Monday, May 22, 2006

Discuss Amongst Yourselves

Here's one of the latest cartoons to hit the New Yorker's pages. Certainly, you will have something to say about it.

-Mike Kole

34 comments:

Doug said...

I'm guessing sanitation, medicine, and other scientific advances played the biggest role in increased longevity.

I've mentioned this before, but since the cartoon brings up clean air and clean water, I'll mention it again. I think one of the most significant areas libertarian thought needs to address (and perhaps it has, I'm not exactly a scholar) is how to deal with environmental issues, specifically how to internalize the externalities in that area.

Free markets, personal liberty, and property rights are, as I see it, the foundation of libertarianism. In environmental matters, it seems that a commitment to personal liberty and property rights interfere with the property rights of others and distort the markets.

In the situation where one property owner runs a widget factory on his property and discharges pollutants into the air or the water, it seems like two things happen - 1) it damages the air and/or water that others will breath, causing health problems or decontamination expenses; and 2) it externalizes some of the costs of making the widget which are not, therefore, reflected in the price when the widget goes to market.

In my mind, part of the cost of making the widget is to do so without damaging the air or water of others or to compensate the others for the damage to that air or water. That cost should be reflected in the price so that the market can make decisions accordingly.

Probably a digression, but it strikes me as an interesting problem for which I don't have any great solutions, particularly solutions that would appeal to libertarians.

Mike Kole said...

Doug- Actually, it reads like you're right on top of it. Pollution is a property rights issue. If the factory belches filth onto my property, I have a very legitimate reason to seek restitution, and via government is a legitimate way to do so. Likewise if that filth gets into one's lungs, etc.

It's odd. Somehow the notion has gotten around that libertarians would actually prefer a polluted world. I've never thought this way, and I've never actually heard or read any Libertarian candidate say that they are for pollution. I know Libertarian calls for relaxing regulations in the face of improvements or times of temporary crisis gets spun that way- but that's all it is. Spin.

Fortunately, two things have slowly improved. Technology has evolved such that mechanical production, energy production, etc., can be managed in ways that produce far less than ever before; and, business leaders (the smart ones) recognize that pollution is bad for the corporate image.

And, I agree that making products in a more environment-friendly way does pass the costs along to the consumer. As we see, sometimes the American consumer is willing to pay for that, and sometimes not. Countries like China lack our environmental regulations, and that is one major factor in their ability to make products cheaper than American manufacturers.

I think the solution really is understanding these facts. If you want cleaner air and water, you probably should be prepared to pay a little more at the checkout. Here's where informed upper- and upper-middle class consumers come in. They have shown themselves willing to pay premium prices for all manner of products when they see a clear benefit in one area or another. The poor really have to pay attention to price, so the environmental angle may not appeal to them at all. Interestingly, buying green could become a Buy American campaign, if you accept that American production is cleaner than that of China, Mexico, or other third-world nations.

Jeff Pruitt said...

Mike,

Why is it (at least for the libertarians that I've come across) that smoking is a personal freedom issue and not one of pollution?

I believe that the government should be involved in public health and as such should limit the pollution being caused by smokers in ALL public places - i.e. any place the general public can go.

I don't believe the minority should be able to claim that they have the right to poison others around them and that if they don't like it then they should just stay home. And don't get me started on the financial argument about smoking bans killing business - that's just nonsense...

Tim Zank said...

Jeff, I thought you guys already won that war. I can't think of anyplace I CAN smoke anymore except outside.

I'm not a libertarian (yet anyway) but I look upon this issue as a personal freedom issue. It's not a pollution issue because it simply
would be impossible to cause any damage to the air quality outside with cigarettes. Inside is another issue as I'm sure most reasonable people would agree. A factory belching smoke out of a smokestack
is a far different scenario than the guy outside on the corner with a cigarette. Annoying, yes but not
life threatening to the passerby.

Now when it comes to inside businesses, it becomes a matter of choice. You can patronize any business you like. If a bar or restaraunt allows smoking and it offends non smokers, they have the right to NOT patronize that business. Revenues may go up or they may go down, that's a chance the proprietor takes in a free society, giving the customer what they want.

