Monday 5 April 2010

Selective Libertarians

An article here yesterday provoked an interesting discussion in the comments, but as some local chavs had decided to forsake a relaxing Easter Sunday in favour of forcing open a manhole and stealing a whole load of BT's copper wiring (I know this as the guy three doors up is a BT engineer), I was without the means to adequately reply.

Manu, who has his own well-written scientificy-type blog (I just wish he posted more regularly) objected, specifically, to this bit.

If you've ever heard anyone (I've heard plenty) stating that they are libertarian but quite like the smoking ban, they are short-sighted, shallow and dangerously irresponsible.
Now, much of the superficial stuff (ie. banning smells) I was going to mention has been covered, most notably by Junican and lenko, but it still leaves the philosophical meat on the bone to be addressed.

The article pointed to the methodology employed by tobacco control being replicated by bansturbators in other lifestyle areas. This is incontestable. The Godber Blueprint is being followed to the letter by anti-alcohol, anti-fatty foods, anti-salt, and anti-jus-about-everything-else. Documents have been produced to lead the way, and seminars are attended by these smug, self-serving pricks so as to impart their panacea to just about anyone with a vested interest in making the public bow to their will.

So, what is to be done about it?

Well, I would argue - in fact I've been very consistent in my stance - that, to stop further erosion of personal determination and liberty, those who believe that the state and their paid goons must be tackled in their entirety, not merely on a piecemeal basis, should be united. Anything less weakens the position and is exactly what the righteous rely on.

The idea was pooh-poohed by CAMRA on their forum, the reasoning being that alcohol was somehow different from smoking because 'everyone likes a drink'. They are now seeing exactly how safe their particular vice is from the alcohol debate's dedicated denormalisers.

I still defend the drinks industry, and their acolytes, even though they retreated faster than an Italian tank driver when 'I'll do anything for a dollar' Hewitt came a knocking for their smoking customers. And I will continue to do so, despite the fact that they are still not learning.

The British Beer and Pub Association said although pubs, under pressure from the recession, have been hit by the ban, it added: "The vast majority of people believe pubs are more pleasant places without smoking and what's good for our customers, has to be good for pubs."
Keep it up, BBPA, the Smash robots couldn't possibly have laughed as much as the righteous are doing at you right now.

To understand why I take this line of exhorting for all illiberalism to be resisted, it helps to remember why the fictional Dick P exists in the first place. About 6 years ago, after clearing ice from my windscreen one weekday morning, the first thing I heard on the radio once the engine had stuttered into action was the same as I'd heard for the previous umpteen days. The government was 'clamping down' on something. It was always 'thinking of banning', 'restricting', 'producing guidelines', or deciding that it was 'unacceptable'. It appeared, to me, that the state had declared war on their electorate.

Since then, I've watched as liberty after liberty is stripped away with only a small grass roots pressure group to defend each infringement. Some have been very successful. For example, the No2ID campaign has all but extinguished the future prospects of the ID card, but for most the battle is always lost.

The simple reason is that the state is organised, highly funded (ironically, by us), and united in using coercion to achieve their own personal will. The inevitable result is a downward spiral of personal freedom which can only be halted by the enlightened standing firm and rejecting all of it.

For every person who says that they don't like the way the government is operating ... but they're happy to see a ban of that (insert personal bug-bear here), the chances of changing the current righteous and puritannical crusade against liberty is dimished.

My assertion was nothing to do with smokers' rights, or anyone else's rights. It was a recognition that there are too many who call themselves libertarian who have lost sight of, or have never seen, the bigger picture.

So, to bring it back to the para which Manu found offensive, let's analyse why swivel-eyed anti-smoking loonies have been so incredibly successful.

It's because there are a lot of people who quite simply don't like the smell of smoke. That's it.

Libertarian principles seem to fly out of the window when smoking is involved, despite there being a plethora of better alternatives to a blanket ban. European countries have found loads of them. This is why, although Manu isn't a big problem seeing as he agrees that the ban as it stands is wrong, I would still venture to suggest that he is a 'vanilla' libertarian.

