Wednesday, August 29, 2007

On Freedom and Smoke

Smoking is gross. I agree. I'm not interested in doing it, though I do enjoy a nice cigar or pipe now and then. Cigarette smoke is ok, but stale smoke reeks, and it's dangerous and addictive. Let's go ahead and label it "bad," even.

But sometimes bad things need to be ok. Sometimes quantity or reason should be irrelevant in the face of freedom.

This is something Hillary Clinton doesn't understand.

Hillary Clinton lavished praise on New York City's tough anti-smoking laws yesterday - and said she supports smoking bans in public places across the country.

Asked at an Iowa forum on cancer whether banning smoking in public places would be good for America, Clinton replied, "Well, personally, I think so. And that's what a lot of local communities and states are starting to do."
Incidentally I think the NY Post should re-title that article. "HILL EYES NATIONAL CIG CURB" isn't exactly truthful. I digress...

Look: the point is we should never be able to demand (via legislation) that other people do things -- even if we think they are dangerous to our fellow man -- just because they "ought" or "ought not" do this or that. Sometimes freedom is ugly. Sometimes freedom means seeing things you don't want to, or smelling things you don't like, or even dealing with people, ideas, or actions you find terribly offensive.

But the freedom itself is a beautiful thing, and reason or rationale doesn't have to enter in to that idea.

Take one example: collecting. Collecting things is truthfully about the most unreasonable thing a person can do. Gathering all sorts of trinkets or knickknacks, hoarding them, doting on them, cataloging, trading, and always acquiring more and more and more. This is not rational behavior. But when it comes down to it, freedom doesn't see quantity. Freedom doesn't ever say "Look, I understand you like stamps...but must you keep so many?". If we're free to acquire stamps, we ought likewise to be free to acquire 5,000 stamps from various nations and time periods.

Expand that to guns, another oft-collected set of items. Do we see this sort of freedom? Do people appreciate it for what it is? No. Massive gun collections of the irrational sort are "dangerous" or called "arsenals".

Now, granted, you can't kill people with stamps (at least not without great creativity), but the principle therein is the same.

And that extends wonderfully to smoking, drinking, or anything else that has quantity linked with vice. Most anyone will allow one, perhaps two uses of tobacco or alcohol a week. Very few people would argue against limitations beyond that stringent degree. But if you give an inch with liberty you must allow it to take a mile; that is its very nature.

Next time you catch yourself shaking your head at one man's irrational or even self-destructive behavior (is one skydive permissible? how about 10,600?) remember that rationale or reason exists only in the eye of the beholder -- and the next unreasonable freedom or hobby that comes under fire may be yours.

So light up, sit back, and enjoy the idea of freedom...if not its particular consequences.