Mike Kole said...

Jeff- What Tim said.

However, I can put you in touch with Ann Tomey, owner of Annie's Restaurant in Greenfield. She'll tell you that her business is off about 80%, because she catered to smokers. It most certainly isn't nonsense. It's real.

Andrew Kaduk said...

Back (2 weeks ago) when I was a smoker, my response to the "smoking is air pollution" gripe was a simple one:

"I'll stop smoking outdoors when you stop driving gasoline-powered cars outdoors. You release 30 packs worth of toxins by driving your car to the corner and back."

I am now a **non-smoker** with a built-in bimonthly cigar exemption clause...and my new position on the debate is:

"I'll stop smoking outdoors when you stop driving gasoline-powered cars outdoors. You release 30 packs worth of toxins by driving your car to the corner and back."

Tim Zank said...

Andrew, it's nice to know we can still count on your common sense support. By the way, who authorized the bi-monthly cigar dispensation?

Andrew Kaduk said...

A. Fuente dispatched a letter of consent from his plantation via courier.

Jeff Pruitt said...

I suppose I should've clarified my stance - I don't have a problem with people smoking outside (for the reasons already stated.

Mike,

You might be able to pick out an isolated case but there has been no meltdown of business here in Fort Wayne due to the smoking ordinance and more importantly California's restaurant/bar economy hasn't collapsed and they have much more stringent laws than we have here in Fort Wayne.

It's a common argument used by the pro-smoking crowd but it has no factual basis.

Mike Kole said...

Jeff- You're talking macroeconomics, and I'm talking micro. There is value in sticking up for the little guy, isn't there?

But of course, California's economy hasn't collapsed. Nor has Greenfield's. Nor would I suggest that any state or city economy would collapse. But Ann Tomey's economy has, and along with it, her five employees.

Maybe those people are worth marginalizing in your radically sweeping statewide response. Shall I put you in touch with Annie? She's very passionate about her business and its' rapid decline. She'll let you know whether it's real or not, the rest of Greenfield notwithstanding.

By the way- I'm a non-smoker. I never started because my father smoked, and I found it a dirty habit. I like clean air in restaurants. But even more than that, I love a government that respects its people enough to permit free will and choice.

Jeff Pruitt said...

Mike,

What kind of restaurant is it that the only way people will go is if they can smoke? Clearly they didn't like the food or anything else if the entire place is now out of business. They can't light up before and after their meal? Did only smokers visit this establishment? Why? Why can't she compete in the current marketplace? These are questions that need answering instead of just finger-pointing at the smoking ordinance.

And why isn't it noble to stick up for the little guy when Wal-mart and other large chains move into cities and are given huge tax credits putting numerous small businessmen out of work. Where was the libertarian outrage on that? It didn't exist as far as I could tell.

That's an inconsistent ideology is it not? My response last week towards the libertarian party's struggle in the current two party environment was that the party doesn't portray a coherent message - I think this is another example of that.

And just to be clear I was a 1-2 pack a day smoker for about 5 years before quitting about 5 years ago. Probably not relevant but I thought I would mention it anyway...

Doug said...

I'm warm to the idea of some sort of labeling requirement that provides potential customers with advance warning about whether the establishment is smoking or not.

The town where I live is small and I already know where there will be smoke and where there will not.

Apropos of something, but I'm not sure what, if there is no ban, smokers who get all pissy about their right to smoke in someone else's restaurant ought to be properly chastized.

Tim Zank said...

Jeff, Your question "What kind of a restaraunt is it that the only way people will go is if they can smoke?" is redundant. If you read your sentence, it answers itself.

I particularly liked your line "Did only smokers visit this establishment? Why?" Uhhhhhhh...
because they could smoke.

Sorry, but this ain't exactly rocket science. There are no deep questions to be answered, it's really quite simple.

Tim Zank said...

Oh hell, I just can't let the walmart analogy go by either.

