I Prefer Freedom, Thanks

I ran across this little nugget the other day regarding oak aged beers. It seems that California has an ill advised law charging a higher tax for what they deem alcopops. But the law is written in such a way that an oak aged beer could be deemed to be an alcopop by the taxman (who more than likely doesn't know his ass from a hole in the ground when it comes to beer).
Brewers will be “required” to “prove” their beer doesn’t meet that criteria, meaning they’ll have to submit a form for every current and new beer they produce, a ridiculous requirement at best. Effectively they’ll have to “prove” each beer they make is really a beer, and not something else. Guilty until they prove themselves innocent. And who better to monitor that than a tax organization, with little or no brewing knowledge? Since distilled spirits are taxed at a much higher rate, they’ll have no incentive whatsoever to act fairly.

This, of course, is just a symptom of the larger problem which is people trying to legislate their preferences with some sort of eye on the "common good". In California's case the do gooders were trying to reduce drink choices because young folks supposedly enjoy sweet fruity drinks and older folks only enjoy bad tasting foul smelling goat urine.

In Kansas City's case the do gooders are trying to force owners of private property to molest their guests over their guests' choice to use a legal product, cigarettes. Unfortunately, about 15 years ago some scientists came up with the idea of secondhand smoke and sold the alarmist media on the idea that secondhand smoke is as dangerous as the smoke monster that ate Eko.

As a result of this "science" the do gooders who were tired of paying extra dry cleaning bills decided 'hey, we can get those evil smokers to not smoke in our presence'. All of a sudden smokers were the new black people. Smoking started to get banned on airplanes, in the office and even defying logic, in outdoor sports stadiums. Well, that wasn't enough for these people. They wanted to go to bars too, and not smell the smoke. And instead of patronizing bars and restaurants that forbid smoking, they wanted to the ones that didn't care if their patrons smoked. Instead of writing a letter to the business owner or asking for a manager to complain to, they went to their city councilman, alderman or county council and wanted them to take the choice away from business owners. This trend has spread across the country and now it's right here on KC's doorstep.

These people aren't trying to ban public smoking because they're concerned about anyone's health, they're doing it because it bugs them to be in a smoky room. Sure they'll say they care about the poor bartender's health, but they don't care. If they cared about people's health they would advocate banning alcohol sales in a bar. Drunk driving kills more people every year than second hand smoke ever has or will.
Australian medical researcher Raymond Johnstone looked at epidemiological data and determined that the rate of death from cancer among the wives of non-smoking men was 6 per 100,000. The rate of death among the wives of smoking men was 8 per 100,000. That means that the absolute risk of cancer due to the kind of prolonged exposure to secondhand smoke endured by a spouse is 1 per 50,000.

Now if you’re an alarmist, you’d phrase that statistic like this: “SECONDHAND SMOKE CAUSES 33% MORE CANCER DEATHS.”

If you’re a realist, you’d phrase it as Johnstone does:

“The most one can say about the alleged link between passive smoking and lung cancer is that if there is one, the it is so small that it is difficult to measure it accurately and the risk, if any, is well below the level of those to which we normally pay attention.”

In the swell book The Tyranny of Health, Michael Fitzpatrick notes that you’re more likely to get cancer from eating Japanese seafood (six times more likely), drinking tap water (two and a half times more likely), or eating mushrooms (fifty percent more likely) than you are from being the nonsmoking spouse of a heavy smoker.

I don't hear these do gooders complaining about KC's tap water (Tony has been following KC's water infrastructure story) being a hazard. Of course they don't, the tap water doesn't make their clothes smell funny. What's worse, if you live in KC you don't have a choice what kind of tap water is in your house, but you do have a choice which businesses you wish to patronize.

If the concern is not people's health (even if the science was proven beyond a reasonable doubt, I would still be against banning smoking in bars) why don't we laugh these people out of the city? I don't like the smell of people getting perms but I'm able to concede that my opinion is probably less important than the person who is getting a perm. I don't like people ordering Bud Light in a bottle in a bar that has Bud Light on tap, but I'm OK with letting those people act like douches (in fact it's an important signaling system for me).

The reason that these laws keep getting passed is because most of us are non smokers and don't own our own business and don't really care if smokers and business owners are getting the shaft. A similar dynamic happened with segregation in the south after the Civil War. Most people were white and didn't really care about the rights of humans who weren't white.

So, human nature is what it is, we don't care about people's rights who aren't like us (why are we building a wall on the Mexico border and not on the Canadian border?). Let me appeal to some higher platitudes; freedom and capitalism. Give private property owners the right to decide who they want to serve and how they want to serve them. If you think that their choices are acceptable, patronize their business. If not, DON'T. Leave your letter writing to the people who are trying to give you choices (business owners) and not the people trying to take away your choices (government). As the saying goes "Smoking is healthier than fascism". When in the voting booth I always try to choose freedom, I hope you do too. When confronted with a do gooder who wants to limit your choices, I suggest you say "I prefer freedom, thanks".

Other Popular Posts on KC Beer Blog