An Ol’ Broad’s Ramblings

February 4, 2007

Trampling Rights

Filed under: In Wisconsin, Opinion — olbroad @ 9:44

I don’t usually copy and paste an entire commentary, just a few snippets will do. I will allow you the choice to use the link, or not. In this case, I think it’s necessary.

With all due respect, Gov. Doyle: Butt out

First, let’s clear the air: I am not a smoker. It’s a disgusting habit. And if you do smoke, I’d strongly encourage you to quit — if not for your sake then for your children’s.

None of that is relevant, however, to the debate at hand.

As well intended as Gov. Jim Doyle’s proposed statewide smoking ban may be, it constitutes an unwarranted assault on the individual freedoms of Wisconsin’s citizens.

Those who defend a statewide ban on smoking in all public places — encompassing restaurants, taverns and workplaces — wrap themselves in the flag of “protecting the public health.” They throw this phrase around with a sort of chest-thumping morality, as if it alone precludes any substantive discussion.

But look closer:

# A private business is not a public place. Unlike tax-funded schools and government buildings, a tavern or restaurant is a privately operated enterprise, which succeeds or fails on its own merits within the marketplace.

Last time I checked, that’s called “capitalism.” And if non-smokers choose to “punish” a private business by not offering their patronage (read: dollars), that’s fine. In fact, that’s called “choice” and THAT is a principle worth defending.

# How’s this for a landmark notion? If you’re a nonsmoker who doesn’t want to breathe second-hand fumes, don’t strip away the rights of your fellow citizens. Maybe — just maybe — you could exercise personal responsibility and choose to dine somewhere else. It’s not as if there’s a dearth of dining establishments from which to choose.

# For those selfless advocates of the waitresses, cooks and busboys who currently work in smoke-filled environments, I encourage you to contact some of the Appleton-based businesses that have shuttered their doors (or cut staff) in the aftermath of that city’s unilateral smoking ban. You may discover that depriving people of their livelihoods may make you feel a little less inclined to pat yourselves on the back.

# Clichés exist for a reason. They are observations rooted so deeply in the truth that their wisdom becomes assumed and commonplace. And one certainly applies in this instance: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

Last year, driven by an effort to maintain the “moral health” of the state, Wisconsin voters used a referendum to essentially deem homosexuals second-class citizens.

This year, it’s smokers who face government-mandated disenfranchisement.

Next year? Maybe it’ll be the hunters because guns are, well, pretty dangerous. Maybe it’s fat people because they — like their cigarette-savoring chums — drive up the cost of our health-care system.

Pick your sin, folks, there’s plenty to go around.

Take it from a non-smoker who does not patronize smoke-filled taverns: Our government needs to butt out of the inner workings of legally operated businesses serving patrons in a perfectly lawful activity.

As our commander-in-chief reminds us, we are currently fighting two wars overseas to foster the spread of freedom. Why then are we so quick to surrender our own rights on the home front?

This commentary was written by Avi Stern, executive editor.

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