Reductio Creep (Where There's Smoke There's Fire Edition)

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From an article about a new ban on smoking in Drew University dorms:

Drew junior Chelsea McCauley, however, applauds the ban. The 20-year-old from Bethlehem, Pa., said there are plenty of places to smoke outside.
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"If you can't smoke in restaurants, why should living spaces be any different?" McCauley said.

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  1. This makes a hell of a lot of sense for non-reductio reasons. In our dorms at Penn State in the late 80s/early 90s, if the guy in the room next to you smoked, there was smoke in your room.

  2. I think it was more for the “if the state doesn’t allow (a), why whould you be able to do (b)?”

  3. “would” or “should”, I mean. Damn, that’s twice today.

  4. I’m sure the reductio comment referred to the dumbass quoted in the sidebar, who is obviously squandering the opportunity to actually learn in college. However, M1EK is correct (never thought I’d type that), because a dorm environment is stinky enough with the smell of feet, armpits, old farts, spoiled food, and the like, without adding the stench of stale tobacco smoke to the mix.

  5. The 21-year-old from Malvern, Pa., said she doesn’t look forward to huddling around an ashtray outside her dorm during the thick of winter.

    Oh, cry me a river. New Jersey? Try smoking a cigarette outside in a Cleveland winter. It will take you no less than at least 12 minutes to thaw your exposed, blue fingers upon returning inside to warmth and life.

  6. Just out of curiosity, since I’m assuming there aren’t bajillions of libertarians in Cleveland, do you know recent Case students Ryan Nunn, Wilson Freeman, or Erin Shellman?

  7. I can somewhat understand the state banning smoking in public universities that are under its control, but they shouldn’t be able to apply this law to private universities. It would be like telling a business owner that he can’t smoke at his own shop… wait, they already do that.

  8. Julian,

    It’s possible that I’ve met them on a first-name basis, but since Case is not my alma mater and I’ve been out of college for over a year, alas I cannot say for sure that I know them personally. One of my friends at Case might, though. If I think of it, I will ask one of them.

  9. This one doesn’t seem to bother me and I’m a smoker. I’m not sure why exercising my liberty to smoke outweighs my hallmates liberty to not smell like utter crap. Yet, I also agree that private universities should be exempt.

    But, I also think it is just plain rude and tasteless to smoke indoors in public venues… so, what do I know?

  10. “If you can’t smoke in restaurants, why should living spaces be any different?” McCauley said.

    Because if “they” can prohibit smoking in your dorm room they can also prohibit <insert your favorite activity> in dorm rooms.

  11. …And then your home.

  12. Except that this is a private ban, so not so much.

  13. there are plenty of places to smoke outside

    …but far fewer places ones in which to smoke weed. If this place is anything like NYU, then that might be the most serious problem related to the ban.

  14. The entire state of New Jersey smells like a garbage dump. Cigarette smoke actually improves the place.

  15. I would just like to take this opportunity to once again recommend “The Book of Daniel Drew”. Founder of Drew University, bilker of Astors, inventor of watered stock, and all-around fascinating character.

    Likely he’s turning in his grave right now.

  16. And how is this different from renting apartments and not allowing pets? If the owner doesn’t allow smoking then so be it, rent somewhere else. The fact that it may be state owned and the state is the renter is, to me, a red herring. I only see a problem at a state school if they require you to stay in their dorms.

  17. Somebody else’s restaraunt is one thing, but a dorm? Assuming I live there, that’s my house. I have just as much right to live in a smoke-free environment as a smoker has to smoke in their room, and since tobbacco smoke is so difficult to get out once it’s in, I have to think that the nonsmokers rights should trump the smokers in this case.

  18. Eddy, it makes a difference because the state has an obligation to be nondiscriminitory because all taxpayers technically own the property, smoker or not. This rule discriminates against taxpayers who would like to see people be able to smoke in dorms. Allowing smokers in dorms, conversely, discriminates against those who want to see the dorms smoke-free. This is one of the inherent contradictions of the commons: whether to restrict all activity, or to allow it all. We are slowly sliding into banning all activity that someone may find “offensive” in public places due to pressure group warfare, and the fact that overzealous soccer moms rule the earth.

