Trust. Government Regulation. Guns and Income Inequality (Oh And Of Course Smoking)

I have been wanting to write about gun control and income inequality recently but as I’ve been researching and talking with people I have come across some interesting similarities between both topics that I feel the need to expound upon.

The basic idea shared by both these topics is how much government regulation should be exercised over each issue? I think it’s important to try to understand what is really being said, despite the words used. When a person says I want more government regulation, what they are really saying is “I trust the government to make better choices for my life than I can for myself.”

I am completely ok with that statement if some people want to make it. In fact, it’s probably quite accurate for the majority of people, not because the government is incredibly smart, but because people are often incredibly self centered and ignorant of how the world works. I would never make this statement myself. I am the architect of my own future.

For every regulation you think the government should make you should also be arguing for more taxes. OOOOOOOOOOHHHHHHHHHHH NNNNNNNNNNOOOOOOOOOO. I’m not paying more taxes, you say. Ah. Herein lies the problem. People can’t see the world beyond the walls of their own home and they think that the government should take care of them, but they don’t want to pay for it. People expect someone else to pay for it and this is the problem with arbitrarily raising the minimum wage.

How do you conduct your shopping? If you are like most people out there you first ask “What is the cheapest way I can get this?” If that includes buying things from Walmart, which you are very vocal about not liking on Facebook, or buying a burger from a fast food joint because it’s fast, cheap and therefore convenient, you are part of the problem. If you wanted to do something active to make companies listen to you you need to start talking with your wallet. Read this article about Moo Cluck Moo. It is a semi-fast food joint in Michigan that pays its workers $15/hour. Here is the important part for you lazy people who won’t read it “In order to make this model work, customers have to pay a little more.” If you go to McDonalds because it’s faster or cheaper but then argue that McDonald’s should raise their minimum wage, you are part of the problem. That is called internet activism my friends and it’s as useless as a knife at a gun fight.

The same principle has been enacted in the argument for smoking. People are arguing that the government can remove someone’s free choice to smoke and your free choice to avoid establishments that endorse smoking because you think the government is smarter than you. If you are in the NRA you should also be trying to help smokers get back their choice to smoke in places that business owners think it is beneficial for their business (public places like gas stations and hospitals where it’s inherently dangerous excluded). Read my article on smoking if you want to understand that more. If however you are in the NRA but you think that it’s ok to deny restaurants the right to choose if they will have smoking or not, you are really saying that you DO trust the government to make good choices for you and all your arguments for no gun registration is as worthless as a gasoline engine on the moon. (For those of you who don’t understand this, an engine running on gasoline needs oxygen to run, of which there is none on the moon.)

So let’s recap. The question is how much do you trust your government? If you say, unequivocally but argue against higher taxes, you are a liar. If you say I don’t trust the government at all (NRA people and anti-gun registration folks) but argue for some regulation like seat belt laws and smoking laws I also call you a liar.

This is my challenge to you. Let’s start taking a little responsibility for ourselves. Do the right thing! If you think you can make good life choices for yourself lets see you do that. If you don’t think you are capable of making good life choices for yourself, please give your whole paycheck to the government and let them tell you exactly what you should be doing for a job, where you should live, what you should eat etc.

Mark Rain Flickr Creative Commons, cover photo

Smoking. Why It Should Be Legal.

I am not a smoker, but I think it should be legal in certain places. Many people I have talked to have been more than happy that smoking has been outlawed in public places, at least in the midwest for around a decade now. I am going to tell you why that’s not a good reaction.

Lets start by saying this is not an article promoting smoking. I understand that scientifically there is a lot of evidence that says smoking is unhealthy for the smoker. There is also evidence that says that smoking is unhealthy for those who regularly breathe 2nd hand smoke. For that reason I do not advocate that anyone should smoke in their home if they have any non-smokers in the house, this meaning anyone with kids. There is not evidence, that I know of, that says that someone who walks within 20 feet of a smoker once a month will develop significant lung problems. I personally have asthma so I think I qualify in the group that is hard of breathing.

Why do people smoke in the first place? Usually it’s started as a way to be “cool”. The older kids smoke. Your parents don’t want you to smoke. Naturally the thing to do is smoke. Later people can become addicted to the nicotine. At this point it gives them a relaxing feeling to smoke, as they are getting their “fix”.

How to stop cigarette smoking? Like most things, I think the most effective way to stop smoking is through education. If you show kids pictures of smokers lungs they are pretty unlikely to start smoking. Have you seen the scary  anti smoking commercials? Effective. It’s probably not common knowledge that most smokers actually want to quit. But it’s a difficult road to break any addiction.

So now that I’ve thoroughly painted the picture that I am not advocating smoking, let me tell you why I’m also not trying to outlaw it. Smoking was outlawed because it was unpopular. Not because it was unhealthy, but because it was unpopular. This is a bad precedent to set. People wanted to go to a bar, restaurant or bowling alley and breathe clean fresh air. While that is fine and dandy, I have yet to read in the Constitution where you have the right to go to a privately owned restaurant. The people who want to go to those places have a choice. They can go to those privately owned places or not. They are not entitled to it. The key here is privately owned establishments. Don’t write me telling me how it should be illegal to smoke in a hospital, I agree, because there is a captive audience there who can’t choose to leave and medical equipment that shouldn’t be smoked around.

People have more power than they recognize. While they have demonstrated that they have the power to band together to ban things they don’t like, perhaps we should step back and think if this is a good road to go down. Think of things you like. Alcohol? Soft drinks? Burgers? Riding a bicycle without a helmet. Driving a motorcycle without a helmet. Driving a car without a seat belt? All of these things can be dangerous and I’m sure you can tell me why I shouldn’t do any of them, but I am here to tell you that me wanting to do any of these things doesn’t inhibit your ability to choose to not do them. Some of these things have been made illegal and come back from it. Prohibition. Some are currently illegal in certain places, riding a motorcycle without a helmet. Some are not yet illegal but certain people are trying to make them illegal, drinking more than a certain volume of soft drink. Thanks Michael Bloomberg. Basically by outlawing things you are running to the teacher and telling on someone. That’s childish.

So what do I think would have been a more effective way to get people to stop smoking in a place you wanted to be? Perhaps talk to the owner of the establishment. Tell him directly that if he doesn’t choose for his place of business to have it smoke free, you won’t give him your money. Money talks. Now this being the owners place, he could comply, if he thinks he’d get more business that way, or if he thinks he’d get more business by allowing patrons to continue to smoke that’s completely fine by me also and it should be ok with you also.

So what do you think? Will you continue to make criminals of people who aren’t doing anything wrong? Or will you continue to advocate to outlaw things as long as you disagree with them?

Let me expose you to a speech by Martin Niemöller.

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
Now let me interpret that for you by substituting things you might care about.

First they came for the smokers, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a smoker.

Then they came for the soda drinkers and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a soda drinkers.

Then they came for the coffee drinkers, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a coffee drinkers.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

And finally a thought by David Allen Green.
So my challenge to you is to think bigger. Don’t think “How will X impact me?” But think “How will X impact the world?”

Credit Francisco Karm for cover photo. Flickr Creative Commons.