I've been selling widgets at my widget store for 10 years and all of the sudden Bill's Widgets comes to town and undercuts my price. Bill is well capitalized and opens a huge store. He is very successful and my business is way off.

Now, because Bill is smarter than I am (or worked harder or whatever) and figured out how to sell more widgets, I am somehow entitled to have the government step in and bail my ass out?

Please...............

Robert Enders said...

Mike Sylvester, the guy whp normally writes this blog, DID have a guest column published in the News Sentinel when Walmart was thinking of moving in and getting special tax breaks to boot. He said that giving Walmart a break at the expense of everyone else was wrong and did not "create" any new jobs.

Debbie said...

Andrew wrote:
"I'll stop smoking outdoors when you stop driving gasoline-powered cars outdoors. You release 30 packs worth of toxins by driving your car to the corner and back."

Debbie:
Andrew, I like your reasoning. :) Down my way, the lady who started the whole smoking ban in Jeffersonville, had a nice little feature article written about her a few weeks later (partly because of her age, 70 or so and how she's still involved, blah blah). Anyway the feature had a big picture of her smiling and standing next to her push lawnmower where the writer gushed at how this brave (brave because she started the smoking ban idea) woman who is 70 still cuts her own lawn, nearly an acre I think. No mention of course as to how polluting even one lawn cutting is the the air compared to cigarettes. Oh, the hypocrisy.

BTW, to Jeff:
The issue concerning smoking is simple, it's all about property rights. As a matter of fact any libertarian issue can be culled down to property rights. Read Murray Rothbard if you want to understand that more completely. One of the best examples of how Rothbard takes any issue and places it squarely into property rights is one he wrote about flag burning. You can read it here:

http://www.lewrockwell.com/rothbard/rothbard79.html

Jeff Pruitt said...

Tim,

I have a hard time believing that only smokers visited that restaurant and now that they can't smoke they refuse to go - that was the point of my question. Did they have a local smoker's club where they gathered every day of the week to rail against the injustices being forced upon the smoker? It sounds like nonsense to me. Why aren't numerous other establishments being thrown into bankruptcy then? I'm suggesting there are other factors in play and they're being ignored.

Also, the complaint is not that Wal-mart and others can make a product more competitive (a typical laissez-faire talking point) it's that some of their "competitiveness" comes from government handouts and tax breaks as Robert mentioned. BTW, kudos to Mike S for his stance - I guess I missed that letter.

And I just don't believe that every issue should be boiled down to a property-rights argument...

Mike Kole said...

In Greenfield, the issue was portrayed as a health issue. And yet, the American Legion was exempted on the basis of being a private club.

As it happens, the Greenfield American Legion now functions an awful lot like a restaurant. Those who used to go to Annie's Restaurant to eat an have a smoke now go one block over to the American Legion.

There's some inconsistent ideology going around, alright. This was framed by those who wrote and passed the law as a health issue. Is smoking inside an American Legion hall somehow less dangerous to one's health?

In many ways, I can accept a complete ban that excludes nobody. I certainly can't poke holes in the health basis then, as I can now. As Doug suggests, if government must get involved, why not a big sign on the door stating smoking policy, so that people can choose accordingly?

Jeff Pruitt said...

Mike,

Now it makes sense to me. And Annie's has every right to be irate that the local government gave one business an unfair advantage over others. I believe this is wrong, just as the tax credits to companies like Wal-mart is wrong. In general I still don't think Annie's problem came about from a smoking ban - the problem stems from an unequal and poorly executed ban.

Thanks for the clarification...

greg kelver said...

Debbie has it exactly right. The smoking ban issue is not about the "rights" of smokers or non-smokers. It is not a debate about the whether smoking is healthy or not. It is not about whether smoking pollutes more or less than a lawnmower. The real issue is simple a property rights issue - specifically the right of the small business owner to determine the terms and conditions under which business is conducted on the premises of his or her property. If the right business choices are not made, the market will take care of the rest. If a non-smoker (or smoker) doesn't like the local choices offered, they should take their time and their money to offer the perfect dining environment to meet the local demand instead of using government to force a smoking ban on others.

