‘Overlast werkt twee kanten op’

Als iemand last heeft van mijn rook, dan is dat vervelend. Als iemand mij verbiedt te roken, vind ik dat ook vervelend. Welke overlast telt het zwaarst?

Dit is zo ongeveer het startpunt van een interessante, meer filosofische beschouwing over de ware aard van de anti-tabakshysterie die over de aardbol waait. In een artikel wordt door een Professor in de Economie een poging gedaan om alternatieve gezichtspunten aan te dragen voor anti-rokers.

Een dergelijk pleidooi voor méér vrijheid kan Nederland tegenwoordig ook wel gebruiken.

The largest losers of America’s anti-tobacco crusade aren’t tobacco companies and smokers, it’s the American people who are incrementally giving up private property rights. You say, “Hold it, Williams, I agree that people have the right to smoke and harm themselves, but they don’t have the right to harm others with those noxious tobacco fumes!” Let’s look at it, because harm is a two way street.

If you’re allergic to tobacco smoke or just find its odor unpleasant, and I smoke in your presence, I harm and annoy you. However, if I’m prohibited from smoking a cigarette in your presence, I’m harmed because of a denial of what I find a pleasurable experience.

There’s an obvious conflict. One of us is harmed. How can it be resolved? There are several ways. You might consider the harm I suffer trivial compared to yours. You could organize a sufficiently large number of people and lobby lawmakers to enact smoking bans in bars, restaurants and workplaces. Alternatively, I might consider the harm you suffer trivial, and organize a bunch of people and lobby lawmakers to mandate that smoking be permitted in bars, restaurants and workplaces.

Let’s think about this for a moment. If you owned a restaurant, and did not allow smoking, wouldn’t you find it offensive if a law were enacted requiring you to permit smoking? I’m guessing you’d deem such a law tyranny. After all, you’d probably conclude, it’s your restaurant, and if you don’t want smoking it’s your right. Similarly, I’d deem it just as offensive if smoking were allowed in my restaurant and a law were enacted banning smoking in restaurants.

The totalitarian method to resolve the conflict is through political power and guns. In other words, the group with the greatest power to organize government’s brute force decides whether there’ll be smoking or no smoking in restaurants. Totalitarians might justify their actions by claiming that bars, restaurants and workplaces deal with the public, and thus the public should decide how they’ll be used. That’s nonsense. Just because an establishment deals with the public doesn’t make it public property.

The liberty-oriented method to resolve conflict is through the institution of private property. In fact, conflict resolution is one of the primary functions of private property, namely it decides who gets to decide how what property is used in what way. Put another way: Who may harm whom in what ways? In a nutshell, private property rights have to do with rights held by an owner to keep, acquire and use property in ways so long as he doesn’t interfere with similar rights held by another. Private property rights also include the right to exclude others from use of property.

Harm’s a Two Way Street

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  • "Es ist schwieriger, eine vorgefaßte Meinung zu zertrümmern als ein Atom."
    (Het is moeilijker een vooroordeel aan flarden te schieten dan een atoom.)
    Albert Einstein

  • "Als je alles zou laten dat slecht is voor je gezondheid, dan ging je kapot"
    Anonieme arts

  • "The effects of other people smoking in my presence is so small it doesn't worry me."
    Sir Richard Doll, 2001

  • "Een leugen wordt de waarheid als hij maar vaak genoeg wordt herhaald"
    Joseph Goebbels, Minister van Propaganda, Nazi Duitsland

  • "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win."
    Mahatma Gandhi

  • "There''s no such thing as perfect air. If there was, God wouldn''t have put bristles in our noses"
    Coun. Bill Clement

  • "Better a smoking freedom than a non-smoking tyranny"
    Antonio Martino, Italiaanse Minister van Defensie

  • "If smoking cigars is not permitted in heaven, I won't go."
    Mark Twain

  • I've alllllllways said that asking smokers "do you want to quit?" and reporting the results of that question, as is, is horribly misleading. It's a TWO part question. After asking if one wants to quit it must be followed up with "Why?" Ask why and the majority of the answers will be "because I'm supposed to" (victims of guilt and propaganda), not "because I want to."
    Audrey Silk, NYCCLASH