Smoking in bars

In a recent blog entry, Oskar mentions that my cigarette lighting story is anachronistic as smoking in bars is slowly but surely being banned country by country (most recently in Ireland, and soon in Scotland too).

Being a libertarian, Oskar thinks that this is yet another example of government interference in people’s right to impose a slow painful death on themselves and those around them. Being a pragmatist, and having lived both in California where smoking is banned, and elsewhere where it isn’t, my personal experience is that disallowing smoking in public places is better for everyone, even smokers (who often find that they appreciate the removal of temptation).

Oskar’s counter-argument is that if people didn’t want to go to a bar where people were smoking, then thanks to the wonders of the free market, such bars would exist. Unfortunately for Oskar’s position, he is contradicted by plain reality, as according to various polls many if not most people favour a situation where smoking is not permitted in bars and pubs, yet the glorious free market has hardly provided any such bars in the UK (I know of one such bar in Edinburgh).

Presumably Oskar would then argue that if the free market didn’t produce sufficient smoke-free bars, then obviously people don’t want them enough. This would be a typical libertarian switcharoo, suddenly we are implicitly expected to accept that free markets will solve any problem, and therefore if the free market has failed to solve the problem, it obviously wasn’t a problem in the first place!

Anyway, that is enough arguing against my imaginary libertarian Oskar for one blog entry, if anyone cares to read more about critiques in libertarianism, this is a pretty good place to start.

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