Of course I also happen to think people are smart enough to decide on their own whether to wear a seatbelt without getting a ticket from an officer who probably has a pack of cigarettes in his front pocket.

Mike Kole said...

Jeff- It gets deeper in the Grrenfield case. Annie went ovdr to the Legion to confirm that the business was going there. She found that they weren't checking memberships as a club is supposed to. Moreover, she found the Mayor and city councilors there! None lifted a finger to stop smoking in there in the name of health.

She called me to ask if she could sue the city. I discussed this with legal counsel within the Party. I was advised that city councils are pretty well bullet-proof, thanks to the legislature having written laws to shield municipal officials.

The best she can do is make a stink- which she is planning to do at the Greenfield city council meeting tonight. Conveniently, the city hall is right across the street from her restaurant.

Tim Zank said...

Jeff-It's not a health issue. It's a property rights issue. Everyone has the right to make choices about their well being. If the air quality concerns you at Bob's Burgers because Bob allows HIS patrons to smoke, by all means go to Bill's Burgers where the guy who OWNS THE FREAKING BUSINESS AND THE DIRT IT SITS UPON doesn't allow HIS patrons to smoke. They aren't your customers or uncle sams customers or the town councils customers. They are Bill and Bobs customers and they can eat wherever the hell they want until you nannys choke the living s#@t out of ALL of our rights.

As far as tax abatements go, they are available to ANY company regardless of size. Either do away with any and all or quit bitchin' because walmart gets one...Sal's Suckatash Factory gets one too, it's an economic development tool available to any company willing to locate and invest in the area. You don't like Walmart getting a tax break because you feel they are already well off and can afford to build without a tax break. Guess what, that's how they became well off! Using the tools available to build and prosper. What part of capitalism don't you understand?

Jeff Pruitt said...

Tim,

You are mistaken to think that every small business gets the same opportunity for tax abatements as large companies like Walmart. This is not laissez-faire economics as those on the right like to champion - quite the opposite. I don't think there's any point in arguing with you as you are starting from a false premise.

Also, many things are regulated on private property - you are not free to do whatever you please - zoning laws don't even allow you to run a business in many areas despite it being your property. If you feel that you should be able to do whatever you want on your property then I suppose it IS a property rights issue for you. It's a health issue to me and I support a smoking ban.

Doug said...

I don't think the lawn mower issue is a good analogy. I'm quite certain that I would be tossed out on my ear by the police or the owner if I went into a restaurant with my mower and started it up and left it running while I ate.

And, I suspect that if restaurant owners let patrons go out onto the lawn to smoke, nobody would interfere.

But, in either case, signage would probably solve the problem for patrons.

Personally, I enjoy having as many places as possible being smoke free. Smokers who wax eloquent about their right to smoke don't typically come out in favor of their right to fart up a storm in a restaurant.

I'm not saying there should be a law against either, but as a matter of courtesy you should avoid creating an appalling stench next to your fellow citizen. (This probably also applies to excessive use of perfumes and colognes and inadequate attention to personal hygiene.)

Debbie said...

The lawnmower issue certainly is a good analogy since they framed their argument on the basis of health. If you are going to frame your argument based on health, then you must be consistent or else it should quickly be labeled hypocrisy.

And you're exactly right to bring up farting and perfumes, etc. Because the way you framed the argument (creating a stench) for banning smoking requires that you need to be consistent.

That's why property rights is the only way any of this makes sense and is easy to form a consistent principled stand on the issue.

What I find interesting is how quickly the debate turns to the assumption that even if there is a concern about something, the immediate reaction from people is to use government force.

Down here they used a Cheddar's restaurant as an example of a busy successful restaurant who does not allow smoking. And they made that choice VOLUNTARILY!!! The government had nothing to do with it, it was purely a marketing/business decision.

We have sucessfully trained people to think that we do not have the ability to take action and form voluntary groups to enact changes.

No we have to resort to government force. Isn't that sad?

Tim Zank said...

