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Smoking Ban in L.A.

July 17, 1993

* As the owner of America's only smoke-free jazz club, Randell's, you'd think I'd be all in favor of L.A.'s recent law banning smoking in restaurants. The statistics indicate that failure to provide a smoking section generally costs proprietors a hefty 30% reduction in their gross revenues. Ouch! Logically, if no restaurant within easy distance was able to permit smoking, this loss might be significantly mitigated. This proverbial leveling of the playing field would no doubt benefit my already smoke-free restaurant, perhaps greatly so.

So, I welcome L.A.'s ban and hope the idea catches on in Orange County. NOT!

Even though it's tempting to view the issue as it relates to my short-term self-interest, prudence dictates careful consideration of broader and more lingering effects. The more important question is: Are such laws in the interest of freedom? And clearly, government mandates, rarely, if ever, promote or protect personal liberty.

But why such a concern with freedom? Isn't it better to give up just a few of our liberties to promulgate a "greater public good"? Isn't this the price we pay for a more just society? Absolutely not.

When anyone's rights are diminished, everyone's rights are threatened. If my colleagues' right to run their business as they see fit is infringed, my property rights are also eroded. A state unchecked will eventually impose so many restrictions that I cease to own my business in any meaningful sense and, in effect, become a trustee obligated to operate for the benefit of the government. This system has been tested (in the former Soviet Union) and it doesn't work.

Thomas Jefferson often observed that, "The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground." Maybe this is true because we are so often tempted to view an issue only as it relates to our immediate economic self-interest--forgetting or ignoring libertarian considerations. In all cases, we would do well to remember that peace and prosperity are the fruits of liberty. And, hence, over time, the policy which truly benefits us all, both spiritually and financially, is that which allows the greatest possible exercise of our inalienable rights to life, liberty and property.


Santa Ana

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