are a means to an end, not an end in themselves.

While we're at it, abolishing the Auckland Regional Public Health Service would make a modest contribution to reducing the budget deficit.


Shane Pleasance said...

It ties in nicely with the effects of socialised medicine. "We treat you for nothing, so we have the right to take away the means to get sick."

Of course socialised medicine is not free. The insidious erosion of our rights and responsibilities leads, inevitably as you point out, to this.

KG said...

A beautiful post! Spot-on.

James said...

Socialists claim healthcare is a "right"....yet not one system of socialised care anywhere has ever actually delivered on this "right"....just done what it could with its always limited resources.Waiting lists,preferential treatment for the young vs the old (hows that square with the "right?)etc......its just another failure of the socialsit dogma.

Anonymous said...

Who misses smoking in bars and clubs and work places? Who yearns for a return to the days when the stink of stale smoke clung to clothing five minutes after entering a pub? I haven't noticed too many people clamouring for a return to the good old days when the tobacco industry peddled its poison and misery free of the interfering nanny state (how trite). Will any reduction in the four thousand tobacco related deaths each year be lamented by sensible people? I don't think so. But Libertarians want to turn the clock back on everything including hard won civil right so I guess smoking is not such a big issue. Ian

showmethetaxcut said...

Scott, as someone who is currently living the UK, I am sure you will agree with me that NZ is doing quite well on the "persuasion rather than coercion" front.

The rate at which NZers seem to be giving up the habit appears to be much higher than in the UK and continental Europe.

My only concern with not using any coercion is that smoking is a preventable cause of death and I lament that huge amounts of taxpayers money must be used to treat these people (people who in the main probably cannot afford to meet the cost of their healthcare if you regard smoking as a predominantly working class preoccupation).

Libertyscott said...

Ian: Whose pubs were they? If they were yours then of course you could and should always have the right to stop people smoking in them. It's called property rights.

If you want to stop tobacco deaths why not imprison smokers, criminalise them? You know what's best, and we all know smoking is bad for you. People doing things bad for them should be punished right?

You claim to believe in "civil rights" but you don't belief people can choose to ingest what substances they wish? Of course it wouldn't matter to you, it's just a choice that other people make that you don't approve of - how dare they, adults as they are.

I despise smoking, i would like it to be virtually unknown, but unlike you I don't want to use force to achieve it, I'd like it to be persuasion.

Showme: Well the tax on smoking easily recovers the marginal health care costs, and you can make that argument about diet, exercise, alcohol and many other risky behaviours. Maybe if those on lower incomes faced not being able to afford healthcare BECAUSE they smoked, there may be stronger incentives to change behaviour?

ZenTiger said...

I'm not sure why they exclude the home, because there may well be children and others getting the benefits of passive smoking. After all, going to get fascist about something, may as well do it properly.

Could get the councils involved to register and regulate a small square of area near the home that smokers can get to to exercise their freedom. I doubt the council would need to charge more than $200 per year to manage this facility. Well, perhaps no more than $600 tops, plus extra for the smoke sensors in the house to regulate the smoke free zone.

Perhaps they could also consider micro-chipping smokers and checking to see they don' hike out into the middle of the woods to smoke illegally on public property?

These guys have no imagination.

Anonymous said...

Zen, is it more important for you that people have the right to slowly poison the most vulnerable members of society than it is to protect these very same children? Ian

KG said...

"Zen, is it more important for you that people have the right to slowly poison the most vulnerable members of society than it is to protect these very same children? Ian"

Oh ffs! Why is it that every petty fascist or wannabe fascist uses the "for the children" bullshit to justify their urge to meddle in other people's live? Where exactly does the "for the children" argument end?
The welfare of children is the responsibility of their parents. If those parents aren't looking after the kids as they should there are plenty of laws in place to address that.
The anti-smoking zealots are all about control. To suggest that smokers indulging in their habit in the open air is a health hazard to others is laughable--if you're so bloody concerned about that then go throw yourself under a diesel bus or truck out on SH1 somewhere, since it will be pumping out carcinogens at a rate far greater than a few smokers.
The health costs argument is bullshit. Smokers more than cover the cost of their healthcare in extra taxes and in any case are no more of a burden than diabetics and numerous people collecting benefits for dodgy 'mental problems'.
When people such as Ian usher in their perfectly safe, perfectly healthy Utopia they'll still be desperately looking for other ways to interfere in what's none of their effing business.
I'm 64. I smoke (a lot)and enjoy a drink or three and I still do a bloody hard day's work, have no health problems and take no medication whatsoever. And I'm by no means a rare case, I see older people in the course of my work who present as the result of accidents who have a similar lifestyle and who are perfectly healthy.
I'm not suggesting smoking isn't unhealthy but I am suggesting that the zealots need to zip it--or use their own money, not mine if they wish to campaign against the enjoyment of a perfectly legal substance.

