Distorted understanding of libertarianism kills news article’s credibility

Or at least, it should.

An “interesting” (read: “wrong”) op-ed piece was just written by one Sheila Evans regarding a proposed smoking ban in New Hampshire. Titled “Distorted libertarianism killed restaurant smoking ban”, she chronicles the failure of Free State nannystatists to ban smoking in bars. From her abortion of an opinion piece:

RECENTLY, a Hudson citizen traveled to the State House to participate in the Senate deliberations on the issue of secondhand smoke. She had never testified before, but felt compelled to share her story. Karen Lindquist is 33 and has never smoked a day in her life. She had, however, worked as a bartender in the past. Now she is undergoing chemotherapy treatments as she battles lung cancer.

Her doctor told her she is suffering from the same form of lung cancer as a smoker. Karen waited hours in the Senate Finance Committee room for her turn to speak. Her composure impressed everyone, and her appearance belied her status as a chemo patient, until she clarified it in a very personal way.

At the end of her testimony, Karen reached up and removed her wig, allowing a roomful of strangers and the senators to gaze at her bald head. It was a powerful moment, and the silence in the room was broken only by the sniffles of those moved to tears by this young woman’s story. Three of the senators who witnessed her action recommended the very next day to kill the bill to remove second-hand smoke from every New Hampshire restaurant and bar.


Objections to the legislation arose from a vocal few who relied upon a distortion of libertarian principles. John Stuart Mill wrote of the freedom of the individual in opposition to the claims of the state. He is most famous for his principle that people should be free to engage in whatever behavior they wish as long as it does not harm others. Mill understood well the tension between the rights of the individual and the need to prevent harm.

Smoke exhaled in enclosed spaces harms others. A smoker has every right to indulge until his or her smoke enters someone else’s nose.

Now, what I see here is two things. First, I’m seeing some emotional crap cited, about a woman that was perfectly free not to work in a smoke-filled environment. Next up, we’ve got someone quoting a liberal (not quite libertarian, though he did agree with us often) philosopher out of context and trying to tell us how we have our own philosophy wrong.

However, anyone who’s well-versed in libertarian philosophy would agree insofar as the smoke was being forced upon someone else’s nose. However, this is not the case-the bar owner voluntarily decided to allow smoking, the bartender voluntarily decided to work there, and the bar patrons voluntarily decided to drink there.

Sheila Evans, you have liberalism all wrong. You have the bleeding heart down pat, but you missed out on the whole “intellectual” thing. Liberals are supposed to be well-read, and be up on their political philosophers. I’m afraid you just don’t make the cut, you’re no Noam Chomsky. Maybe a Michael Moore, though.

Stuart Richards

Stuart Richards is a 26-year-old land surveyor based out of Portland, OR. He is a left-leaning geolibertarian and (theologically) liberal Christian, and has been blogging on HammerofTruth.com and other libertarian sites since 2004.

  1. Funny, I was just listening to a radio show about this issue this morning. (Mike McConnel) An important thing to note that is are studies that prove second hand smoke causes health problems and there are studies that prove it doesn’t. So the jury is still out on this; just something to keep in mind.

  2. I have to sympathize with her getting lung cancer. But at the same time, she needs to place the blame for it squarely where it belongs: with herself. She chose to spend her nights in a smoking environment, and hardly could have been unaware of the risks of being in a smoky bar day after day after day. She didn’t have to do that. Nobody forced her to go in there. She might say she didn’t have a choice, but that’s not true: she did.

  3. There are people who get lung cancer who have never smoked and haven’t been exposed to second hand smoke. It’s possible this woman would have gotten lung cancer had she not even worked in a smokey bar. Of course, it’s also very possible that the second hand smoke caused her lung cancer. In addition, how do we know she’s telling the truth when she said she hasn’t smoked a day in her life? That seems unlikely.

    For unskilled workers, I guess the expression fits quite well – beggers can’t be choosers. It’s unfortunate but perhaps this woman was desperate enough for a job that she felt she had to work in a smokey bar. Of course it’s the bar owner’s decision whether to allow smoking or not. It’s an unfortunate situation but hey, life is hard, then you die.

  4. While it seems cruel to agree, I think this woman has no one to blame but herself and possibly a few unknown bugs in her lungs.

    Here’s what I have on second hand smoke and cancer:
    Recent discoveries have linked cell damage and mutation by certain types of parasitic Mycoplasma. These little critters are now known to cause many forms of cancer. They also very difficult to detect since they lack a cell wall and live inside (sometimes outside) of host cells and can go undetected for years, if not a lifetime. Most people never even show symptoms other than feeling lethargic at times, without reason. The bugs are anaerobic but can be spread from person to person by the vapor produced by their breath or by sneezing on others at close range.

    One could SPECULATE that because they are anaerobic and second hand smoke has carbon-monoxide, it could easily help increase the range of infection by shielding these bugs from the surrounding oxygen (just a thought though).

  5. The facts are still out on if second hand smoke causes lung cancer so it is understandable that she may not have known the dangerous.

    There is very little chance that 79% of NH folks supported this measure. A measure that was killed by Free State Project members who told the New Hampshire Senate that property owners have rights too. The NH Senate agreed and NH is once again the only New England state that allows smoking freely in the workplace.

    This article shows that despite media lies, medical lies, the chamber of com. lies, and even government lies, it is still possible for a couple dozen political activists armed with the truth to win battles in the Free State.

  6. My first job outside a family owned business was working in a paper mill at age 18 (1964 pre EPA and OSHA). It was dangerous physically, bellowed smoke and ash and poisoned the river.

    Two “bull gang” workers went down a wood chipper to never be seen again. They became part of cardboard for boxes. That got my attention. I was not forced to work there. It was my choice. I decided to do something else in life. I joined the army and went to Vietnam soon after.

    The moral of the story? Don’t blame the paper mill or the army. I chose to do what I did by my own free will. No one is forced to work in a bar, paper mill or join the army. Quit whining. Let the people smoke if they want. I don’t because I do believe it is harmful but I don’t care if you do.

    I am fed up with lawmakers deciding to protect us from ourselves. Example – seat belt laws. Where does it end? Maybe their logic can be extended to banning my Harley Davidson motorcycles.