  19. TO ALL THE KIDS WHO SURVIVED the
    1930s ’40s, ’50s, ’60s and ’70s !!

    So, this has nothing to do with this post (well, maybe it actually does in some sense). But, my dad forwarded this to me and it made me laugh. I found it appropriate because of the reference to government at the end. The full list is here.

    “You might want to share this with others who have had the luck to grow up as kids before the lawyers and the government regulated our lives for our “own” good. And while you are at it, forward it to your kids so they will know how brave their parents were.”

  20. NB: Drew is a private university, and this is a policy, not a law. The school certainly has a right to decide its dorms are non-smoking. I was just pointing out the freakiness of the sentiment (which didn’t seem to make such fine distinctions, since restaurant smoking bans ARE a matter of law), not arguing against the policy per se.

  21. It seems like there are plenty of ways to cater both to nonsmokers and smokers alike. Instead of setting aside the third floor of all dorms why not set aside one entire dorm for smokers. Have all incoming freshman declare weather they?d like smoking non smoking or simply don’t care. Those that don’t care could then be used to fill up any vacant rooms of the smoking dorm. Granted the numbers may not always support this kind of solution but I honestly doubt it would be a problem in most cases.

    While the administration of private property (either state or private universities) should legally be able to set any regulations they like there should be a cultural as well as legal commitment to liberty. That is, as much as possible, we should not interfere in the lives of others. Just as a libertarian supports the rights of religious conservatives to hold moral views that are not legally enforceable we should be able to advance this moral imperative without mandating it.

  22. contradictions of the commons: whether to restrict all activity, or to allow it all.

    Be that as it may, but these are not true commons since there are typically restrictions as to who can enter and when. Dorms, by nature, are discriminatory since not just anyone can live there. The point in question, ‘when is discrimination bad?’ is easily solved by getting the state out of the housing business.

  23. The 21-year-old from Malvern, Pa., said she doesn’t look forward to huddling around an ashtray outside her dorm during the thick of winter.

    Ahh yes, the coldest place I ever had to endure to smoke a good cigerette was during a summer evening baseball game at Candlestick Park in San Francisco. Was that smoke or condensed breath I just exhaled?

  24. I say that if the market demand is great enough then Drew should set up “smoking only” dorms, i.e. you have to be a smoker, or love breathing second-hand smoke to live in them. Drew probably ought to charge extra for these dorms because of the “smoke damage” done to them, but this is, of course, a business decision to be made by Drew.

    Drew should also set up “no smoking” dorms where smoking is absolutely forbidden. Then everybody who wants to breathe would have a place to do so.

  25. I can’t play the trombone/masterbate/take a dump/sleep/walk around naked in a restaurant, why should our living areas be any different?

    Ah, the mind of a 20 year old…demonstrating the wisdom of allowing them to vote.

  26. I try to be principled about these things, I really do, I try so hard . . . and then I remember how I have to have the patio door on my apartment closed all fucking summer — denying me the enjoyment of fresh air and running up my electric bill because I have tu run the air constantly to counter the heat — because of the apartment full of fratboy chain smokers on the floor below us, and the other apartment full of smokers on the ground floor, and how rather than smoke in their own apartments they always do so on their balconies or patios, because heaven forbid they smell up their own homes, no, far better to smell up mine . . . and I decide I just really don’t give a shit about the poor smokers.

    I guess that makes me unprincipled. Oh, well.

  27. “Mind if I smoke?” you ask.

    Let’s see…do I mind if you emit noxious, cancer-causing fumes that will prohibit me (or Phil) from leaving our windows open or enjoying our porches; if you cause our electric bills to skyrocket, and force us to get our clothes dry-cleaned all the time? Oh yeah, and until recently in this state and in New York, force us to choose between going to our favorite bars and getting emphysema…or worse?

