by Ari Armstrong
The following article originally appeared at Boulder Weekly on November 9, 2006.
We have the right as adults to control our own bodies, insofar as we don't violate the rights of others. And yet there was the governor, Great Nanny Bill Owens, standing on the steps of the State Nursery on Oct. 27, arguing that possession of a certain plant by adults should be against the law. For the "crime" of possessing that plant, armed government agents can, depending on the particulars, harass and intimidate you, steal your money, kidnap you, and/or lock you in a steel cage.
Owens said, "Earlier this year we passed the Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act, because we recognize that cigarette smoke was having a negative impact on the health of our citizens. That one step forward would be undone by the two steps back with the passage of Amendment 44. Marijuana smoke is every bit as cancer-causing as is cigarette smoke, and legalizing the drug would encourage more people to inhale these toxic fumes."
In other words, one violation of rights deserves another.
People have the right to smoke cigarettes on their own property and invite others to join them. That's the right of property and the freedom of association. Adults also have the right to smoke the "toxic fumes" of marijuana. (Owens didn't bother to point out that marijuana smokers generally inhale less smoke relative to cigarette smokers, or that marijuana can be consumed in ways other than smoking.)
Once the Nanny State gets going, its logical conclusion is total control over our lives. If politicians can ban cigarette smoking on select private property and all marijuana use, then they can also regulate sex, ban risky sports and "junk" foods, and outlaw guns and alcohol.
Yet some of Owens's children are more equal than others. Those who choose to consume the drug alcohol rather than marijuana earn a pat on the head. Owens endorsed one of the nation's most successful dealers of the drug alcohol for U.S. Senate.
To hear the extent of Owens's arrogance, listen to the audio files at FreeColorado.com. Owens, after calling for "free debate," asked for questions from the press. When I began to ask a question of Attorney General John Suthers, Owens shut down the press conference. Then Owens cut off my questions about Milton Friedman, the Nobel-winning economist who opposes marijuana prohibition. That's Big Nanny's idea of "free debate."
Bill Ritter is merely a hypocrite, a prohibitionist who admitted to using marijuana.
A government with the ability to control our bodies threatens all our rights. As Sue Lindsay reports for the Oct. 31 Rocky Mountain News, the smoking ban prevents actors from smoking even fake cigarettes on stage.
"Smoking that is written into a production by a playwright isn't part of an actor's artistic expression and is not protected free speech," Denver District Judge Michael Martinez said.
But who are state officials to decide what does and does not count as free expression? The smoking ban has resulted in censorship. Even if the legislature carves out a new exception for theaters, the ban still violates the rights of expression, assembly and property of others.
And as David Montero reported for the same paper on Oct. 21, U.S. District Court Judge Lewis Babcock ruled that "the state smoking ban covering restaurants and exempting casinos does not violate equal protection rights under the law." In other words, the treatment of casinos is "separate but equal."
The Nanny State won't stop there. On Nov. 1, The Denver Post argued that hydrogenated fats should be eliminated "by regulatory fiat if necessary." Because people are just too stupid to decide for themselves whether to eat it.
The Drug Policy Alliance reports, "According to a recent survey of registered voters by Zogby International, 45 percent of Americans would support a federal law making cigarettes illegal in the next five to 10 years; 57 percent of 18-29 year olds were in favor of the idea."
That's no surprise, because children under the thrall of the Nanny State never reach adulthood.
We have the right to engage in potentially unhealthy behavior, whether that's having consensual, promiscuous sex; drinking alcohol even to excess (so long as we stay off the roads); sky diving; or eating hamburgers with greasy fries.
The proper purpose of government is to protect individual rights, not save us from our potentially unhealthy decisions. A government with the power to send out armed agents to enforce healthy behavior (as defined by central planners) is a government that, in principle, can do anything to you.
Only a culture that permits individuals to engage in potentially unhealthy behavior also consistently grants individuals the freedom to pursue their rational values. Only a culture that grants all individuals the ability to use their own minds and follow their own conclusions is one in which the greatest thoughts and achievements are possible.
The culture that stifles stupidity necessarily stifles genius. A free society does not shackle the responsible and sensible in order to "save" the reckless and thoughtless. The standard of law in a free society is the virtuous citizen, not the idiot. A Nanny State promotes only a degenerate citizenry worthy of diapers.