Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Harnessing Hysteria

I'm on vacation this week, so I've asked some of my favorite people/bloggers/typists to fill in for me while I'm away. Today you get to hear from my friend John, who blogs at the The Browncoat Libertarian. John and I are going to be working together on the Texas State Libertarian Executive Committee in 2009. He can be found most Thursday nights at Pop's Safari bar in Fort Worth. Here's John:

I believe I've found a key driving force to the future success of the Libertarian Party. But first, a word from our sponsor.

I love cigars. Not in that destructive Sigmund Freud twenty-a-day way...I enjoy maybe 2-7 cigars per week, depending on how many trips to Pop's Safari Room I make in a week. So despite the fact that I "technically" smoke, I do not consider myself a "Smoker". I'm a "small-s" smoker. Why? I do not require smoking breaks at work. I do not feel the need to fire up a cigar after every meal. I never have cigar or tobacco "cravings". And those are just three of the well known "Seven Habits of Highly Effective Smokers(tm)", none of which, I possess.

Why am I polluting Whited Sepulchre Blogspace with my disgusting, nicotine stained words? Because you should know that the "Second-Hand Smoke Hysteria" mentioned in the following guest blog comes not from a nicotine-crazed addict, but from a liberty-crazed freedom-addict who respects the rights and liberties of nicotine-crazed addicts everywhere.

And now, back to our regularly schedule rant.

Yes, devoted readers of The Whited Sepulchre, I know exactly what the Libertarian Party needs in order to thrive in this here century: Harness the power of hysteria! Hysteria is working miracles for the self-righteous Knights of Second-Hand Smoke. Soon, every molecule of airborne nicotine shall be vanquished from the DFW Metroplex, and quite possibly the state of Texas.

Yes, rumor has it that our dedicated Protectors From All Things Harmful, i.e. The Fort Worth City Council, and the Texas State Legislature are up to their smoking ban shenanigans once again. And they will likely succeed. It appears they will eventually succeed in protecting helpless non-smokers from unwittingly inhaling the foul second-hand smoke emitted from cigar bars and tobacco stores. What would these poor souls do without the Nanny-State to protect them? Personal liberty falls again as hysteria prevails.

Apparently, hysteria sells. Look what the power of hysteria is doing for Wall St., Fannie Mae, Freddy Mac, AIG, and soon, you can bet your stick-shift, The Detroit Big Three. One TRILLION plus! Economic liberty slips further away as hysteria prevails.

If only the Libertarian Party could find a way to harness the power of hysteria and get people hysterical about liberty...or more specifically, the erosion of liberty.

Harnessing Hysteria: we should look into it...or else.

John, thanks for filling in. Thought provoking as usual. By the time this is posted, I'll be in Cozumel, buying multiple fistloads of Havanas to smuggle back into the U.S. If you get a chance, write something about the insanity of continuing the trade embargo with Cuba. If Cubans had access to American products, someone woulda shot Castro by now.


Dr Ralph said...

An exception to any smoking ban for "cigar bars" invites the sort of goofiness that now exists in certain nominally dry areas where only "club members" can buy adult beverages. If there is an exception for "cigar bars," suddenly the number of "cigar bars" jumps by a factor roughly equivalent to the number of non-cigar bars the day before. Then we're back to where we were before.

As far as tobacco stores: I'm fine with having no smoking ban as long as they are located on the outskirts of any populated area, sort of like where those seasonal fireworks stands are.

As I recall at least one Libertarian say, "your right to extend your fist ends where it meets my face."

I have no more interest in smelling you smoke than you would in smelling me fart after the bean and jalapeno lunch special at the Mexican Inn.

Browncoat Libertarian said...

Dr Ralph - Yes, we are back to where we were before, with adults making adult decisions to either go into a smoky bar or not. With proprietors of businesses getting to decide what's best for their business based on market demands and their right to run their business as they choose.

Thank you for showing how well a free market economy is the best choice for us all.

Dr Ralph said...

Browncoat: thanks for filling in for our mutual friend the Whited Sepulchre during his absence.

I could be mistaken, but I think much of the legislation around smoky bars is not so much designed to protect the customers as the employees of said establishments. Should I be forced to expose myself to hazardous workplace conditions just because I want to feed my kids? Alternately, do we allow the waitstaff (at their option) to wear gas masks without fear of employer retribution?

