This post was inspired by the smoking ban in my home state of Iowa. What ever happened to personal choice, freedom and the market?
Smoking opponents hope this month’s elections increase the prospect of higher cigarette taxes and more smoke-free restaurants and bars in Iowa.
Anti-tobacco activists have been frustrated for years in the Iowa Legislature, where Republican leaders kept their bills stuck in committee.
Now, Democrats will control both houses of the Legislature. “Politics is a team sport, and when your team has more players than the other team, your team gets to call the plays,” said state Sen. Herman Quirmbach, an Ames Democrat. Quirmbach, who opposes smoking, advised anti-tobacco activists on strategy during a recent meeting of the state Tobacco Use and Prevention Commission.
If there is such a big demand for non-smoking restaurants/facilities – a demand so large that the politicians need to tap into it – then someone in the private sector will offer it. If I can make money by opening up a bar for all those people who just hate cigarette smoke, but want to drink, I’ll do it. Politicians are notoriously late in getting on board with public opinion. If the politicians are sniffing this out now, the idea’s been around for awhile. The private sector has had time to play with it, and if the demand existed, you’d see the private sector bear it out – and everyone (not just the non-smokers) would be accommodated. As it stands with a smoking ban, one group (the non-smokers / majority) gets to simply impose its will on the other group (smokers / minority) rather than permit a percentage of establishments to cater to the correlating percentage of each group, thus maximizing freedom of choice without anyone being harmed. And, we even have case study in Iowa:
The smoking ban provides an excellent illustration of the difference between how the free market solves problems, and how the government solves problems.
The types of restaurants in a city are allocated by the free market. If you look at Ames, for example, there are lots of pizza places, lots of Mexican places, lots of hamburger places, fewer Greek places (but some), and fewer seafood places (but some). That is, because lots of people like pizza, Mexican food, and hamburgers, the market supplies a lot of them, and because fewer people like Greek and seafood places, there are fewer of them, but even people whose tastes are in the minority have some place to go.
Similarly, before the smoking ban, the market allocated the smoking rules at the restaurants in Iowa. For example, in Ames, according to the Ames Tribune, 65% of the restaurants did not allow smoking prior to the ban, and 35% did allow smoking. Because most people did not want to eat in a restaurant that allows smoking, most restaurants did not permit it, but for those people who wanted to go to a restaurant and smoke, they had a place to go too, so everybody (even people whose tastes were in the minority) had some place they could go.
But now the government decided to get involved. Because the majority does not like smoking, the legislature passed a law imposing the majority preference on everybody: namely, no building open to the public is allowed to have smoking. People with minority preferences (i.e., people who want to go somewhere where they can smoke while they eat or drink or work) now get nothing.
The government can orchestrate a “majority rule”-type tyranny without a ban, too. How about taxation of “vices” until they cannot be afforded?
[Rich] Bartlett, [owner of Southside Tobacco and Liquor in Des Moines] hopes the state avoids aggressive proposals, such as one to add a dollar to the current 36 cent tax. That proposal would nearly quadruple the tax, which he said would be an injustice. “We used to shoot redcoats over a lot less than that,” he joked.
Bartlett said such a measure would cost him several thousand dollars in taxes he would have to pay on the big stacks of Marlboros, Camels and other cigarettes he keeps in stock. He doubts a tax increase would cut smoking much, but he said it might encourage more people to break the law by driving to Missouri, where the tax is 17 cents per pack, and returning with trunks of cigarettes.
Sounds good to me.