Thursday, June 21, 2007

Did Our Founding Fathers Smoke?

What would our Founding Fathers think of the proposed smoking bans? Well, first of all, being profiteers of the tobacco industry, they would not appreciate the government interference of their business. But secondly, and more importantly, what about the individual freedoms they tried to protect here in the New World?

James Madison explained the philosophy behind the new government in The Federalist Papers. What he tried to explain was this:

Human beings can be selfish creatures. They will continually try to get more things and take more actions that they think will help them in their own pursuits of happiness. Sometimes these desires may conflict with others. Previous forms of government had been instituted to deal with these conflicts by force and decree, thereby removing the cause of the conflict. Madison and the Founding Fathers thought this obscene. They thought that if you remove the freedom that causes the conflict, you have despotism. Rather, what they lobbied for and succeeded in achieving, was a government that protected people’s freedoms to do what they want while controlling the effects of those actions, ensuring that everybody’s rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are protected.

Smoking is bad. People should not smoke. People should also not eat fatty foods. People should not drink too much, gossip, call each other names, buy things they can’t afford, etc. etc. But people do all those things.

I completely understand and support the banning of smoking in publicly owned buildings (most people do not smoke, they should not have to deal with smoke in buildings they, in effect, are part owners of). However, the intrusion of government into privately owned buildings is going too far. Having said that, if I owned an entire building, I would either ban smoking in it or at least regulate it to a broom closet in the basement. But to have government tell me how I must run my building is not acceptable. The property rights guaranteed to us by the Founding Fathers are still important to many of us. Let’s not eliminate a freedom to prevent conflict (despotism), rather, let’s work together to control freedom’s effects so that a balance between the public health and personal freedom can be found.

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