Having solved most of the other problems plaguing the city – astronomical rents, high unemployment, a plight of douchebags on Wall Street – Bloomberg’s New York city council voted last week to ban smoking on beaches and public parks. Which at this point leaves pretty much only sidewalks, cars, and the home as places where it’s even possible to do so.
And of course Boston wants to follow in the big city’s footsteps. Is this seriously all we have time for? Curtailing some more rights while actual issues go unaddressed? I know, I know, that’s what government is all about. But really. Next they’ll come for the sidewalk, and then for the cars, and finally it will be restricted to the home but most people live in rentals where that won’t be cool, so maybe this is all a grand scheme to get someone to buy all those empty houses.
I’ve railed against this stuff for a while. Not because I see smoking bans as the final step before the arrival of jackboots on our streets, but because it’s just another small, tiny erosion of liberty in a country that’s ignored the far more meaningful ones. And even then, I’m not some sort of unreasonable full-on libertarian about it; I understand the general existing bans in restaurants, and workplaces, and hospitals. But what I just can’t fathom is banning it in bars.
I have had a proposal in my head for quite a while that would never even reach consideration because it’s too common-sense. The issue here is one of choice. No one is forcing anyone to go to a bar. And yet, whatever, the interests of political correctness require me to say that people who want one deserve a smoke-free bar (even if they’re idiots, but whatever). To give everyone options, here’s what a state can do – and a make a load of money in the process.
Let’s take a state, any state, like the lost Absaroka. Assume, for the sake of simple math, that that state has 10,000 bars in it (and also that Absaroka has passed a statewide smoking ban already). Now, let’s say that according to public health statistics, Absaroka has a 25% smoking rate across the state. 25% of 10,000 is 2,500, and so that is how many “smoking licenses” the state decides to produce. Every license grants an establishment the right to permit smoking, provided that it adheres to certain and specific ventilation requirements. And then these licenses are auctioned off to the highest bidder.
Everybody wins! Smokers have a bar to go to, nonsmokers still have the vast majority of venues open to them (and they can also choose to go inside a bar that allows smoking). Bars can cater to one crowd or the other – before bidding on a license, they can determine for themselves whether it would be worth it or not to convert their premises, or what sort of clientele they’re aiming to attract. In this scenario we preserve choice, give options, raise some money, let the free market handle things for the most part, and let a little bit of liberty back into the political discussion.
All those reasons are of course why it would never ever happen. Blanket bans and universal approaches are all that government is capable of these days. And also, people never want anything unpleasant to bother them in any way ever. But everyone suffers a little when their will is enacted.