    Not only do I mind, I especially mind if you run around calling yourself a libertarian while doing it.

    Anybody who smokes, in light of all the science on what it does to a person, should put themselves on the list for a brain donation. Why not take up an equally idiotic form of relaxation, like trying to get hit by a car?

  28. K. Toishi-

    We ate worms and mud pies made from dirt, and the worms did not live in us forever.

    You guys ate dirt? Were you just poor, or what?

    If it means having to eat dirt, I’ll take the bike helmit, thanks.;)

  29. You guys ate dirt? Were you just poor, or what?

    Ha ha, that was one i couldn’t say i did… I think it was actually grass and crickets for us at scout camp.

  30. Why not take up an equally idiotic form of relaxation

    Because all the good drugs require a $120 trip and a “reason” to get a permission slip from some shmuck with a god complex provided by a bureaucracy that really wants the power to control your life from pre-birth to pine box. Not that I have an opinion about that.

  31. I graduated from Drew in 2000. I became a freshman at 21, so no restrictions ever applied to me. Unfortunately, as I was there, more and more restrictions encroached on campus, and every single one backfired.

    The worst restriction was limiting alcohol to students of legal age, and only to closed rooms. Before that, we had plenty of keg parties with cheap beer, which often spilled in front of the dorms, and all the Drew police did was to make sure that nobody walked too far away with a drink. In 1999, the new rules came into effect. From that time, most students switched to hard liquor and closet drinking. It was no longer normal to have a couple of beers on a Thursday or Friday night, so many students felt like they had to get drunk much faster. The net result was a nearly tripling of alcohol poisonings, lots of in-room vandalism and the increased use of drugs on campus.

    I see something similar happening with the smoking ban. While I never tried to smoke, I allowed people to smoke in my dorm room when I was throwing a party, and they never caused any damage. Now, however, students will become more reckless, just as they did with alcohol.

  32. “Why not take up an equally idiotic form of relaxation, like trying to get hit by a car?”

    man, have you ever tried to smoke a car? it’s fucking hard! they keep driving away and shit, but i think it’d be a deep and satisfying smoke.

  33. Yeah you guys… the government telling businesses to not allow smoking is just terrrrible. Not allowing cancerous fumes in dense places is the first step towards a fasicst state I’m sure.

  34. K. Toishi- Crickes aren’t that bad, or that forbidden. I’m only 21 and I used to eat crickets all the time. Of course, I paid for mine in those suckers that have the cricket in…side…y’know what? Just never mind.

  35. “force us to choose between going to our favorite bars and getting emphysema”

    You mean, like, you had to put up with the environment the bar owners had decided to allow, or go somewhere else? Cry me a fucking river.

  36. Anybody who goes sky diving, in light of all the science on what hitting the ground at 60 miles an hour does to a person, should put themselves on the list for a brain donation. Beceause life is all about avoiding risk and makeing sure that everyone makes the same decisions about what is and is not an aceptable risk to their health.

    While we’re at it, statisticly what do you think is more likely to kill me, smoking or driving my car?

  37. Damn right, David. By Alkon’s reasoning, anyone that ever rides in an automobile is a moron.

    Phil,

    The problem isn’t that your neighbors are smokers; it’s that they’re assholes. When I smoked, I tried hard not to inconvenience those around me, to the point that they’d often tell me that it was okay for me to smoke around them (because I’d generally walk away before I lit up). There’s no reason that one can’t be a conscientious smoker.

  38. Damn right, David. By Alkon’s reasoning, anyone that ever rides in an automobile is a moron.

    So true. And, anyone who drinks alcohol, eats fast food, doesn’t exercise… hell, anyone that walks outside their door in the morning is a moron.

