I was reminded yesterday what an unpleasant business law-making is, as I testified before a House Committee in opposition to Indiana HB 1213, which proposes a statewide smoking ban in private workplaces.
Two hours was alotted for the proponents, and then two hours for the opponents. There were many speakers for both sides, so I winnowed my remarks, from four pages to one and a half. I was quoted in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette:
“At first blush, you think this is a noble cause, but there needs to be a balance,” said Mike Smith, president of the casino group. Mike Kole, a central Indiana resident, echoed Smith’s concerns.
“It sends a signal to business that we like to meddle in how you run your affairs,” he said.
Here are the 'full' comments I presented to the Committee:
I do not smoke. I do not own a restaurant or a bar, a bowling alley, or a casino. I'm a regular citizen who has been concerned enough about the direction our governments are moving in to have run for office as a Libertarian candidate. I am ceoncerene about this law because of the messages and signals it sends, both by design, and unintentionally.
Because I don't smoke, and don't like secondhand smoke, I choose smoke-free restautants. For the same reasons, directing myself towards work that would not have me be in a smoking environment was something I did by conscious design, by choice. That's an important value. Choice.
I am dismayed with the ease with which proponents disregard the value of being free to choose, in order that a few more places will be how they like them to be.
With all due respect to Mr. Maurer, creating a healthy business climate, where Indiana attracts employers, is not created by passing a law like this. It sending the signal to business that we like to meddle in how you run your affairs. I don't think you'lll find a business owner that is drawn because of regulations or higher costs of operation.
In fact, the business owner from Lexington, Kentucky made the case that businesses adjust. That's true! They do! They respond to customer feedback. If business does better without smoking in their establishments, as he says they do, they would respond to that fact, as he said they do, and embrace the policy voluntarily.
Just as Voltaire famously made the case for free speech by saying, "I may not agree with what you have to say, but I will defend your right to say it", I take a similar approach to this issue. Nobody thinks smoking is good for you, but tobacco is a legal product. And since we aren't calling for a prohibition of tobacco, and since this is still the land of the free, business owners should retain the right to set their policies within their four walls. Even if it isn't the policy I would set.
If government must be involved in this issue, it would be adequate to fully inform would-be patrons and workers of the smoking policy. I disagree with the person who gave testimony earlier, equating the signing of a waiver, which fully informs the worker of the working conditions, as 'intimidation'. It's information! And in a free society, we are able to make informed decisions. Post a sign indicating the smoking policy of the building and be done.
I urge you not to pass this bill, in the name of liberty, choice, and property rights.
Health should not come at the expense of these things.
I was a little astonished at the rudeness of many of the proponents. After the opponents sat quietly through two hours of their testimony, about half of their side left. About half of the remaining backers were talking loudly and answering their phones during their testimony, and some were even laughing at the opponents during their testimony.
Three women seated next to me were full of guffaws as a representative of the casino industry testified. When I returned from my turn to speak, I had to walk behind them to get back to my seat. As I sat down, the woman next to me leaned over and said, "I'm a libertarian, too".
I was completely stunned. I'm not sure in what universe the correlation between her rude behavior and her words has any meaning. I said nothing to her. If she's voting Libertarian, I'm glad of it, but she's doing so for all the wrong reasons.
The whole exercise reminded me just how much I dislike this process. Hearing two hours of the other side just made me cringe, for the complete disinterest they have in liberty, and in knowing they are probably a majority view. It take a tough hide, or completely mercenary disposition to tolerate it on a daily basis.
And that reminds me how much I've come to not respect the political mercenaries. I saw someone on the other side who smokes and whom I had come to believe was one who believes in liberty- especially as regards business property. That person is now deeply involved with the advancing of this bill, and I was told it is not at all about belief in right and proper government, but about being involved with a win.
That's just mindblowing and wholly contemptable. I've been known to get along just fine with socialists and other un-libertarians, on the basis of a good and vigorous debate that starts with the premise that we are interested in doing the best we can in the public arena. I can respect that person, even if I think they're wrong on their conclusions. What good is the political mercenary, who will even advance laws they think are bad, and not proper? This isn't a game. If you need to win at something that involves deception and cunning, play chess or poker, and leave the rest of us alone. Get the feather in your cap elsewhere.
In any case, this may not amount to much this year, as the Committee has to decide whether or not the bill will advance beyond the Committee. That vote is expected to happen next week.