Jeff,

You may want to do a little research on tax abatements before you chastise others with opposing views.

I recommend
www.fortwayne-ed.org/tax_abatement2.htm. It spells out very clearly who is eligible and how the process works.

Sounds like you have the two issues confused also (smoking bans and the walmart tax abatement). I assume you meant the laissez-faire reference was to the smoking ban as it pertains to economic rights. I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you were confused, not just throwing around terms of which you do not know the definition.

As you stated, you consider the smoking ban a health issue, which is fine. In public buildings where everyone MUST go I have no problem with a ban. If I want to go to Joes Bar because Joe allows smoking
that should be of no consequence to you. You don't have to go to Joe's. If you believe Joe's air quality inferior, you simply don't patronize Joes. Simple as that.

Jeff Pruitt said...

Tim,

You still are arguing a false premise - namely that large corporations have no government sponsored advantage over small business. Yes anyone can apply for a tax abatement. Walmart also receives subsidized infrastructure costs, property tax breaks, income tax credits, reduced utility rates, bond financing, etc. It's much easier for local governments to court big job creation projects rather than developing small business. I've never met anyone until now that denies that local government does this. Many corporations openly "shop" their new plants/buildings/stores to many areas in order to generate the best deal for themselves (see the recent Honda stories).

Of course the Wal-mart issue has to do w/ economic rights - that's the whole point I'm trying to make. The government is unfairly supporting one business over another - many people on the right think the government should have little to no influence over business. Many of these same people support these corporate handouts - that's the economic issue and that's where I was pointing out the inconsistency.

Everyone (including employees) should have the right to breathe clean air. Regulating Joe's air quaility will not hurt his business and will only help the people that patronize his establishment. Joe's business is regulated in numerous ways and I believe this is one area where he should receive added regulation.

I understand your point on the smoking issue; I just disagree

LP Mike Sylvester said...

This simple post made by Mike Kole on my blog has generated one of the best discussions I have seen in a long while. I just have to weigh in...

Expect a new post on the main blog covering each of these issue again...

Tax Abatements

I mostly agree with Jeff Pruitt on this one. Realize that my wife and I run a local Public Accounting Company. We have almost 100 local small businesses that we help. Most of these businesses have 1 - 4 employees.

NOT ONE of our clients has EVER received a tax abatement. I have TWICE contacted our local Economic Development people and investigated tax abatements for our clients...

In general, it is NOT economically feasible to get a tax abatement unless you buy or upgrade an item with a cost of at LEAST $125,000.

Realize that it is only worthwhile to apply for a tax abatement if the cost of the tax abatement itself is cheaper then the cost savings your get from the tax abtement, this occurs around $125,000.

I read Tim Zank's link and it is information I have seen before.

Consider this Tim, I contacted Fort Wayne and I had them send me complete information on all tax abatements granted over the last several years. I still have this information if you would like to see it Tim!

Well over 98% of all tax abatement's granted in Fort Wayne over the last several years have gone to LARGE businesses. This is occuring during a time when 70% of all local jobs are being created by small businesses.

Tax abatements are wrong and unfair.

Lower the tax rate for EVERYONE and abolish tax abatements EXCEPT when used to draw a new business to your area. Period.

Jeff, I am surprised you have not read my views on this. I wrote a 600 word guest article in The News-Sentinel about the Wal-Mart tax abatement and how outraged I was that attracting a new Wal-Mart store was considered "economic development" in Fort Wayne. I will re-post this on the main blog in the next few days.

Smoking Bans.

For me it is a property rights issue. I do not smoke. My wife does not smoke. My 3 and 4 year old children do not smoke.

I do not like to be around smoke anymore. If I go to a place that has too much smoke I leave and I never return. It is not complicated. The Free Market works and works rather well.

Each business owner should be able to determine whether smoking is allowed in their establishment or not.

Each customer can freely decide what establishments to patronize.

It is this simple to me.

Mike Sylvester

Andrew Kaduk said...

Mike, I am just as amused as you by this great discourse stemming from a little cartoon. Awesome stuff.

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