Libertyscott said...

KG: Quite!

Ian, what is the evidence that adults amoking in the open air are causing any serious negative health impact on children? None. This is NOT argued on that basis by the health zealots, it is argued on the paternalistic idea that if there are less places for people to smoke, people are more likely to give it up. What they and YOU can't grasp is that some people LIKE smoking, and when they do it in the open air, it is at worst a nuisance to someone standing closely downwind.

Get over it. The excuse of "protecting children" has been used time and time again to justify ever more paranoid monitoring of adults and new laws so that in the UK now you can't even have a regular informal arrangement with someone to look after their kids without being vetted by a bureaucracy.

I have never smoked, I grew up in a household of smokers, I have lost a loved one to an illness caused by smoking, and I'm an asthmatic. I have every reason to despise smoking, but what I despise more are the petty little busybodies who think they know better how to run other people's lives, and want to use laws to make it happen. Some of those I have met have a perverse pleasure in seeing others denied pleasure and having the law thrown at them because people didn't do what they were told.

That sadistic joy in denying joy in others ("for their own good") is quite deranged. It is well beyond being just a "do-gooder" school prefect type.

Funny how the hippie 60s generation that was anti-establishment is now so much about creating new laws.

Mo said...

a very nice rhetoric that people like to evoke; that and when they talk about "humanity". I usually stop listening afterwards

Your appeal to initiation of force and emotionalism is irrational Ian and I suggest you take it somewhere else.

Anonymous said...

I seem to have touched a bit of a nerve here. I simply asked Zen if unlimited rights were more important than the rights of others, for example, children, not to suffer as a result of a person exercising her (more women than men smoke) rights anywhere they see fit. I'm an ex smoker myself and am neither a health zealot or particularly anti smoking. I love the way libbers rush to label anyone who doesn't share their views. Ian

Libertyscott said...

Ian. The nerve you touch are the straw men you create, which are refuted and you evade the responses. Given you relied upon that quite vapid article you posted a while ago, it isn't surprising. I've asked you to engage, if you don't want to engage then you're not welcome.

Nobody has ever argued for "unlimited rights", nobody ever argued for a "right" to poison children. You constructed these straw men to pull back down again and you are doing it in complete isolation. I may as well say the Greens want to engage in genocide because they want population to be controlled. Such nonsense and so easy to say it's bad, but then "so what".

It is not libertarian politics or objectivism you are arguing.

The point here was that an argument was made to ban smoking outdoors. There is no evidence that this causes children to "suffer" (and no, children have no right to not suffer. Children have a right to not be subject to physical and sexual abuse, and to not be neglected by those who are in loco parentis).

Libertarians draw lines at the rights to one's body and one's property. Smokers should be entitled to smoke themselves silly, on their own property or with the permission of the owners of that property. In the case of public property the presumption should be open access, unless there are security interests otherwise. Open spaces don't have that, so there is no good reason to ban smoking in open spaces.

Nobody has argued that children should be supplied cigarettes, it has always been Libertarianz position on drugs that it should be legal for consenting adults. Supply of tobacco to children should not be done without parental consent, and I'd argue below a certain age it is an act of abuse to allow it. A reasonable argument can be made around how to deal with supply of substances to children.

Nobody has argued people have a right to smoke anywhere they see fit. Private property rights should be respected, so I can ban smoking (drinking, indeed all sorts of activities) in my home, business or whatever. Likewise I should be allowed to do so if I wish. If it isn't your property you can only enter if invited (directly or by implication), and you need not remain if you don't like it.

A debate on this would be welcome. Unfortunately health zealots (which you claim not to be, although you have twice argued for policies of such a nature) don't compute the idea that some people want to smoke, by choice.

However, I expect you to continue engaging in baiting, building straw men and not engaging in the substantive debate.