It Can’t Happen Here
On the eve of Virginia’s absurd smoking ban, it seemed appropriate to link to Neil Clarke’s reflection on public smoking and the death of liberal England. Granted, Clarke is an old socialist with about as much appreciation for private property as Lenin, but on this issue, he has a better sense of what it means to be liberal than most. I’ve left a few of his best excerpts below the fold.
There is no liberal case whatsoever for the ban; if you support it you may be many things, but please, don’t have the audacity to call yourself a liberal. The argument for restricting smoking in public on account of the possible health risks caused by passive smoking is an argument for having separate smoking areas in pubs, cafes and restaurants and not for a blanket ban, which will encompass even private clubs where members have assented to a pro-smoking policy.
But no: true to New Labour’s bossy, illiberal instincts, the ban had to be total. To enforce the ban, local councils will rely on legions of plain-clothes snoopers, ready to shop fellow citizens for the heinous crime of smoking in public. Blair inherited a country, which, for all its faults, could still be called a free one, he has left it with its own equivalent of the Staasi.
Whatever your views on smoking (and no one denies that the habit, like the officially approved New Labour ones of drinking, over-working and starting illegal wars carries a health risk), ask yourself this simple question. Do you really want to live in a country where lighting a cigarette, cigar or pipe in a pub or cafe, as English men and women have done for decades- is deemed a criminal offence? Smoking may, to many people, be annoying, silly and smelly- but criminal?