    And, you are totally right on your second point. It is not that hard to be a considerate smoker. Now, if only more people would learn to be considerate drinkers (my pet peeve)…

  39. On the other hand, outlawing the kind of self-congratulatory semi-masturbatory tripe in the last few comments is probably a public health win all around.

    Seriously, folks. I eat fast food on my patio, and it affects your apartment how, exactly? Belches?

  40. i don’t think the state shoud be able to tell private universities what rules it must promulgate. but tell me again which students actually OWN their dorm rooms? if the university owns the dorms, it can set rules. or are the students actually gonna pay for repainting and recarpeting to get rid of the smoke smell at the end of the school year…yeah right.

  41. Seriously, folks. I eat fast food on my patio, and it affects your apartment how, exactly? Belches?

    I believe the fast food, etc. comments are in reference to Amy’s comment that “anybody who smokes, in light of all the science on what it does to a person, should put themselves on the list for a brain donation.”

    By that rationale, anyone who drinks alcohol, eats fast food, and doesn’t exercise should also be on that same brain-donation list given the unhealthful effects of each.

    I’m in agreement that people should be more considerate on their patios. Better yet, as we have in my town, there should be smoking and non-smoking apartment communities to avoid such problems.

  42. Yes, life is filled with risk, but nobody smokes because they can’t get to work without lighting up. Getting around via automobile tends to be a necessity. If you look at it statistically (see Barry Glassner’s excellent book, “Culture Of Fear,” you’re safer taking a plane to your destination, but jetting off to pick up a quart of milk is rather impractical, no?

    There were many times, when I lived in New York, when I didn’t go to various bars or stay for another drink because I couldn’t take the smoke. I wasn’t always willing or able to arrange my life around the serious risk of getting cancer from sucking down smoke. But, to all of you who practice that “I’m free to do whatever I damn well please” form of faux libertarianism, isn’t it just plain rude to go to a public place, or be in shared space, and poison everybody else who’s there?

  43. There were many times, when I lived in New York, when I didn’t go to various bars or stay for another drink because I couldn’t take the smoke. I wasn’t always willing or able to arrange my life around the serious risk of getting cancer from sucking down smoke. But, to all of you who practice that “I’m free to do whatever I damn well please” form of faux libertarianism, isn’t it just plain rude to go to a public place, or be in shared space, and poison everybody else who’s there?

    I would argue that, yes, business owners are “free to do whatever [they] damn well please.” Private businesses shouldn’t have to “arrange their life” around your wishes. If I own a restaurant, the property is mine (unless it is leased). My private property rights outweigh your liberty to a smoke-free environment. Patrons and employees may choose with their dollars and feet not to support/work at my smoking establishment.

    Conversely, a business-owner is freely within their rights to establish a non-smoking restaurant. I’m not quite clear why, private-property interests should be trumped, as they are with many municipal smoking-bans (e.g. Washington, D.C.), in favor of individual customers/employees when private businesses are not “public spaces.” They are private property. Each of us freely chooses to enter such spaces.

    In public places (courts, etc.), yes, I am more prone to support anti-smoking legislation. But, when it comes to the smoking policies of private businesses, only one person matters, the property owner (which may at times be a landlord). If I, or you, don’t like it, we can simply go elsewhere. Your example of staying out of smoking bars in NYC is a perfect example of a well-functioning free market. You took your dollars elsewhere.

    [and, I’m not quite sure how your “version” of libertarianism is “more pure” than the one you are criticizing, given it’s seeming disdain for private property rights.]

  44. BTW, this whole debate reminded me of a severe a**whopping given to me by a professor in grad school. And, the issue seems appropriate give the audience…

    My professor was advocating for whopping increases in cigarette taxes. Knowing, he was a heavy wine drinker, I said, “OK, how about the same increases on alcohol. You drinkers cost one hell of a lot of money too.” Of course, he gave me the traditional, “dear student, you dare question your venerable professor” beatdown.

    My contention was that, through taxes and early death, smokers pay their own way when it comes to entitlement programs and group insurance (or, at least, come close to it). He would have none of it.

