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February 16, 2006



Banning smoking in public places is not a destruction of freedom, as you well know, Mr Stumble-mumbler!

It's making tangible the externality that smokers inflict on non-smokers.

They can still smoke, just not in my face when I'm in a public place. I know have greater freedom to go out and about without me and my family being slowly poisoned by someone else's toxic emissions.

Sorry if that sounds ranting, it's just a terse description of reality.

Smokers' freedoms have been curtailed because of the harm they do others.

Paul Davies

All top stuff as ever, Chris.

On a similar note: could all five of those points also be attributed to the members of blogworld in their denunciation of New Labour's attack on our liberties? :)


However, I agree with the main thrust of the post.

My old politics tutor was once tapped up as a potential parliamentary candidate. He reacted with horror -- what sort of person thinks he has the knowledge to spend his life telling other people what they can and cannot do?

One other bias: MPs want to change the world/country for the better. Naturally, this is very hard to do. A ban on smoking that will have profound cultural repercussions and (almost certainly) save thousands of pairs of lungs from cancerous capitulation - is one of the rare ways to make bold changes.


"Most of us think language merely describes reality."

I don't know who most of us is, but I don't believe that (I'm not in politics), and "merely" is very lame when popping up in there.

Backword Dave

At a guess then, David, you're in advertising or journalism. ;-) And "merely" works because it's setting the reader up for the next sentence.

Dander, you said in your first comment, "Banning smoking in public places is not a destruction of freedom ... Smokers' freedoms have been curtailed ..." and you've confused me.

Top post, Chris.

Bishop Hill


A pub is private property.


Bishop: private property is not exempt. See .


Er, see http://ex-parrot.com/~chris/wwwitter/20060215-nil_combustibus_profumo.html

(I hate Typepad.)

New Economist

Chris, aside from the retail regulator, what most of the initiatives have in common is that they are (1) quite cheap to implement but (2) attract lots of publicity and (3) accord with majority public opinion.

At a time when genuine education reform is in gridlock and huge spending rises for the NHS are no longer affordable, attempts to legislate such 'easy wins' could become ever more frequent.

Politicians were one of the first groups to understand the new 'attention economy'. Never mind the quality of the policy - look at all the press coverage!

Come back Jim Hacker, your country needs you.


Of course, there is also the possibility of point 6 - that the MP's we hear about fall within points 1 to 5. They are a fairly rare breed I suppose, but there are MP's who seem to be genuinely working hard for their constituency and are the very antithesis of the George Galloway I-was-elected-on-an-issue-and-therefore-don't-have-to-do-any-other-stuff tendency.


Chris, do you think that getting MPs blogging and reading blogs properly may assist in changing things?

Opening them up away from the group think and creting constructive dialogue? I think Katherine is right though; there are decent MPs, and many of them want to be decent MPs, but the system corrupts them. Hence we need to use the new technology to change it.


RE: Bishop Hill's comments...

A public house may be a private space according to one definition, but I think the more salient definition of the public space is one that refers to where people are free to go and engage in everyday 'civic intercourse' - if you'll excuse that high-brow description of chinwags down boozers.

If anyone still insists that banning smoking in pubs destroys freedom, then they should at the same time believe that our freedom would be extended by allowing smoking in the workplace, on public transport, airplanes, hospitals, cinemas etc. I don't see anyone campaigning to improve our freedom by taking such measures.

So unless you identify freedom with whatever the status quo has happened to throw up (and you wouldn't be alone in that irritating error), you've got to come up with a better reason to prefer the rights of smokers over non-smokers.


Speaking from experience in Ontario, I can say that whatever the rights and wrongs of the smoking-in-pubs debate, you don't want to go back (at least if, like me, you are a non-smoker).

I went happily to smoke-filled pubs for years, but a few months of smoke-free air and going back into one is quite a different experience. So this move, for better or worse, is here to stay.

Patrick Crozier

Of course, it is just possible that politicians do the things they do because they think they'll get them elected. ID cards and the smoking ban are (I regret to say) popular. (I think the terrorism bill is more in the area of displacement activity than something that's actually going to make much difference to anyone.)

These authoritarian measures are popular because the MSM likes them. Why it is that the MSM is so against freedom, is, to my mind, the real question.

Peter Clay

Crozier: ID cards are quite controvertial; there are still plenty of people around who regard them as the sort of thing we fought a war to avoid. Having spent time on the streets talking to people on behalf of No2ID, I've found people having the following reasons:

- they'll stop terrorism (wrong)
- they'll keep out immigrants (racists)
- nothing to fear, nothing to hide (moralising authoritatarians)
- because we're european (!?)

Oh, and as to the Murdoch/Sky media being against freedom, I have no idea.

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