Just asking.

Because frankly, if it will keep them out of my face, I'd rather all smokers sit in the hazy dusk killing themselves together rather than sharing their simple pleasures with me.

Browncoat Libertarian said...

Dr Ralph - Who says people must work at a smoky bars? There are other jobs out there. Again, adults making adult decisions. We do not need the nanny state protecting us against hysteria-driven threats like "second-hand smoke" or Dr. Ralph's Mexican Inn induced flatulence.


Dr Ralph said...

Some people have fewer options available when choosing their place of employment than you or I. Again, should someone be forced to choose between a hazardous workplace or feeding their kids?

Or are you suggesting by the term "hysteria-driven threats" that second-hand smoke poses no health risk to anyone?

Browncoat Libertarian said...

That is exactly what I'm saying.

Sew daze said...

Ralph...Fart away man, just fart away. Eventually there will be legislation against that too.

I agree with you in a way...Strippers dont usually work in a smoke free environment. I think the patrons enjoy it much more through the smokey haze.

You cant earn that much money at McDonalds...

Dr Ralph said...

Browncoat -- since you have somehow, through tobacco lobby propaganda or wishful thinking, concluded second-hand smoke poses no health risk to anyone, I see no point in continuing this discussion. Willful ignorance is tough to argue with.

By the way -- checked your blog and applaud your efforts with the Libertarian Reform Caucus. While I don't see eye to eye on many Libertarian positions, I see the LP as a much preferable alternative to the current GOP. Good luck to you and the Whited Sepulchre in 2009 on the Texas State Libertarian Executive Committee.

Browncoat Libertarian said...

Well, not to prolong a pointless argument, but in my defense, there is no "willful ignorance" involved. I've looked at several of these ridiculous studies on the effects of second hand smoke and came away laughing hysterically at the way they conducted their studies...subjecting rats to the equivalent of being locked in a closed, non-ventilated room with a houseful of cigarette smokers for ridiculously long periods of time? Nonsense! These studies are absolute rubbish.

So no, I've looked closely at the "evidence" and dismissed it as hysterical hype...no "willful ignorance" floating around the air here.

And speaking of people buying into loads of elephant crap like the effects of second-hand smoke, you are right about the GOP, they've done more damage to our personal and economic liberties than the Democrats could ever dream of. I'm actually relieved to have Obama in office after 8 years of inept Bush-bumbling.

Dr Ralph said...

Browncoat - I agree: we've prolonged this much too long. But it's led to an interesting exchange.

As to my own (admittedly unscientific) research, while it may be comparing apples and oranges, I can testify to the effects of second-hand smoke after sitting in numerous arena-style concerts (and I'm not talking cigarettes).

Not that I'm complaining.

Your mileage may vary!

Browncoat Libertarian said...


Anonymous said...

Nice fill in Browncoat. I agree, we need to get more people hysterical around losing their liberties such as tax dollars that fund the lose of such.

Browncoat Libertarian said...

I somehow missed Fembutt's response.

I think strippers should be the LAST bunch supporting anything the Nanny-State offers up...they'd be out of a job quicker than you can say "Hey, I think she REALLY likes me!".


Browncoat Libertarian said...

Oh, and they COULD earn that much at McDonald's if McLap-dances were added to the menu.


Anonymous said...

The smoking ban issue is one of those relatively small things that shows us just how far off the tracks we've gone in this country.

Ben Franklin once said that those who would trade liberty for security deserve neither. I wonder what he would think about Americans who are willing to trade their liberty just to avoid the slightest whiff of second-hand smoke?

Dr Ralph said...

I'm sorry, but to equate "trading our liberty" with having to put up with the stench of some inconsiderate boob's cigarette smoke is why Libertarians have the reputation for being self-righteous flakes.

Would you prefer fistfights between blowhard smoker and overly sensitive anti-smoker?

A simple yes or no will do.

Anonymous said...

Since simple answers are what you're interested in, I'd have to say "No. I would not prefer fistfights." Which is precisely why I oppose smoking bans.

Smoking does not have to be an either/or proposition. In those few remaining places where some degree of freedom still exists, it’s not a question of either staying home or going out. It’s a question of which venues you as a consumer wish to frequent – one that allows smoking, or one that prohibits it. The free market allows for both solutions to coexist. This issue only becomes a zero-sum game once the decision is turned over to government to impose a one-size-fits-all solution.

