The proponents of the Nanny State from both parties were dealt well-deserved disappointment yesterday when the City-County Council sent the proposed smoking ban back to committee, lest it be defeated outright. Indy Star story.
"I'm very unhappy," said Greg Bowes, a Democratic sponsor of the ban. "I think the community was all ready for this."
If the community is ready for it, how about taking the proposal out of the hands of the Council, and putting it on the ballot, so that the people really can decide. Didn't think so.
There has been one consistent opponent of the ban: the Libertarian Party of Indiana. The Chamber of Commerce is actually in favor of the ban. The restauarant and tavern interests have been somewhat soft on this, surprisingly. The owners of the restaurants and bars know who is on their side, and who isn't.
Be clear on this: No Libertarian I know is extolling smoking as a virtue or urging non-smokers to take up the habit. The basis for the opposition is the defense of business owners, who have the right to set their own policies, and who should be free from the heavy hand of government interference. If you don't like secondhand smoke, why not just avoid places that permit it? Is that too high-minded of me? To ask for a little tolerance of people engaging in behavior you don't quite approve of, in places that do not belong to you?
Libertarians have helped expose the fact that some of the money from the big tobacco lawsuit settlement, that was supposed to go for education, has instead gone into lobbying and into issue advocacy lobbying. From the Indy Star story:
At least one opponent -- Brad Klopfenstein, executive director of the state Libertarian Party -- questioned why government is spending thousands on an advertising campaign.
"I personally find it offensive that this money belongs to the state of Indiana," Klopfenstein said. "Suddenly, you have the state of Indiana lobbying other agencies to pass an ordinance."
So, the vote has been postponed. This had begun as the most restrictive law on smoking in the United States. With the help of the Libertarians, it has lost much of its authoritarian bent. It is assumed that the proponents will go back to the committee and pare the regulations down further.
We'll keep fighting to beat it back further. It's one thing for government to decree that smoking is forbidden in government owned place. It's another thing entirely to dictate to individual property owners on how to manage what belongs to them.