Last weekend, we went to one of our favorite tavern-burger joints for the first time since Wisconsin’s smoking ban went into effect. No ashtrays, no smoke, and no customers – nice going, do-gooders.
This was a biker bar, past tense. It is an empty bar now – soon to be a closed-down bar unless there is a federal bailout in the works for dives. It wasn’t the kind of place you would walk into by mistake, not a place to take your kids. Nobody was inadvertently exposed to second-hand smoke. It was dependably loud and nasty and smoky; every patron and employee walked in there of their own free will.
The regulars perched on their customary stools; drinking beer and smoking cigarettes, telling jokes, telling lies, and ogling the Harley girls who came in dressed like they tell their teenager daughters not to. Retirees and veterans, mostly; old guys who walked down from the neighborhood to watch a game or watch a race or just watch a well-pierced barmaid with the mouth of a Teamster bend over to grab another beer from the cooler. This was not the Overture Center.
Would it have killed you to leave these people alone?
We just went there occasionally for the best steak sandwich on the planet. Sometimes we took our 80-something moms and aunts there for lunch after church. No one hassled us, even though we were dressed inappropriately in our Sunday duds. We coexisted, just like the bumper sticker says to. It was diversity without the forms, legislation, trainer, and fines. Gone now.
Our modern-day health fascists wouldn’t dream of walking into that joint before or after the ban, so they have gained nothing but the self-righteous satisfaction of depriving someone else their liberty and property. Here’s a suggestion if any are reading this: pull that stick out and beat yourself with it the next time you feel an overwhelming urge to punish someone you don’t like. Leave us alone.
Smoking-ban advocates insisted that the hospitality industry would boom afterward, when hoards of non-smokers would come out to frequent the newly liberated smoke-free establishments. See for yourself how that is working out – take a drive up north on Hwy 13 or 45 and tell me how many of those tavern parking lots are full and how many are empty.
I’ve heard the argument; the bar owners’ property rights and smokers’ personal liberty are small sacrifices for the greater good of society. Wrong. Liberty lost is never good for society; in the words of John Stuart Mill: "the danger which threatens human nature is not excess but deficiency of personal impulses and preferences." You will never discover your own true nature if you are denied the diversity of choices that requires you to form one.
I don’t smoke – quit several years ago when taxes pushed a carton up over $30 and I didn’t feel like subsidizing hypocrites anymore. Recently an ad for Kools on sale at $67 a carton caught my eye – I’m told they are nearly $100 a carton in New York. That is more than a day’s wages for the working poor who do most of the smoking in this country; a weekly smoking tax that is greater than the cost of health insurance. No wonder so many are uninsured. Maybe they should have just fixed that.
And weren’t we going to tax only the rich? When did the rich start smoking Kools? Do any white people smoke Kools? Clearly this is racially motivated and Nancy Pelosi should investigate the tea party. Where is the liberal outrage over the Kool tax? Where are Jesse and Al and Maxine and Barack? For that matter, where is the conservative outrage? Heck, where is the libertarian outrage? Silence.
This isn’t about smoking; this is about liberty and individual sovereignty and the tyranny of the majority. Again, John Stuart Mill: "If all of mankind save one were of one opinion, they would be no more justified in silencing the one than he, if he had the power, were justified in silencing mankind."
One less Wisconsin business, one less business tax payer, a few less jobs, lower incomes for the commissioned vendors, one fewer choice for bikers and veterans and retirees and our moms, and cigarettes that cost more than dope. To repeat: nice going.
The Wisconsin smoking ban sacrificed Liberty on the altar of the public good, the false idol of our modern times. The public did not become any "gooder", but a little liberty died.
"Moment Of Clarity" is a weekly commentary by Libertarian writer and speaker Tim Nerenz, Ph.D. Visit Tim’s website www.timnerenz.com to find your moment and order his new book, "Tooth Fairy Government."