I disagree with Owen Robinson

March 21st, 2007

As much as I hate to disagree with fellow blogger Owen Robinson, buy viagra hospital I have to take issue with his recent editorial denouncing smoking bans.

Owen’s entire argument rests on the following paragraph:

Ultimately, discount viagra it comes down to a matter of rights. Rights are based entirely upon the self-evident truth that the individual owns oneself, that the individual is sovereign and has the right to choose to do anything one wishes, so long as one doesn’t deny other individuals the equal right to the same freedom. As such, every human possesses the same rights.

My problem is that the above definition would clearly give me the right to go around shooting people in the head, or raping them, or screaming obscenities in their ears as long as I grant other people the same rights.

The way I define rights would change Owen’s paragraph to:

… that the individual is sovereign and has the right to choose to do anything one wishes, so long as it harms no one but himself and he doesn‚Äôt deny other individuals the equal right to the same freedom.

This is where Owen and I begin to part company. (It’s also worth noting the no other Conservative blogger I know agrees with me on the following point either.)

Smoking in public is a physical harm committed on everyone around you. As such, I have the right to defend myself against that harm. In a lawless society, my right would encompass killing the smoker in self-defense, but because we live in a community of laws it’s preferable that smokers are not allowed to smoke in an enclosed public space near anyone who does not choose to smoke themselves. Thus, I support public smoking bans and disagree with Owen.

(A fellow I otherwise find to be very agreeable.)

By the way, an interesting consequence of my reasoning is that I would also be perfectly satisfied if the law mandated that a restaurant had to be either all-smoking or no-smoking.

Entry Filed under: Blogs,Observations,Philosophy

6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Lance  |  March 21st, 2007 at 1:53 pm

    Elliot, I think you’ve misunderstood Owen’s definition. If you shoot somebody in the head, you are by definition denying that person his rights. He can’t very well exercise any rights if he’s dead.

    Cigarette smoke is undoubtedly bad for us. That’s why we all have the right to subject ourselves to it or not – none of us are required to be in a place where cigarettes are being smoked. Thus, we all have the ability to protect our own right to not breathe cigarette smoke.

    Love this little comment preview feature, by the way.

  • 2. Administrator  |  March 21st, 2007 at 3:23 pm

    Yeah, the preview is cool isn’t i?

    Sure, none of us are being forced to go to a restaurant and breath toxic smoke from the person next to us.

    On the other hand, we wouldn’t defend someone releasing chlorine gas or sprinkling anthrax on their food in the name of that person’s freedom or by saying that people who didn’t want to be poisoned could just avoid that restaurant.

    While second hand smoke isn’t as immediately dangerous as those two examples (and I’m not trying to imply that it is), I think the principle is the same.

    It comes down to this: either second hand smoke is dangerous and can be regulated as a public health risk (and/or personal assault) or it’s harmless and people should be able to smoke whenever and whereever they want.

    I think it’s clearly dangerous (although Nick is certain to show up and challenge me to show him someone who died from it) and thus a reasonable target for regulation.

  • 3. triticale  |  March 21st, 2007 at 10:28 pm

    Fact #1: Many privately owned places open to the public were, at considerable expense to the owner, constructed in such a manner that those who choose to smoke are isolated from those who do not wish to be exposed to smoke.

    Fact #2: The alleged harmful effects of second-hand smoke were invented by the EPA so they could stay in business after they did the job for which they were created and cleaned up the outside air. The original study looked at the health of persons married to smokers without isolating those who themselves smoked.

  • 4. Administrator  |  March 21st, 2007 at 11:49 pm

    Fact #1 – if the sections were truly isolated than that would fulfill the conditions I outlined.

    Fact #2 – I’ve got to be honest with you: first hand smoke is harmful beyond any reasonable doubt. I find it very hard to believe anyone really thinks the guy sitting next to the smoker is magically immune to the smoke.

  • 5. Administrator  |  March 21st, 2007 at 11:52 pm

    Theoretical question for my friends who think I’m an idiot when it comes to smoking bans: if it was proven that secondhand smoke definitely causes cancer, would you still be against smoking bans? And if so, how would you justify that opposition?

  • 6. Michael J. Cheaney  |  March 22nd, 2007 at 6:46 am

    It seems to be that the term “right” has gotten watered down to the point where it has basically become meaningless. Using the ole’ I have a right to breathe clean air cliche’, does that also then mean by extension, that I have the right to go around suing any person or company who may manufacture or smoke substances that take away that clean air?

    … that the individual is sovereign and has the right to choose to do anything one wishes, so long as it harms no one but himself and he doesn’t deny other individuals the equal right to the same freedom.

    An individual is NEVER truly sovereign. Any thing we say or do effects someone or something at sometime.

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Being in a wheelchair gives you a unique perspective on the world. This blog features many of my views on politics, art, science, and entertainment. My name is Elliot Stearns. More...

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