    Being an aspiring scholar, I headed straight for the professional journals – knowing that there is always one journal article to support any position. To my surprise, I found one in the Journal of American Medicine.

    Here is the abstract. I have the full article for anyone interested. Although I got an A- in the class, I did get a “you were right” e-mail to the entire class…

    [Note this was written in 1989].

    The taxes of sin. Do smokers and drinkers pay their way?

    W. G. Manning, E. B. Keeler, J. P. Newhouse, E. M. Sloss and J. Wasserman
    Department of Health Services Management and Policy, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor 48109.

    We estimate the lifetime, discounted costs that smokers and drinkers impose on others through collectively financed health insurance, pensions, disability insurance, group life insurance, fires, motor-vehicle accidents, and the criminal justice system. Although nonsmokers subsidize smokers’ medical care and group life insurance, smokers subsidize nonsmokers’ pensions and nursing home payments. On balance, smokers probably pay their way at the current level of excise taxes on cigarettes; but one may, nonetheless, wish to raise those taxes to reduce the number of adolescent smokers. In contrast, drinkers do not pay their way: current excise taxes on alcohol cover only about half the costs imposed on others.

    Abstract

  45. “Your example of staying out of smoking bars in NYC is a perfect example of a well-functioning free market. You took your dollars elsewhere.”

    As I’ve pointed out on many occasions in other smoking threads, there are a lot of people who don’t want to breathe smoke when they eat, for example, yet, when I grew up in South Florida in the 1980s, there were no non-smoking restaurants around. None. Zero. Zilch.

    It’s hard to sell this as a “perfect example of a well-functioning free market” when even back then, 80%+ of restaurant patrons were non-smokers. One would expect significantly more than zero percent of restaurants to be non-smoking if the market were “well functioning”.

    Lo and behold, after the ban, people were quite happy with the ability to actually eat without breathing smoke, and the same thing held all over the country. For me, the revelation was when I moved to Austin in 1996 – they had just passed a ban in restaurants here, and all of the sudden I enjoyed eating out again.

    Before Julian got so mad, he actually admitted that the market didn’t appear to be working so well in cases like this, and had come up with a couple of ideas on how to goose it which were less intrusive than a full-on ban, which I thought were interesting. Resorting to the “the market will sort it out” variant of 6th-grade-economics isn’t particularly compelling.

  46. As I’ve pointed out on many occasions in other smoking threads, there are a lot of people who don’t want to breathe smoke when they eat, for example, yet, when I grew up in South Florida in the 1980s, there were no non-smoking restaurants around. None. Zero. Zilch.

    I’m not quite sure how that is relevant. There is no constitutional right to “dine out”. There was absolutely NOTHING from stopping an entrepreneur or “fed-up anti-smoking restaurant guru” from opening a non-smoking restaurant. I’m a smoker and I won’t dine at smoking restaurants. If there happens to be no such restaurants in the area, I simply head home to this wonderful thing called a kitchen.

    The fact that no such individuals entered the market demonstrates to me that it was not that important to those individuals. Sorry, I can’t sympathize/empathize with someone who thinks their own liberties as a consumer trumps those of private property owners… open your own business if it is that important and don’t impose your own values through legislative fiat. We get enough of that with social conservatives…

    [And, thanks… I’m an economics Ph.D. so I think I’ve made it a bit past the 6th grade version…]

  47. “And, thanks… I’m an economics Ph.D. so I think I’ve made it a bit past the 6th grade version…”

    Then how about posting something which goes more than one inch deep into trying to figure out why “the market” didn’t solve “the problem”, as the voters view “the problem” in this case? Simply chortling that smoke-free dining must not be that important to individuals is just an invitation to get your ass whupped in a referendum, as recent history shows.

  48. Then how about posting something which goes more than one inch deep into trying to figure out why “the market” didn’t solve “the problem”, as the voters view “the problem” in this case?

