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Judges Must be Smoking Something Libertarians Say

3/16/01
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Tim O'Brien
(313) 562-5778
(248) 591-3733

DEARBORN. "The verdict at least was right," said Libertarian Party of Michigan executive director Tim O'Brien, referring to the recent court of appeals ruling striking down local government smoking bans. "But those judges must have been smoking something themselves to hold that the only problem is that the wrong level of government was making the law."

The three judge panel ruled against the City of Marquette, holding that Michigan law prevents localities from passing communitywide bans on smoking in restaurants. "The question of whether there should be a total ban on smoking in restaurants must be left to the legislature," the court held.

"It apparently never occurred to the learned hands of the Michigan judiciary," O'Brien observed, "that the question of whether there should be a total ban on smoking in restaurants ought to be left to the restaurant owners. Who is in a better position to determine what restaurant patrons actually want?" he asked.
"We used to have a couple of powerful institutions in this country called 'private property' and 'the free market.' When you respect those concepts you have a society based on voluntary relationships rather than political muscle. Then you don't have to try and guess what people want -- in order to impose it on them. People vote with their money. If you leave the market free to meet the wishes of consumers, it will do just that. Some restaurants will cater to smokers. Some to nonsmokers. Some to those who don't care one way or the other. Instead of imposing a single standard which must necessarily exclude wishes of some, all preferences can thus be accommodated.

"And not only will the market show what people want, it will even tell you in exactly what proportion because its natural selection process will replace businesses that do not satisfy the wishes of their customers with ones that do.

"If the citizens of Marquette genuinely prefer nonsmoking restaurants, no local ordinance imposing that rule would be needed. The very fact that a law must be passed to accomplish that goal is proof that this does not represent the wishes of the people there.

"And, of course," he concluded, "all of these same fundamentals of economics apply irrespective of which level of government short circuits the market process. I guess those judges must have been out finding something to smoke during college -- when the rest of us were studying Adam Smith."

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