The Early Days of a Better Nation

Monday, April 30, 2007

Early Days Yet

Scottish politics is in a somewhat febrile state. This Thursday's election to the Scottish Parliament may return a plurality of pro-independence MSPs: Nationalists, Greens, Independents and (perhaps) Socialists. If the SNP is able to form a government, or lead a governing coalition, a referendum on independence is promised within the four-year term of the parliament. The electoral arithmetic is complicated by proportional representation, so at the moment the composition of the future parliament is in Schrodinger's Box.

Anyone who is interested in how the election is going should check out the innovative, left-leaning, pro-independence site YouScotland. One of its founders, Alan Smart, has an engaging introductory piece on his video blog at YouTube's new political channel, CitizenTube.

Personally, I'm going to vote Labour in the constituency poll as (futilely as) usual, but I can't help relishing the prospect of Labour getting a drubbing. For one reason, watch First Minister Jack McConnell demonstrate his grasp of his brief. (Besides, he regards the smoking ban as his proudest achievement. His other achievements are pilloried on the hilarious, if hardly fair, video The Best Wee Numpty in the World). For another, there's the prospect of never seeing Justice Minister Cathie Jamieson's stupid, sour face on television again.



Here here to Joke McConnell and Jamieson being ousted.
Then at least local paper journalists will have some new puppets to have not answer our questions.


So who is your constituency MSP Ken? Mine is Malcolm Chisolm and as much as I want to see a Labour drubbing I'm tempted to vote for him just for standing up against Trident. Plus I was on a bus on Leith Walk the other week and he got on, so at least he's not being chauffeured around the place.

Speaking as someone allergic to cigarette smoke, I'm all for bans, at least in public places. Still--proudest achievement? Um...well, in terms of improving quality of life, or even length of life...y'know, maybe he's got something there.

The thing about these cigarette bans is that the fact that there's even a motivation behind them makes them patently useless; the market for smoke free bars and public areas exists now and there's money to be made for some bars banning smoking and others maintaining a smoking section or absolutely free smoking.

As much as I have sympathy for those people with a smoke allergy, I cannot abide a violation of personal freedoms - not only of the smokers but of the bar owners themselves. As long as our system is capitalistic, then suppressing the rights and freedoms of property owners can, in many cases, only be detrimental.

Even if the majority of western governments suddenly became socialistic, the only way, in my opinion, to maintain our quality of life would be to maintain small, restricted governments.

Bans really have to stop1

Steven, I quite agree.

Stewart, my constituency MSP is Margaret Smith (Lib Dem). She'll get in but not with my vote, which will go to whoever the Labour Party is standing.


1)As a public health measure it's intent is to stop people smoking at all, thus it would not be rational to allow market forces to pander to existing smokers.
2) Hotelling models would indicate that market forces would be for a continuance of smoking (with aircon and non-smoking zones, but even with them your clothes still end up stinking of baccy).
3) the situation as it is thus discriminates against non-smokers and their liberty to go out and drink alcohol (or sit in a greasy spoon).

The smoking ban is fair and the libertarian approach to the problem.

Fair? Barely. Libertarian? Hardly. It's a means to a social end by one group of people trying to force a desired outcome on another. I am a non-smoker and I refuse to impose my will on others because as an individual, I don't have the power or purview to do so and as a member of a Sovereign I do not want the power or purview to do so. There is no "right to comfort" or "right to not smell of tobacco," nor should there be.

Public health measures should consist of education and sanitation, not the forceful exclusion of a certain type of people from public places altogether. If the government truly wanted to force an end to smoking, they'd ban the product, not the people, but there's far too much money to be made on taxation to allow for that.

Banning smoking in government buildings is fine, as members of the Sovereign that is within our purview, but we have no right to impose that will on restaurant and bar owners in any way, shape or form.

And don't cite drug prohibition, because I disagree with that aswell. =)

Oh, and sorry, Mr. MacLeod, for starting up this sort of debate in the comments section of your blog. Thanks for being accomodating, if that is what you choose, though I'll understand completely if you choose the opposite.

Bill says: (1)As a public health measure it's intent is to stop people smoking at all, thus it would not be rational to allow market forces to pander to existing smokers.

You nailed it right there. Its intent is to stop people smoking at all. In other words, to coerce them for their own good, not for the protection of others.

I'm sure you've read John Stuart Mill's On Liberty, which rather frowns upon this sort of thing.

Steven, do feel free to continue the argument!

I'll probably sound very statist but I am ok with the smoking ban. I don't smoke, and I come from a non smoking family.

It is nice going out to a local club here in Swansea and not coming home smelling like an ashtray, also more chance to grab a seat too.

ones clothes last longer as well.n

"I cannot abide a violation of personal freedoms"

Asthma attacks give a whole new appreciation for the meaning of "breathe freely."

Many people are allergic to perfumes, or pollen or any number of airborne pollutants. Nobody's suggesting we ban perfume, or automobiles or pollen in public places. The fact of the matter is that, while people are usually accommodating enough when they're around someone with one medical condition or another, it is irresponsible to begin legislating the comfort of the intolerant into our society.