    In my view, the market was indeed working perfectly here (sorry economics is quite often only “one-inch deep”). Most consumers were obviously unwilling to take the time to express their preferences to restaurant owners… so, it was indeed not that important to them. The opportunity cost of building public support for a voluntary smoking ban must have been too high for many anti-smoking diners.

    For example, I enjoy smoke-free dining but it is not important enough for me to take the time to organize a grass-roots campaign or open my own restaurant… so, I stay home when I must. And, I don’t classify a referendum that violates private property rights as a remotely market-based solution to a perceived “problem”. It is government intervention in the market through legislative fiat.

    [See the example in Alexandria (article above) of a successful non-legislative, market-based route. It clearly WAS important enough to these people to take the time to address the issue. Even though it is offensive they used federal money for it.]

    I still haven’t seen a positive rationale from you as to why you believe your liberties as a consumer outweigh the private property rights of business owners. Why should the “democratic mob” get to dictate the policies of private businesses?

    [I hope to continue this discussion but am about to leave on vacation for two weeks with limited e-mail access but will do my best…]

    Imagine having to defend the market on a website dedicated to “free minds and free markets”… very enjoyable.

  49. “I still haven’t seen a positive rationale from you as to why you believe your liberties as a consumer outweigh the private property rights of business owners. Why should the “democratic mob” get to dictate the policies of private businesses?”

    If this is all you rest your oppposition on, then I trust you’re spending an equal amount of time demonstrating against fire codes, the minimum wage, health codes, occupancy limits, etc.

    Otherwise, PLEASE get beyond this one-inch-deep crap. If you’re really an economics PhD, I fear for the country if you can’t at least talk about WHY no non-smoking restaurants showed up.

  50. Prior to departing for vacation, I thought I would post market-based alternatives to legislative action. They are heirarchical in nature such that each subsequent action increases the purchasing power/influence of consumers. Note there are a plethora of intermediate options not listed here. [Apologies for spelling/grammatical errors. Need to get on the road. And, yes, I do spend an equal amount of time railing against municipal health and safety codes… and, as in many of your other posts, you still have yet to respond to my question while I am doing my best to respond to yours.]

    1. Never frequent smoking establishments.
    2. Enter local smoking establishments and inform the proprieter that you will not patronize the establishment as long as smoking is allowed.
    3. Organize a small cadre of individuals (perhaps your office building or apartment building). Inform local proprieters that the group will not patronize their establishments as long as smoking is allowed.
    4. Organize a city-wide grassroots movement whereby individuals sign a petition stating that the petitioners will not patronize any local establishment as long as smoking is allowed. (This is more along the lines of the Alexandria, VA movement where an organized group has successfully established a voluntary ban in many restaurants).

    As I said before, in each subsequent item, the purchasing power and market influence of consumers increases. In each of these cases, proprieters must weigh the opportunity cost of allowing/banning smoking. Even if one advances all the way to option #4, it is not a guarantee that proprieters will choose to ban smoking. Proprieters may decide they stand to lose more revenue by banning smoking than by allowing it. If consumers are not willing to engage in these efforts, then they deem the opporutnity cost too high. Thus, it is indeed not that important to them. Yet, that is the essence a perfectly-functioning market.

    Markets do not operate on “majority rule.” Hence, I discount the belief that simply because a majority of voters support a smoking-ban and one has not appeared, then the market is broken. Regardless, making ones consumer preferences clear to business-owners is laborious work. Hence, option #1 will rarely be successful. Purchasing power is the key here and as an individual, you have very little.

    Yet, enforcing a ban through a non-market based referendum – where the supplier has no input – is, in my view, an affront to the property rights that we generally put at the center of our economic culture. Such bans are also part of our increasingly government-based culture where individuals prefer to force their views on others through the ballot box rather than the tedious alternative of demonstrating ones preferences through the market. Yet, we’ve recently seen, through the Kelo case, the liberal-left assault on property rights. Thus, the prevalence of non-market based, municipally-imposed bans should not be surprising to those who support private property rights.

