The Limits of Government–Like It Or Not

I recently read that while “no smoking in public places” laws are widespread throughout Europe, the “culture of smoking” remains. What does this mean?

It’s simple. People will be who they want to be, regardless of what the government says or does.

There is something deeper than politics because there are deeper things than force. You can force me to do what I don’t want to do — indeed, you can actually change my behavior by doing this. If I smoked, I would not smoke in public places if it were against the law. I’d rather not go to jail or face fines. But you can’t make me not want to smoke.

Force can deter values, but it can’t create them. Government can make fewer people smoke in “public” places such as bars and restaurants — subverting private property rights in the process — but government cannot, and will never, be able to cure addictions or change people’s preferences.

This is true whether the government is run by an infamous dictator like Hitler or Stalin, or a garden variety do-gooder social liberal like Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, or the various prime ministers of Europe.

People will do what they want. Government should only restrain those who are physically dangerous. We all know that government is not a very competent entity, and its resources must be saved for the absolute minimum and the most important task of deterring violence — because this is the most it can handle.

More than that, somebody who’s (arguably or actually) harming himself, but not anybody else, has every right to do so. Irrational or dysfunctional behavior was never supposed to be a crime; only criminal behavior is. That was an undisputed and unquestioned premise of the great ones who founded the U.S.

Where has that premise gone?