Thursday, April 12, 2007

Its My Bar, Its My Restaraunt, Its MY Decision

If Smoking Bans levied at owners of private property are in the best interest of the citizenry, then why not just outlaw all smoking together?

The Left in this country will never outlaw smoking. Or, put differently, ELECTED members of the American Left, when given the opportunity, will never outlaw smoking because as a source of tax revenue, its too important and too lucrative for them. Remember, the most important thing for an elected Democrat is to be able to offer a government service to his constituency. This is virtually impossible without someone else's money. Hence, the need for ever increasing streams of revenue to the Federal, State, and Local coffers.

The demand for Nicotine emitting products is what economists call "inelastic". That simply means that fluctuations in price have very little if any impact on demand because there are limited acceptable substitutes for it. So, if consumption will remain virtually constant irrespective of increases price, so too will the the stream of tax revenue.

However, what many on the American Left have no problem with is making it agonizingly difficult to use nicotine products. The latest incarnation of this ploy is the various government mandated bans on smoking throughout not just the Chicagoland Area, but throughout the country. In fact, Chicagoland is a bit late to the party, but its arrival is a downer none-the-less.

As I've stated earlier in these pages, Jeff's Garage & Ale House sits in the western tri-fecta of suburbs known as the Fox River Valley. This is a very quaint and historic area of the Chicago Suburbs, but no matter how far away from the Frozen Left Wing Hell Hole of Chicago you go in Chicagoland, the bad Leftist ideas seem to stick to you like toilet paper to the heal of your shoe.

A little over a year ago, Chicago Aldermen were patting each other on the back over the passage of the Chicago Smoking Ban. I won't go into the details of what the ban entails, because that is not important. What IS important to discuss is the the fact that any government - Federal, State, or Local - has the audacity to tell a private property owner what legal activity he/she can or cannot allow in his/her establishment. This is morally wrong and it frustrates the hell out of me that so many restaurateurs and bar owners in Chicago seemed to have no problem bending over and grabbing their ankles for the move. I wrote a letter to the editor of the Chicago Tribune on the heels of its passage expressing my incredulity. I implored the owners of bars and restaurants across Chicago to ban together and fight this ridiculous idea as far up the appellate chain as possible. Naturally, they didn't.

To me, laws like this are no less offensive than the Kilo v. New London travesty of the same year. Kilo, you'll recall, was the court case where the US Supreme Court tortured the Imminent Domain Laws of the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution - which clearly states that "No person shall... be deprived of Life, Liberty or Property without due process of law, nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation," - to rule in favor of private property seizure for dubious purposes. The City of New London, Connecticut wanted to seize the private property of a New London resident and..... build a library? No. Build a new school? No. Build a park? No. How about this: give it to a developer - a private, not public entity - so that they could level the house and put a structure that would yield a higher amount of tax revenue to the city. That's exactly what New London wanted to do, and the Court ruled in the city's favor.

You think that's atrocious? A law enacted by any level of government that tells a restaurateur or bar owner that they cannot allow the legal activity of smoking on the property that they own is no less offensive, unjust, and intrusive than Kilo. And yet, enlightened people applaud it. Its like living in the Twilight Zone.

When the Chicago Smoking Ban was enacted, I told everyone that would listen to me that this was only the beginning. It was December of 2005, and I predicted right then and there, that the next regulation would be what the restaurant can and cannot serve on its menu based on the dictates of "someone who knows better." Hello Transfat ban shortly afterward. There should be some kind of prize for that kind of premonition.

So, on the front page of one of the Fox River Valley's local papers today was a "hooray" article about the TriCities inching closer to following Chicago's lead on the smoking ban. That's what sent me into this tirade this evening.

The Left in this country, and in many places around the world, seem to have such a pathetic grasp of the basics of Market Economics that they fail to see that, if not only patrons but employees want a smoke free bar or restaurant, and there is in fact a market for that kind of an atmosphere, then someone will (and very many have, irrespective of law) tap into that market and provide the service. Try lighting up in a Starbucks and see what happens to you when the 19 year old with the nose ring in the green apron approaches you. And you know what? That is a beautiful thing. There are in fact, millions upon millions of decent, normal Americans across the country that don't like cigarette or cigar smoke, and places - again, irrespective of law - have popped up all over the country to tap into their market. Where there is a demand, there will be someone to meet that demand, irrespective of whether a pushy government entity feels the urge to address the need.

So why the ban? If common sense tells you that Smoking vs. Non-Smoking will find equilibrium in the marketplace, why do busy-body politicians need to step in and mandate? For the same reason that many people in this country call for stupid Windfall Profits taxes and Price Controls. Because they are economically ignorant people that have zero faith in the Market economy and its ability to take care of the needs of the people. Further, some (not all) of them are shameless power whores who want to thump their chests and say that they are doing something "for the good of the people." Isn't he a nice man, Dear?

In the end, some of the TriCities councilmen do seem to have some grasp of economics. Earlier this year, St. Charles voted on a Pubic Smoking Ban, but made it contingent on Geneva and Batavia enacting similar bans. Why? Because they were smart enough to know that it would have adverse affect on the St. Charles establishments. Smokers in St. Charles - grown adults partaking in a perfectly legal activity - would simply drive to Geneva or Batavia restaurants and bars to spend their money. There are obviously enough of us with enough of a demand for smoked filled evenings to warrant a market for the same. What about us?

Fox River Valley politicians need to focus on things that matter in this area - like, for one thing, finding a way to reign in these obnoxious property tax rates - rather than donning the rubber Slim Goodbody suits complete with heart, arteries and veins and telling us that, for our own good, they are extinguishing smoking in establishments owned by private citizens.

In short - I own the damn bar, its my property, I make the decisions that determine my survival in the marketplace, and there is no government that has any right to tell me what I allow on my property. There is no getting around that, no matter how much the US Supreme Court, the Anti Smoking Nazis, or the City Councils and Mayors despise that fact.

Addendum, April 13th:

Expanding further on the appeal to the Market to address this issue: IF, in fact, the vast majority of a city's population is craving for a smoke free bar or restaurant, and I refuse to ban smoking in my restaraunt, what is going to happen to my business? Its going to plummet, and unless I want to be working the graveyard shift at the White Hen, I'm going to shut down smoking in my establishment simply to survive. But the Market will naturally make that decision for me. So, again, why does government feel the need to?