Friday, November 30, 2007

Smoking raid attack on property rights

I am not a smoker. In fact I find the habit utterly disgusting. And, in my opinion, smokers tend to smell bad, like a week old ashtray. But the war on smoking, and the accompanying war on property rights, is absurd.

Here is a little news story that may not be picked up by any major media outlet anywhere in the world. The small town local British paper, Thanet Extra, reports on the facts. Three local pubs were raided by antismoking bureaucrats in the wee hours of the morning when the pubs were actually locked to the public. That is the pubs had locked their doors. But some snitch, eager to earn brownie points from the local health nazis had reported that when the pubs were locked up some people actually smoked inside! Horrors. Next thing you know they’ll be drinking or eating fatty foods as well.

So the health nazis went pounding on the locked doors until someone unlocked the door. In the Wheatsheaf they found one person smoking at 2:30 am. At the Eastcliff Tavern they also found one person smoking and at The Windmill they had a bonus. They found four dangerous smokers puffing away. All the smokers were fined $100 and given a stiff warning by one of the local politicians -- that disgusting species of busybodies who actually believe they are so superior to others that they have some right to run the lives of other people. Councillor Jo Gideon whined that it is “not up to individual businesses” to obey the law.

But it should be, Jo, its a thing called property rights. In this case three private establishment had locked their doors to the public and a total of 6 people were smoking in the middle of the night. For that you get political thugs out fining people and threatening to remove the permits of the pubs to operate.

The antismoking laws are not antismoking laws at the core. They are anti-property rights laws. They impinge on the right of property owners to decide the smoking policy in their own establishment. There are no “smokers rights” at issue. Smokers have no inherent right to smoke on someone else’s property without the permission of the real owner. Pub owners could ban smoking or mandate it as a term of use of their property.

I have always banned smoking in my home or in my business. But the difference between when I do it and when politicians do it is that I actually own the property where I impose the ban. And I will avoid smoky environments. I won’t give them my business -- the smoke actually can make me physically ill if I am exposed to enough of it. But I don’t have a “right” to eat at a particular restaurant.

How could I? It would mean that I have a right to require others to work for me against their will and in violation of their consent. Eating or drinking in a pub is a voluntary contract between willing buyer and willing seller. Each can set whatever terms they want and if the other doesn’t consent to them then no transaction takes place. But there is no inherent right to have a transaction with an unwilling customer or unwilling buyer.

I should be free to avoid smoky pubs if I wish to do so. No one should be able to force me to enter one unwillingly. But neither should I have the ability to force my personal choices regarding smoking on an unwilling property owner. Just as he has no right to force me to purchase from him on terms which I find unacceptable so to do I lack the right to force him to serve me on terms he finds unacceptable. Equality of rights must require equality of consent. Both parties to the transaction must be willing to participate in the trade on mutually agreeable terms.

It is immoral for the law to step in and demand that the contract be skewed to favor one party against the other. It violates the very concept of equality of rights and equality before the law.