A libertarian who believes that the state should be able to inflict its ideals on property owners is being selective in their interpretation and, I would suggest, also brainwashed, by years of righteous propaganda, into believing that there weren't alternatives to fuggy bars prior to the ban. Of course there were, and what's more, the free market was increasingly delivering them.

Anyone who agrees with the restriction of property rights and the state's right to interefere in the free market can't truly be called a libertarian. These, surely, are two of the fundamental principles of such thinking.

Shallow in abandoning principle in favour of self-satisfaction, short-sighted in not appreciating that condoning state coercion isn't going to encourage more of the same, and dangerously irresponsible by giving a green light to the whole process of inflicting lifestyle preferences on others at the expense of self-determination, property rights, and free market economics.

You're either libertarian, or you're not. You can't pick and choose which liberties you wish to keep, and which are OK to be stamped on. Bending an inch to these people just boosts their power and leads, eventually, to something being attacked which you hold dear.

I refer to the honourable Niemoller and withdraw.


Anonymous said...

I'm still trying to come to terms with the need to have a 'libertarian' stance - it seems only yesterday that politicians knew the line that they dare not cross. Now, we have eg Chris Grayling being castigated (by those who whould know better) for daring to suggest that property owners have the right to refuse business.

I can't understand those who profess to be libetarian yet, quite evidently, wish to cherry-pick the issues to be supported! It isn't rocket science FGS.

I guess most people are either thick or utterly selfish.


Dick Puddlecote said...

Jay: Just to be clear, I wouldn't put Manu in either of your categories. He's a good sort.

While I might argue that libertarianism depends on sometimes putting one's own personal preferences aside, that's not to say that someone can't have a general feel for personal liberty but still be constrained by society from being a natural.

My default position is libertarian. I was one before I even had heard of the word and said to myself "that's me, that is!". Others may have a different take on libertarianism, but to say that coercion is wrong ... but right sometimes, doesn't strike my purist mind as libertarian.

As the tag says, it could just be me. :-)

timbone said...

You were talking about the propaganda about smoking, including the smell, which has now been going on for a long time. I would say two generations, those now in their twenties and thirties, and the children and teenagers, have been 'carefully taught'.

I used that phrase because I caught the end of a musical yesterday which I know well (having directed it a few times) and realised how one of the songs is so relevant. It is specifically about racism, but can be applied to anything people are prejudiced against.

You've got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You've got to be taught
From year to year,
It's got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You've got to be carefully taught.

You've got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff'rent shade,
You've got to be carefully taught.

You've got to be taught before it's too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You've got to be carefully taught!

Mr A said...

Yes, this was put in sharp relief for me recently when I was with a blind friend and the git-face who ran a restaurant refused her entry because of her Guide dog.

Initially I was angry and thought, "That can't be legal!" but then I realised that as someone who has fought for publicans' right to choose since 2007 that I was being hypocritical. It was his restaurant and indeed his right to refuse entry to her.

Needless to say I gave him a mouthful and we have both told all of our friends to avoid the place. So that's around 100 customers (and their repeat business) he will never see because of what I think of as an idiotic stance. If he does that too often there will be thousands actively avoiding the place and he will go bust. The market, not laws, will decide.

And that is why the smoking ban is so unjust. If it was left to the market more non-smoking pubs would have opened (in the few years prior to the ban, three opened in my town - two of which have now closed due to their losing their raison d'etre) and we wouldn't have lost 10% of our entire pub trade.

It is just wrong that a smoking publican cannot employ smoking bar staff to serve willing, smoking customers. There is a market for it - the number of people choosing not to go the pub is evidence of that (as is the resurgence in the trade when bans are rescinded (of which there are many examples abroad)).

Private property is private property and by allowing one group to be banned from it opens the door to others. I wonder how many of the people whining about homophobia in the Grayling case are openly supportive of the smoking ban? Many, I would think. Indeed, I had one person say to me when linking the two ideas, "Ah but smokers can still go to the pub - they just can't smoke in it" as a response. To which I replied, "So if the B & B owner had allowed them to stay but forbidden them from touching each other's naughty bits, that would have been okay, would it?" They ummed and ahhed and then wibbled on about how "It was different...."

