|Christopher Hitchens (1949-2011)|
When the complete ban on smoking in all public places was enacted in California, I called up the assemblyman who wrote the legislation and I said: “I’ve just discovered that bars are not going to be able to turn themselves into a club for the evening and charge a buck for admission for people who want to have a cigarette. You won’t be able to have a private club. You won’t even be able to have a smoke-easy, if you will, in California.”
And he said, “That’s right.”
I said, “Well, how can you possibly justify that?”
And he said, “Well, it’s to protect the staff. It’s labor protection legislation. We don’t want someone who doesn’t want to smoke, who doesn’t like it, having to work in a smoky bar.”
And I said, “You don’t think that if there were bars that allowed it and bars that forbade it, that, sooner or later people would apply for the jobs they preferred, and it would sort of shake out?”
He replied, “No. We could not make that assumption.”
So we have to postulate the existence, if you will, of a nonexistent person in a nonexistent dilemma: the person who can find only one job, and that job is as barkeep in a smoking bar. This person must be held to exist, though he or she is notional. But everyone who actually does exist must act as if this person is real.
...The worst part is that the staff has to become the enforcers. The waitresses have to become the enforcers. The maitre d’ has to become the enforcer. He has to act as the mayor’s representative. Because it’s he who is going to be fined, not you. If you break the law in his bar, he is going to have to pay.
So everyone is made into a snitch. Everyone is made into an enforcer. And everyone is working for the government. And all of this in the name of our health.
Now, I was very depressed by the way that this argument was conducted. There were people who stuck up for the idea that maybe there should be a bit of smoking allowed here and there. But they all said it was a matter of the revenue of the bars and the restaurants. That was the way the New York Times phrased it.
In no forum did I read: “Well, is there a question of liberty involved here at all? Is there a matter of freedom? Is there a matter of taste? Is there a matter of the relationship of citizens to one another?”
And something about it made me worry and makes me worry still. The old slogan of the anarchist left used to be that the problem is not those who have the will to command. They will always be there, and we feel we understand where the authoritarians come from. The problem is the will to obey. The problem is the people who want to be pushed around, the people who want to be taken care of, the people who want to be a part of it all, the people who want to be working for a big protective brother.
Read the full article here.