New York’s state government passed a draconian smoking ban:

“Let the individual decide if he wants to kill himself or not,” said Assemblyman Anthony Seminerio, a Democrat from Queens. “And let the individual decide if he wants to go into a smoking environment. … You cannot tell the people of this state how to run their lives. You can try, but you’ll never do it.” But Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, in an impassioned speech in favor of the bill, argued that tobacco users have no right to “poison” the people around them. “We pass laws here every week infringing on people’s rights to make their own decisions,” said Mr. Bruno, a Republican from Rensselaer County.”Every time you stop at a stop sign somebody is infringing on your right to go right through that intersection. Why? Because it’s for the public good, that’s why.” [New York Sun, 3/27/03]
Bruno’s analogy is incorrect. The right to put up a stop sign accrues to the government by virtue of the fact that it owns the streets; you don’t have a “right to make your own decisions” on someone else’s property. But the government is not the owner of eating establishments and hotels.

Bruno’s statement reveals his utter contempt for any notion of individual rights–which means that he has no grounds for saying that tobacco users have no right to “poison” people around them, either. The only defensible notion of the “public good” is one that is truly common to all members of society–which means one that doesn’t require sacrificing some people’s good for the benefit of others–which means social interaction based on voluntary consent. If you enter or work for an establishment that permits smoking, you have consented. The fact that the alternatives might be inconvenient for you is completely irrelevant; you have no right to demand that the universe exist for the sake of your convenience.

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