The only way to be truly tolerant and fair is to say that the State has no interest in what happens on private property. Then, as with the case of my dick-head restauranteur, they can do what they like (and I wholly support their rights to do that) .... but they shouldn't be surprised if they go bust.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post, Dick, and very good comments.

Your point about pubs gradually becoming less 'fuggish' rings true. I remember some from the 70s and 80s that would become so thick with smoke you'd think there was a bonfire going on in the room. I'd quite often step outside to have a fag so's not to add to it. As extractor fans caught on this became less of a problem, but you can see how easy it's been for the ban-its to utilise the watering eyes and runny nose as evidence of 'passive smoking'. Convincing the gullible that the smoke is toxic feeds into a loop whereby any amount of it will prompt these 'allergic' reactions. In reality, there are no allergens in tobacco smoke and, in fact, the smoking of tobacco was recommended until 1950 for the alleviation of asthma.

Time to trot out Peter Thurgood's excellent analysis of 'The Stink; -


Jeff Wood said...

Anon's poimt about smoking and asthma intrigues me.

Until I was grown, I knew only one asthmatic child, a ten year old boy. The poor little sod died in the winter of 1963.

At that time "everyone" smoked: cigarettes, pipes and cigars. Cinemas, buses and trains, restaurants and so on were often something of a fug.

But asthma was rare then. It seems much more common now, but the rate of smoking has dramatically decreased. Correlation ain't causation, but it does seem at first sight that there is no causal connection between smoking, at least passive smoking, and asthma.

Mark Wadsworth said...

"For every person who says that they don't like the way the government is operating ... but they're happy to see a ban of that (insert personal bug-bear here)"

Exactly. Which is why we ought to lay down our arms and be prepared to sacrifice our own bug-bears in exchange for winning a number of other freedoms.

So when I'm in charge I'll just do everything at once and scrap the smoking ban, the fox hunting ban, traffic lights, speed limits on major roads, ID database, drugs ban, brothels ban etc etc and hope that people go along with this as a complete and inseparable take-it-or-leave-it package.

Anonymous said...

DP, I wasn't having a go at Manu or anyone else in particular - just making a general observation. Perhaps we all hold beliefs that go unquestioned until someone else points out an inconsistency between a particular belief and our professed position.


Anonymous said...

@Jeff Woods - more or less the same here.

It's sometimes argued that the recent downward trend in childhood asthma is testament to our smoking bans which encourage outdoor smoking in homes with young children.

In fact, childhood asthma cases levelled off c1995 then fell quite sharply (30%) around 2005. This was after they'd risen three or four-fold since the 50s.

It would be my guess that this rapid decline has more to do with the trend for laminate flooring instead of the wall-to-wall carpeting that used to be the fashion - during the increasing asthma period, funnily enough.

There are loads of studies showing a connection between housedust mite and asthma, with 'passive smoking' having no significant effect at all.

It's all very well getting battle-ready but until you can show people that tobacco is nowhere near the threat to health made out by TC 'experts' - that MODERATE smoking can be a healthy, life-affirming, benign habit - it'll just be more of the same, with them chopping away and smokers everywhere going, 'I know it's bad for me but.....'

You're right about going all out, but we need to be getting the simple message out that - yes, puffing away on 80 a day is probably not a good idea, no more than is drinking two pints of vodka a day, but there's a safe limit of smoking and drinking beyond which both are enormously beneficial.

If anyone is interested, this link is to an American National Health survey (pdf) which divides smoking status into a number of catagories as linked to several common, chronic conditions.

It was published in 1967, so just before the anti-smoking movement started off.

Sorry about long post.


vanilla libertarian said...

I think that Mark Wadsworth could be on to something, I'm no fan of smoking but return the abilty to shoot pistols as part of the "back to the eighties package" would sweeten the deal for me.

Jeff Wood said...

Aye, Vanilla, I want my Colt 45 and my Smith 686 back, and I recall that just before Hungerford, I was about to ask for a variation for an M1 Garand.

If Mark gets to take charge before I do, I will settle for the task of reforming the Firearms Acts. Would you like, after undergoing stiff tests of my devising, the right to carry?

And to be able, after jumping through a hoop or two to earn a firearms certificate - I guess you have done that already - to be trusted to purchase firearms and ammo without having to ask further permission?

