It's January in America. You know what that means. The busybodies are back!!!! State legislatures across America are reconvening and dreaming up amazing new ways to hijack the personal freedoms of those whose freedoms they swore to uphold. One can almost imagine lawmakers breathlessly scurrying around the floors of their respective state Capitols to the sounds of Eduard Strauss' "Bahn Frei Polka" doing everything they can to regulate more people's lives as quickly as possible. And lest anyone think there is a line of invasiveness that our elected officials dare not cross at the risk of triggering a backlash, new legislation emerges that lays waste to that premise. Several states are currently debating expanding smoking bans to the automobile in 2008, but the otherwise pro-tobacco state of South Carolina appears to be among the closest to creating a whole new reason for law enforcement officers to be too distracted to go after actual criminals. http://biz.yahoo.com/...
Working in state government, I'm getting a first-hand vantage point of the mountains of legislation proposed to keep the peasantry in its place in the name of the "common good", or even more frequently and disingenuously, "for the children" as is the prevailing talking point for this specific legislation. California has already led the way, as it usually does, in sacrificing liberty for security, with enforcement for the automobile smoking ban set to take effect on July 1 I believe. Some counties in West Virginia are already enforcing a localized ban.
As always, there will be energetic defenders of this latest self-righteous assault on the rights on smokers, a favorite target of the very people who most depend on tobacco revenues to finance the growth of government. On the surface, it's not easy to defend parents who smoke in front of their kids, but at least for me, it's much harder justifying public dollars and the resources of law enforcement to advance the deeply troubling trend of criminalizing bad habits. Most sadly, Democrats are the overwhelming supporters of turning their own working class base (those disproportionately most likely to smoke and partake in other "bad habits") into criminals.
First of all, I don't accept the magnitude of the threat level regarding "secondhand smoke", just as I don't accept it when it comes the forced prohibition of smoking in privately owned restaurants and bars. While one is certainly better off not being in such an atmosphere, most of us here are old enough to be of the generation where we wallowed in the stench of our parents', friends', and relatives' secondhand cigarette smoke with far greater frequency than nearly anyone is today. And the consequence of this exposure is a generation of Americans living longer lives than any previous generation, so long in fact that we're being warned of the pending bankruptcy of retirement entitlements brought on by the rapidly aging population. Is this "epidemic of secondhand smoke" really worthy of perennial revisiting and perpetually creeping invasiveness?
Even for those convinced that secondhand smoke is as deadly as paid antismoking ideologues tell us it is, isn't there a convincing case to be made that law enforcement resources be directed elsewhere? If parents smoking in their car with their own children is going to be within the state's domain to regulate, will we next accept "the smoking patrol" busting down front doors with battering rams and extracting the children of "suspected smokers"? Is no personal liberty sacred in the name of carrying insurance industry water by way of "endorsing healthy lifestyles", literally through the barrel of law enforcement's gun?
As the title of this diary suggested, I couldn't help but remember President Clinton's insistence on the need to hire 100,000 new police officers back in 1993, presumably to control crime. From what I've seen, however, the addition of these new police officers to the government payroll has all too often become an exercise of government existing to finance itself and stealing our freedom and privacy in the process. When we hired 100,000 new police officers (or whatever the total number ended up being), were supposed to foresee that in 15 years, all these police officers would have nothing better to do than pulling over cigarette-smoking soccer moms? If so, we were sold a very costly bill of goods with seemingly endless repercussions.
With all due respect to our blue-uniformed civil servants in South Carolina, California, and all across the country, if all you have to is finance your department with tickets raised by people smoking cigarettes in their car, we need 100,000 FEWER police on America's streets.