Re: The Nanny State, Part 3, But…
Wow is that slope slippery!
Reading of Patrick’s support for laws to adults for smoking in the car with children present makes me wonder two things. First, how common is the problem? I wouldn’t even be comfortable asserting that “we’ve all seen” an example. Personally, I can’t think of an example in the past decade or so. (Go back far enough, though, and I was an example.)
Maybe I just haven’t been paying attention, but I’d like to see some sort of numbers, but I think we ought to know how big a problem we’re trying to solve. Otherwise, such legislation looks mainly like pats on the back for the righteous.
Second, wouldn’t it be safe to suggest that, in this day and age, children in the custody of people who would smoke in a small glass box with them are more likely than average to have larger problems than that which they inhale? It seems to me that a fine for the parents is not likely to have a net beneficial effects for the children we’re ostensibly trying to help.
Is second-hand smoke worse than losing out on activities because insufficiently mature parents dread cigarette-free car rides with their children? Or what about car rides that replace the smoke with a highly tense and stressful atmosphere emanating from adults who think they need a cigarette?
I ask these things because Patrick is ceding a huge principle, here, when he writes, “when your choices affect children, it’s people’s responsibility to do something about it.” Where is the limit there? Worse, yet, who gets to decide? England has provided a glimpse of that road, as it removes children from the homes of obese parents.
Personally, I’ll go far enough with Patrick (perhaps to the disappointment of libertarian readers) and suggest that we do have the responsibility that he suggests. It’s the “do something about it part” that requires reevaluation in our society. The something should be, first, taking the personal and often distasteful responsibility of passing judgment and imparting shame and, second, working toward the type of society in which people are more likely to choose to be good.
That’s the harder part, because it requires us to restrict our own choices on matters in which we’re perfectly capable of moderation… in everything that affects the whole jumbled mess of modern life and culture. I’m not saying that everything must be discarded, but we must be conscious of each decision we make, from our views on marriage to the music that colors our daily background.
It’s as if, having chased the rabbit of tolerance and non-judgementalism down its hole, we’re looking to the government to impose a sort of shame by proxy and by fee. One needn’t rely on slippery-slope thinking to discern the danger in that.
I already made several points in the comments to Patrick’s post, but Justin’s point about fees (fines) being shame by proxy raises some interesting additional questions.
Existing fines for parking and driving “violations” that everyone knows aren’t actually harming anything, such as going 36mph in a 25mph zone, or parking within 25 feet of a corner, erodes society’s respect for rule of law, besides creating some very perverse incentives on the enforcement end. But they also have the effect of trivializing things that are actually quite harmful and shameful, making them just an annoying financial transaction with the state instead of a serious offense against the community. If going 80mph in a 50mph zone is actually highly dangerous, then treat it as such and give offenders a criminal record for it. Making it a matter of dollars and cents between you and the bureaucracy encourages people to take it less seriously.
The science is still debatable on the second-hand smoking issue, and the burden should be squarely on the state to first prove that it is harmful. But if it turns out that we’re really talking about seriously harmful activity, then make it a criminal matter and take it seriously. Making it a fine just turns it into another form of taxes.
“I’d like to see some sort of numbers”
Yeah, I was thinking about that today. How many families would this actually affect?
You’d start with the percentage of adult Americans who smoke – that’s 20%. But that’s everyone, age 18 to 118, not just people with little ones in their lives.
Sorry, that’s where my hard number research ended!
To get the final figure, you’d take that 20% and figure out what percentage of them have children or grandchildren or great grandchildren. Then you’d have to figure out (somehow) how many of them actually smoke while carting the little ones around. The few smokers I know refrain from smoking in the car if they are not alone.
Going back to the first number, we know at a minimum that it ain’t more than 20%.
Making it criminal will not make it less of a deterrent it will still be trivial in the eye of the offender. They will not think before they act. What will the punishment be a filing, probation, suspended sentence, seriously. If it is going to be legislated leave it a civil infraction. Suspend the right to drive and then for re-instatement put the burden on the parent to prove they have changed. With that being said it is none of the governments business, Mr Orwell.