Until about 1920, both conditions were true (actually I cannot recall offhand if the certificate was necessary). What was the problem?

Vanilla libertarian said...

Hi Jeff,

I came late to the pastime, but I know plenty of people who lament the loss of them. I think that this was the first knee jerk shite law, though certainly not the last. Witness the internet stuff today - didn't hear whether it went through(?)

I think that the FAC is about right, though I understand it can vary by region / force. I'm pretty happy that it's not easy. I'd vote for easier to try the hobby and less specification of exact calibres (which just makes it a bigger PITA if you see something that you like).

License to carry isn't really relevant to me as I can't think of any scenarios where I'd want to (other than the range).

I'd just like the law to be more measured and less press outrage driven. Given that scumbags find them easy to get hold of, I find it ridiculous that there are no circumstances that a vetted member of the public can have one to use in suitably safe scenarios.

I was surprised when I found out that the pastime existed as widely as it does. I knew about clays, but not the more practical stuff, which is where my interests lie.

"Back to the eighties!"

Manu said...

Hi there. I am honored by the name-check, although faintly disturbed at being classified as a 'vanilla' libertarian - not sure I want to know what that means... ;-)

Anyway, I do fully take on board the various comments submitted to this and the original post along the general theme of 'selective libertarianism'. If the world worked the way we all would like it to, then we would all be free to make our personal choices without reference to the Righteous, the government or anyone else.

For me though, libertarianism can only ever work in practice if those who ascribe to it show basic courtesy to those who might be affected by their actions. In line with this, while I think people whose idea of a good time is to get completely sh*t-faced and act like a cretin in the street in town on a Friday night, if they for example don't cause any damage or accost me as I walk past then would I want drinking banned? Of course not - each to their own.

Likewise, I completely do not understand anyone who feels the need to take cocaine, LSD or ecstacy. Does that mean I would want to ban drugs? Of course not - for me, everyone should be free to do what they want with their own body, as long as it only affects them and they take responsibility for their actions.

So, here's where smoking is inherently different - by default, it affects people other than you, who then have to deal with the consequences of another person's actions. It's not just 'not liking the smell'; the smoke irritates the lining of the throat and persists in hair and clothes way after the event. How is that right?

So, all I was trying to say is that (if one accepts the line of reasoning above) unless *everyone* in a specific setting has implicitly accepted that smoking will take place, and therefore also accepts that they will be affected by the actions of others, then the default situation should be that no-one smokes.

One of Leg-Iron's "smokey-drinkey" places is just such a situation. So would be a private smokers' club, a pub that specifically advertises itself as a smokers' venue, or a smoker's room in any establishment. Obviously, what you do in your own home, car, etc is your own business.

I hope that's made my reasoning clearer. Please forgive me any continuing non-sequitors in my arguments - I admit I have been indulging my personal freedom to imbibe Czech lager within my own home... ;-)

Anonymous said...

So it's socially OK to get totally wrecked on drugs and alcohol but not smoke in front of Manu in a pub?

Junican said...

With Manu's latest post, we see how the circle can be completed. I think that he regrets a little using the word 'stink' since it is an emotive word (although he is quite entitled, personally, to think of tobacco smoke in that way). I think that Manu is arguing for the same thing that we are; that is, rooms in pubs and clubs where we smokers can take our little pleasure in safety and warmth WITHOUT BEING PESTERED BY THE RIGHTEOUS.
Strictly speaking, we smokers would like the whole ban to be repealed. In my case, it would be on the grounds that the air is always full of dust, pollen, dirty water and such stuff. It is an error to think that there is such a thing as totally pure air. I also believe that the TOTAL ban was merely a convenience. In the same way that these medical professors are now, openly and blatantly, calling for a total ban in cars merely because it would be easier to administer. I think that the government got away with the total ban because it was sprung on parliament as an amendment to the third reading of the bill and the granting of a free vote (the result of which was already a foregone conclusion).

The thrust of smokers arguments must be the reasonable right to have shelter and warmth.

Antipholus Papps said...