Opposing a smoking ban does not mean mandating that all establishments allow smoking. It just means allowing the private property owner to be the one to make the decision as to what to allow or prohibit on his or her own property. Given the fact that at least 80% of all people are non-smokers, it’s simply ludicrous to believe that there would be no non-smoking facilities absent a government-imposed ban. The days of the Rat Pack are long gone. Smoking is no longer the socially-accepted norm it once was back in the days of Sputnik and black-and-white movies. Business owners know this, and will make their decisions accordingly. If they judge their market correctly, they’ll reap the benefits. If they judge incorrectly, they’ll suffer the consequences to the bottom line.

A free society cannot exist without a fundamental respect for private property rights. Of course, this conversation illustrates just how little modern Americans value a free society. But those who support criminalizing the things that they dislike should be very careful what they ask for. Once you allow government to make decisions that should rightly be yours to make, it just keeps on going. Eventually they’ll get to something you like…

And I'm sorry, but turning to government to make those decisions is the very definition of "trading one's liberty." But to your point, I do realize that defending individual liberty is considered flaky these days. I'm just not happy about it.

Dr Ralph said...

Stephen, that's all well and good except we tried it and guess what: it didn't work. That's why municipalities have passed these laws, with the support and approval of voters.

As I pointed out previously, these bans are as much about workplace safety as the right of some joker to fire up a butt. And no, sometimes someone can't just get another job. You tried looking for a job recently?

By the way, do you, like our friend Browncoat, feel that the risks of second-hand smoke is a bunch of hooey? Since I've demonstrated I'm simple, a yes or no will do.

TarrantLibertyGuy said...

Dear Dr Ralph: First of all, I assume your icon is of Leon Trotsky... My vision is fading... If so - as your hero Leon Trotsky once said, "There are no absolute rules of conduct, either in peace or war. Everything depends on circumstances." In a capitalist society, the rules of conduct are as follows: the property owner gets to set the rules of conduct.

Regarding your workplace safety argument, the only time that should come into place is if a worker was hired at an establishment when it is a smoke-free environment and then, at a later time, the employer/owner changes it to a smoking environment. Without language warning of future smoking status changes in an employment contract, the employer would either owe the employee a present value of a future income stream - or provide a separate smokeless environment.

Otherwise, the employee can choose to work at a non-smoking place. And, no, I don't believe that there are people with that limited of a choice in employment. Wal-Mart, our nations largest employer, is a smoke free environment - as are most of the millions of retail establishments or all of the tens of thousands of hospitals and clinics.

A few months ago, my wife and I went to a restaurant/bar we hadn't been in before. It was too smoky for my wife, so guess what?! We left and spent our $50 somewhere else. If enough people do that, he'll change his policy. If not, then he'll do fine keeping us non-smokers voluntarily off his property. It's not my say.

I guess in the instance of forcing the will of the state (and any 'tyranical majority' of voters) onto private property owners, you'd probably relate more to these Trotsky-isms:
"Not believing in force is the same as not believing in gravity.” and "Under all conditions well-organized violence seems to him the shortest distance between two points."

And not really related, but shows the nature of Trotsky's adamant support of state over individual rights: "Root out the counterrevolutionaries without mercy, lock up suspicious characters in concentration camps... Shirkers will be shot, regardless of past service... ". Wow. Looking up quotes of purist commie Trotsky shows me the complete lack of respect for life he and his cohorts had.

Browncoat Libertarian said...

This "workplace safety" argument is so pitifully weak. How far do we take it? What about the downtown valets running around inhaling toxic fumes from automobiles, not to mention running in and out of traffic while parking/fetching vehicles? Why should they have to breathe your toxic car farts? What about the doormen, taxi drivers, messenger-boys, newsstand owners, hot dog vendors, and pedestrians walking the crowded, car exhaust contaminated streets of New York? Do we ban the use of cars and buses so they can have a "safe" work environment?

Right here in DFW, do we limit the distance one can commute to work in order to prevent the amount of car farts one is forced to inhale?

At what point do we grow up and realize, like adults, that there are risks involved with living life, and we, as adults, are perfectly capable of assessing risks such as entering a smoky bar, eating one too many donuts, or looking both ways before crossing the street without mommy and daddy holding our hands?

