Monday, February 11, 2008

There Is No Right To Eat In A Smoke-Free Restaurant

I suppose I could have called this post Is Libertarianism the Only Political Philosophy Consistent with Atheism? I sometimes do wonder why giving up supernatural gods is so often easier than giving up the worship of the God of the Almighty State. A recent example of this is found in this post at Massimo Pigliucci's blog. The topic of the post is Penn and Teller's Showtime series, and Pigliucci does make some good points in regard to the show itself. However, he reveals his pro-government bias when he says that libertarianism is "either naive or disingenuous".

So, puzzled, I started to look at P&T’s background assumptions, and the lights came on immediately. As they freely admit (though not on their TV show), the magicians are staunch libertarians, with Penn being a fellow of the Cato Institute, a so-called “think tank” that pushes a pro-business, less government agenda. We all have ideological positions (I am a progressive atheist, for instance), so I am not criticizing Penn and Teller for adopting their particular set of assumptions about the role of government in society (though I do find libertarian positions either naive or disingenuous).

What is so ironic (and sad) about such a statement is that the real naivete is on the other foot. It is naive to believe you can use government to implement your "progressive" agenda and then not expect that same government to violate civil liberties (the PATRIOT act was passed with overwhelming Democratic support) and many other basic rights.

One of the comments on Pigliucci's post took Penn and Teller to task for their position on second hand smoke and their opposition to anti-smoking laws.

And regardless, an argument can be made against public smoking even if there is no evidence of it being harmful. I absolutely hate smelling that foul smell of smoke when I am having a meal. I simply cannot enjoy my meal if I am engulfed in smoke. And a restaurant's main purpose is to provide a good, meal. So, by smoking, and exercising their right to smoke, these people are in fact crushing my right to enjoy a good meal, which is why people go to restaurants. Why are these people entitled to their right to smoke, while I am not entitled to my right not to have smoke in my face in a restaurant? Obviously this simple argument can be made for other places as well, such as buses, trains, office etc.

Smoking is a nasty habit to say the least. Why should the non-smokers be forced to live with it? As atheist we are being forced to live with God everywhere we turn, and we don't like that. This is exactly the same situation. People have rights, which they should be allowed to exercise, AS LONG AS THAT DOES NOT OPPRESS OTHER PEOPLE'S RIGHTS. And that is the case with public smoking.

So here we have an atheist, a person who presumably prizes reason and rationality, presenting a most unreasonable, irrational and fallacious argument. The problem is not with the writer's personal preference for a smoke-free environment (as a life-long non-smoker I share that sentiment; I too hate being around tobacco smoke, and cigarettes are the worst), no, the problem is in desiring to impose that preference by force, i.e., by passing a law, on others in violation of private property rights. If you freely enter my PRIVATE restaurant and choose to dine there, then if my policy as restaurant owner, e.g., allowing people to smoke at my establishment, is not to your liking, then you can freely take your business elsewhere. The writer says his right to be smoke free while eating is being "crushed", but this is no more a violation of his "right" then it would be if a fundamentalist Christian entered a strip club and ordered a meal and then complained that his right to enjoy his food in a booze and nudity free atmosphere had been violated.

This comment reveals a person so self-absorbed that they see their preferences as the standard by which laws should be passed. There is no awareness in such thinking of pluralism or human differences (and some atheists wonder why some Christians worry about the real intentions of religion-haters; well, it's no wonder they're afraid when atheists like this appear to want to use government to impose their will on society in a Nazi-like manner). Must we all be exactly the same? Do smokers have no right to enjoy a meal with a cigarette anywhere outside their own home (and who knows how long they'll even have that right)? In a free society we can all have what we want, your smoke filled diner and my smoke-free one. Why then do some atheists want to crush us all under the boot of Big Brother (or as I call him, Big Daddy Government)? Private property rights are eroding at an alarming rate (and have been virtually nonexistent for commercial property owners for decades). There was the recent story of senior citizens forced to work for 7.00 an hour to pay off property taxes they could not afford. There is the continuing abuse of eminent domain, taking property and giving it to private developers. All of these indicate that the very idea of private property is disappearing from our once free land. So, atheist hypocrite (I refer to you government loving, tax and spend liberal types) you have no right to laugh at the Christians for their worship of their imaginary Sky Daddy until you stop advocating the destructive and irrational worship of your false idol, Big Daddy government, the Almighty State.

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