Please don't put LSD in the same category as cocaine and ecstasy. It really is a very different experience and, if you can't understand why anyone would want to take it, read one of Timothy Leary's or Robert Anton Wilson's books.

It's ten years' worth of meditation in 8 hours.

Anonymous said...


...the smoke irritates the lining of the throat...

I'm intrigued - how much smoke does it take to irritate the lining of the throat? In a typical country pub tap room, for instance, how many cigarettes would have to be lit before the throat becomes irritated? Say the room is about 120 sq. ft. and all the windows and doors are shut and there's no artificial ventilation in place. Perhaps there's a fireplace - does this add to the irritation, via wisps of woodsmoke occasionally wafting into the room, or does it detract, by drawing the cigarette smoke up the chimney? What if the smoking patrons of this imaginary pub are actually pipe smokers - does this make a difference?

I do hope you'll be kind enough to answer these questions (how much smoke and what kind of smoke) because I'm genuinely interested.


rsw37 said...

Sorry to go off on a tangent (I thoroughly agree with the general sentiment in here) just wondering if you have references to what you were saying about asthma. Not being facetious, I'm doing a masters thesis on asthma and home heating(and will have to look at smoking and asthma relationship) if you have any references to what you mention, would be helpful!

Anonymous said...


Two abstracts here -

Newspaper report of study -

Asthma trends -

Collection of asthma/environment studies here -

Note no. P4025

There was a significant negative association of ETS in the home and asthma attacks, nasal allergy and excema respectively.

Of course, other studies will find otherwise.

I hope these don't disappear

Manu said...

Okay, to address certain follow-up comments:

@Anonymous - you could do whatever you like in front of me if it does not negatively affect me; your body, your life, your business. However, whether you like it or not, smoking negatively affects me. I'll try and re-state my point again in another way: I am against anyone thinking that they would have the right to tell you how to live your life; my point is ONLY that you do not have the right to impose the immediate, negative consequences of your choices on me.

I suppose the immediate response to the above would be "well, you don't have the right to impose the negative consequence - i.e. nicotine withdrawal symptoms - of your lifestyle choice on me either". A good point, which would mean that segregation is the only practical option; which in turn is in line with my previous comment re 'smokey drinky' places, private clubs, etc, etc...

@Junican - We are in perfect agreement; smokers have the perfect right to smoke, without being pestered. The total ban is draconian and should be repealed.

@Antipholus Papps - I did not group together the drugs I named for any reason other than they were the three that first came to mind. Not being in control (either through excessive alcohol intake or drugs) is not my thing, but that's my choice. If LSD does it for you, good for you!

@Anonymous - from the general tone of your comment I'm guessing that you are a smoker? Many apologies in advance if you are not, but I do know that smokers genuinely have no idea just how 'impactful' (trying to avoid emotive words here) tobacco smoke really is. I have often had comments from friends who quit smoking who, once their sense of smell had returned, were surprised themselves at their own reaction to others' smoke.

For the record, I love a good open fire. Don't ask me why wood smoke is qualitatively different from tobacco smoke - I don't know.

rsw37 said...

Cheers! they will be helpful

Anonymous said...

Manu - no need to apologise. Yes, I am a smoker. I have also been a non-smoker and an ex-smoker for quite long periods of my life, and a passive smoker for its entirety.

Two statements you made in your reply are worth further comment:

I have often had comments from friends who quit smoking who, once their sense of smell had returned, were surprised themselves at their own reaction to others' smoke.

I assume what you mean by 'sense of smell' is the ability to smell stale tobacco smoke? This is exactly the same principle as people who live in damp homes not being able to smell the mustiness - and the smell of damp really does cling. I was certainly more aware of stale tobacco on smokers during the times that I didn't smoke (and like any stale smell it's not too pleasant) but to suggest that the sense of smell is more generally inhibited by smoking is nonsense, like saying people who are colour blind see only in monochrome. I've always found the aroma of a freshly-lit cigarette highly appealing, even as a child.

I love a good open fire. Don't ask me why wood smoke is qualitatively different from tobacco smoke - I don't know.

No, it's a mystery, isn't it? Especially when you consider that the smoke of all burning vegetation is fundamentally the same.

Perhaps this link might shed some light -