Anonymous said...

Again, trying to keep it simple for Dr. Ralph. "No, I don't think the risks of second-hand smoke are a bunch of hooey." I can't imagine that inhaling smoke is a good thing for anyone.

But we're talking past each other. I believe that a person owns himself, and therefore has the right to decide which risks he wishes to expose himself to. I may not agree with another person's decision, but I don't own that person so I have no right to dictate which activities he may or may not engage in. If someone wants to allow smoking in his business, he has that right. If another person wishes to work in that environment, he has that right. He also has the right not to work there.

You, on the other hand, clearly believe that the government owns each person. Therefore, it is the government that gets to decide what risks are acceptable for the peasants. Today government has decided that second-hand smoke is bad, and therefore the serfs are not allowed to subject themselves to it.

And I'm intrigued by your claim that we tried this [freedom] before and it didn't work. What do you mean by that, exactly? Do you mean that when smoking was more socially acceptable more establishments allowed smoking? Or do you just mean that not every single establishment catered your personal taste on this particular issue?

What’s preventing you from opening your own non-smoking bar or restaurant? If non-smokers are as under-served a market segment as you seem to think, it sounds like you’ve discovered quite a niche. You could call it the Hammer and Sickle Pub - “When you want to get stinking drunk, not stinking of cigarette smoke.”

I suppose that would require real work, though, and it’s far easier to lobby your local bureaucrat to impose these rules on others so that you don’t have to go to all the trouble of acting like a grown-up and making your own decisions about where you want to be and what you want to expose yourself to.

And by getting government to call the shots for all businesses on your behalf, you get to assume an ownership right over property in which you have no stake whatsoever. No doubt your city council will side with you – I’ve yet to see a city council that cares enough about the rights of its citizens to reject a smoking ban. It’s just too easy to demagogue the issue and score cheap political points.

So no doubt you’ll get your way on this particular issue, but this relatively minor victory will come with a major price. Once government’s intrusion into private property is legitimized and made the norm, there can be no more freedom. If you are not free to make your own decisions about what you will allow on your own property, you are by definition not free. And once you’ve told government that it may micromanage private property that takes the form of a business, you will be unable to mount any coherent defense as government inevitably moves to micromanage private property that takes the form of your own home.

In the meantime, enjoy the smoke-free Applebee’s. Hope it was worth the price you paid.

Anonymous said...

Amen to all but Dr. Ralph! Government has gone to far and old Benny Frank was right, we are trading our "liberty for security" daily.Business owners have the right to allowwhat conduct they choose in their establishments and if one doesn't feel comfortable in that environment,well, they can go or (work) elsewhere! If we continue to let government protect us, we may all well end up prisoners of our own homes. My rebellious thought is..... anyone over the age of 12 has the right to chose to wear or not a seat belt! but our nanny government has made it a law for our protection, oh and another form of taxation!

Dr Ralph said...

Gentlemen, I fear we are going to have to agree to disagree.

TLG: you were lucky the place you and your wife went to was already smoky -- that way you could make an informed choice before ordering. When I go to a restaurant, I'd like a reasonable assurance that while I'm waiting for my desert (and not in a position to just up and leave) I'm not forced to contend with Joe Camel, who was just seated behind me. Like I said before -- we've tried this arrangement (smoking anywhere) and it hasn't worked. Perhaps now that you have the luxury of the smoke-free restaurant, you've forgotten how unpleasant that experience was.

Which is why so many municipalities, with the support of a majority of voters, now have smoking bans, despite the big tobacco-financed efforts of Rick Berman of the Beer, Smokes and Cheeseburger Institute and his ilk to kill them.

That being said, despite areas of disagreement, I'd much rather have the Libertarians arguing on issues like this than not.

Stephen: the Hammer and Sickle Pub - “When you want to get stinking drunk, not stinking of cigarette smoke.” I like it! Free drink on the house anytime you drop by! Unfortunately that project will have to wait until I retire from my job in the military-industrial complex (seriously).

TLG: you obviously haven't looked closely enough at my icon. Not to be immodest, but I'm much better looking than Trotsky.

Elaine said...

Gentlemen, gentlemen. Try to harness your hysteria, please. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.