My Two Cents: Absolutism of opinions bad for personal freedom

The notion that one’s own suppositions should be codified into law – the absolutism of opinions – seems to be gaining ground in this country, resulting in government paternalism.

Take the issue of smoking and second hand smoke, for example. I’m not a smoker, and I’m not particularly fond of second hand smoke. But that’s where it ends for me. In other words, if I patronize an establishment that allows smoking, and there’s too much smoke for my taste, I simply choose to take my business elsewhere.

I don’t make the arrogant assumption that everyone in whatever establishment I’m visiting should be forced to stop smoking because I don’t like it.

And yet that’s exactly what the state Legislature is considering, with House and Senate bills that would ban smoking in private businesses such as restaurants, taverns, bowling alleys and skating rinks.

(Last year, Florida voters approved an initiative calling for such a ban. Bans are already in effect in New York City, Dallas, Boston, Chicago, Albuquerque and Boulder, as well as California and Delaware.)

I’m troubled by the idea of the such heavy-handed government intrusion into the private sector. Shouldn’t the owners of private businesses be allowed to decide for themselves if they want to allow smoking in their establishments?

Supporters of such a sweeping ban on smoking in any workplace in Washington state say they are protecting workers from second hand smoke.
Aside from the fact the deleterious effects of second hand smoke are tenuous at best, according to present scientific understanding, nobody is forced to work in an environment that allows smoking.

It’s not as if there is a shortage of restaurants and such that are smoke-free, so why is the Legislature considering such a ban? Isn’t it better to have a mix of private businesses in terms of those that allow smoking and those that don’t? People can decide for themselves which establishments they choose to patronize.

Like I said, I’m not a smoker. On occasion I find second hand smoke disturbing. What I find vastly more disturbing, however, are people who want to tell other people how to behave and use the power of government to achieve that objective.

“My Two Cents” is a weekly column where the author – who finds it an odd thing to ban smoking in taverns because people visit taverns to drink and smoke – gets in his two cents worth, in spite of the old saying you only get a penny for your thoughts.