Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Hennepin County abridges property rights

Posted by Craig Westover | 6:44 AM |  

No doubt there is great joy, this morning among those who mistakenly believe that an unjust law is okay as long as it only affects a few people -- and they are not among them. As reported in the Pioneer Press --

Hennepin County on Tuesday became the fourth Minnesota county to adopt a ban on smoking in public places that serve food — and it endorsed a policy that is more stringent than the one enacted in Ramsey County last month.

By a vote of 5-2, the county's commissioners approved an ordinance that prohibits indoor smoking in all food establishments and makes no exceptions for bars that do most of their business in liquor.

Commissioner Mark Stenglien, who along with Commissioner Penny Steele voted against the measure, got it right when he noted that small tavern owners would be “devastated” by the commissioners’ actions.

And this is really the crux of the smoking ban issue. The Hennepin County Commissioners, as politicians are wont to do, ignored the rule of law, private property rights, and the spirit of the “takings clause” of the 5th amendment to U.S. Constitution and inflicted real economic harm on a relatively few small tavern and restaurant owners to appease a vocal majority of people who feel they are entitled to a smoke-free dining experience.

Let’s be clear. Exposure to secondhand smoke, even assuming that it poses as grave an individual health threat as anti-smoking zealots exaggerate, does not rise to the requirements of a “public” health issue that justifies government intervention.

Government intervention is justified only when 1) individuals are exposed to a risk that they do not consent to; 2) the risk affects the community at large; 3) an individual cannot reasonably protect himself from the risk. Exposure to secondhand smoke on private property fails all three counts.

This is not an idle protest.

Each time we cede to government that which should be an individual decision, each time we condone government confiscating the rights of a few to provide a “free” benefit to many, each time we turn our collective back on what is right for what seems “best,” we lose a little bit more of our basic humanity, a little bit more of our moral capability, a little bit more of our ability to cope with life’s inevitable adversities without calling on government to place blame, kiss our boo-boos and make it better.

That’s a high price to pay for the privilege of a smoke-free meal.

Read more in the Pioneer Press . . . .

Who’ll stop the sunshine?

Secondhand smoke not a “public” health issue

Smoking ban is properly local issue