    And, lastly, I’ll have to recite Julian’s post as the heart of the issue… “force us to choose between going to our favorite bars and getting emphysema” You mean, like, you had to put up with the environment the bar owners had decided to allow, or go somewhere else? Cry me a fucking river.

    [Finally off on vacation… luckily, I’m headed to tobacco-rich NC so I’ll be among friends.]

  51. “Hence, I discount the belief that simply because a majority of voters support a smoking-ban and one has not appeared, then the market is broken”

    If 80% of the restaurant-going public are non-smokers, and yet 0% of the restaurants are non-smoking, it’s stupid(*) of you to claim that the market isn’t ‘broken’, because those 80% damn well think so, and they’ll get the smoking ban passed.

    (* – yes, I said stupid. If you want to continue to be able to smoke ANYWHERE, you’d better wise the hell up and realize you live in the real world).

    So again, for you to talk about what the individual consumers can do about this is sixth-grade economics. What I want to know from you, with your PhD, is WHY WHY WHY the market hasn’t provided (in this example) any non-smoking restaurants, in the hopes that as Julian has previously suggested, a less intrusive way can be found to provide a large number of non-smoking restaurants.

    You’re dancing around the issue.

    (note: this is largely moot, since restaurant bans are now so frequent; but it’s an easy one to talk about, while bars are a harder issue).

  52. M1EK – How much experience with libertarianism do you have, exactly? Libertarians often do rail against such things as the minimum wage (and, philosophically, health codes, occupancy limits, etc., although they’re hardly a pressing concern in practical terms).

    And no offense intended, but if anything, it’s your analysis that is one inch deep. You’re saying “I know lots of people who wanted non-smoking restaurants, but there weren’t any, ergo market failure.” That’s not much in the way of evidence or analysis. I mean, everyone in New York City would love a place that sold pizza for twenty-five cents a slice, but the fact that such a place does not exist does not invalidate free-market economics. We need to look more deeply at why no such pizza joint, or non-smoking restaurant existed. Frankly, the simplest conclusion would seem to be that while (some) people might have had a preference for non-smoking places, it wasn’t a strong enough preference to make them actually do anything about it given the costs and benefits of other possible choices. The fact that people continue to go to restaurants post-ban just like they did pre-ban does not prove anything about the ban: if the city government imposes a tax on house sales, and yet house sales continue as before, does that mean people like the tax? No, it just means that they still regard the transaction as worthwhile. I’m sorry if this seems simplistic to you, but it does seem to pass the Occam’s Razor test of not needing a complicated theory to explain it.

  53. JD,

    Actually, Occam’s Razor says that if these referendi pass, we have strong evidence that the public wasn’t happy with the number of non-smoking restaurants pre-ban, don’t we? It goes far beyond “I knew some people who wanted non-smoking restaurants” – we KNOW that the vast majority of people don’t smoke. This shouldn’t be something which requires a citation unless you’re seeking to bury your opponent under a mound of work.

    As for the libertarian railing against those other intrusions on private business, it’s always good to make sure who you’re arguing against – a normal libertarian or a batshit lunatic.

  54. Oh, and:

    “Frankly, the simplest conclusion would seem to be that while (some) people might have had a preference for non-smoking places, it wasn’t a strong enough preference to make them actually do anything about it given the costs and benefits of other possible choices”

    continues to look at it from the wrong angle (consumers). IE, most people want non-smoking restaurants but most people ALSO aren’t willing to forego eating out entirely (and cook at home) to avoid smoke. The theory that this means that the market shouldn’t be providing ANY non-smoking restaurants is not one that’s going to win you much credibility with the restaurant-going public.

    Hint to all: I was looking for stuff like the “race to the bottom”, “network effect”, etc. Economists DO study examples of apparent ‘market failures’ like these, and they DON’T always just blame it on the consumer.

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