If you have trouble with cigarette smoke, stay out of places where people smoke, just like diabetics stay away from sugar. Yes, it sucks for those who must adjust their activities to cope with their illness, but it is worse to curtail the liberty of an entire society so that those with an illness may feel unrestricted.

Without wanting to sound too callous, the comfort of individuals is not the concern of the government.

As someone who lives far, far south of the Border, I'm not as familiar with Scots politicians as I ought to be, but thank you for the link to Jack McConnell's encounter with Bernard Ponsonby. A little treasure.

As a Scottish Ex-pat, I am very, very, happy that Rosie Kane never got back in. A waste of space. And an insult to socialism.

I wish to stand up for the rights of people who like to bash people with hammers in public places. I realise that some people are averse to being bashed with hammers, but if so they should stay out of places where people bash them with hammers. It is terrible that people have to adjust their activities to cope with such an aversion, but it is worse to curtail the liberty of an entire society so that those with such an aversion may feel unrestricted.

Without wanting to sound unfeeling, the desire of those who wish not to be bashed with hammers is not the concern of the state.

Cigarette smoking in public is an assault, which can have long lasting and even fatal consequences on others. If you wish to poison your environment do it in private where it can't affect other people. No-one has the right to assault their fellow citizens in order to satisfy an addiction or desire. It is no way libertarian to argue that they do.

There has yet to be a conclusive study establishing any significant risk with regards to second hand smoke. The study most quoted by lawmakers when preparing bills directed at banning smoking (an EPA study, if it matters) in public places was thrown out of court; it's data was selected to support a pre-conceived conclusion.

Diffusion of smoke and toxins in a large volume - like, say, a barroom of several hundred cubic meters - simply does not allow for a large enough concentration to cause adverse health effects. Even if you put dozens of smokers in the same room - unless the air in the bar is completely stagnant - the smoke concentration simply does not get dangerous unless you're allergic or asthmatic and then we get back to what I was was saying earlier.

And for the record, if people, knowing that a place is going to have smokers in it sets foot in that place anyway, then it is completely within the rights of smokers to expose that person to second hand smoke. The market will take care of smoke-free bars from now on, the ban is an assault on the bartenders' rights.

Have to take issue with Mark Fletcher. Rosie Kane was actually one of the hardest working msp's we had. She took on Tommy Sheridans case load in the early days of the last parliament because he was elsewhere doing other things... erm - dunno what...

Rosie didn't court the media - tho the media came after her - and she did not court votes in the populist way other so called socialist did - and do. She worked hard for asylum seekers - to the point of having families live in her small flat with her and her family. And her advocay of rights for children and young people was second to none. A REAL socialist politician - fighting for those who had no voice.

let's get this right.
You want to do something that would harm other people in a random way.
I don't want you to and think that it would be right that my freedom not to be harmed has priority over your right to indulge your pleasure/addiction. You are indulging in special pleading with a vengeance.
Incidentally, there is as much consensus over the harmful effects of passive smoking as that of climate change.

Though perhaps you deny that too. The market is a mechanism, not a god, incidentally.

There is far less agreement on the subject of the effects of passive smoking than most are led to believe (for example, the very study most cited in legal and legislative documents on the subject found a 2.5 out of 1 000 000 increase in the risk of heart disease in those exposed to passive smoking versus those not exposed. The number is not statistically significant.).

I am not a smoker. I don't smoke and I think it's a disgusting habit that wastes money and causes far too much unpleasant odour to be at all enjoyable, but I'm not going to force everyone to kow tow to that view of the habit. Whether or not you agree that the risks exist, if you willingly enter a place where you know beforehand that there will be people smoking, any damage visited upon you by that smoke is consentual and therefore it is morally justifiable.

But, if we were to agree, lets say that the evidence pointed in that direction, that passive smoking is a significant harm, then there would be a case for the banning of smoking in many premises on the grounds of worker protection.

Of course, you might disgree with laws to protect the health and safety of workers at work, arguing that entering into an employment contract is a consensual arrangement. But that is a view that entirely misses the gross differences in power bewteen employer and employee, particularly in the segments of the labour markets where exposure to tobacco smoke is an issue. It also presents a view of the history of work that looks with distaste at fights for improved health and safety at work by demands for legislation, presenting the implausible alternative history that the market would somehow have made workplaces safe(er).

The state might not be in the business of protecting consumers of 'luxury' goods and services (though in a market of imperfect knowledge, and a disparity of knowledge and power between producer and consumer, I'd say that it still has a role to play here) as consumers, but it surely has a role to play in protecting workers as workers, at least until we arrive at industrial democracy.

Or we could allow - or designate, depending on which side of the issue the research eventually lands on - that workers in such environments get something equivalent to Coal Miners' hazard pay, which is a system that already exists and is feasible. Coal is no more necessary than tobacco, yet it is still mined and, at last check, it has not been banned.

If you try to protect everyone from everything you eventually arrive at a skewed and screwed utopia no one would genuinely wish to live in. The vast majority of cases where people call for a ban are cases where a ban is the last thing which should be considered.

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