May 10, 2012

The Nanny State, Part 3, But...

Patrick Laverty

So here we go with the libertarianism again. The way I understand it, being a libertarian means that my rights end where yours begin and vice versa. Nothing I do should harm you and the same in return. So this is one place where the nanny state seems to be a good idea, especially when it comes down to protecting those who can't protect themselves, as in this case, one person's rights are going too far and affecting someone else.

The Providence Journal reports that State Senator Susan Sosnowski has sponsored a bill that will fine motorists for smoking in a car with children young enough to be in a restrained seat. The law would make this a secondary offense, meaning police may not pull the driver over just for smoking in the car with a child present.

I've long thought that when I see people smoking in the car with small children, it's a form of child abuse. You can often see the blue fog filling the car, and sometimes the car will have more than one smoker adding to the haze. Of course in the winter, the windows are rolled up and the the children are sitting back there breathing in that second hand smoke.

I imagine people may comment "Oh great, what's next, outlawing chocolate cake too? You're going to stop me from having dessert next?" No, that's not it at all. You can do whatever you want to your own body, if you're an adult. Eat yourself into oblivion. I wish you wouldn't, for your own sake, but that's your choice. However when your choices affect children, it's people's responsibility to do something about it.

I'm not sure a $25 fine for a secondary offense will be enough to stop people from "exercising their rights," but it's a good start, a good first step. I support Senator Sosnowski's efforts here and I hope this does get passed into RI law.

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People who eat a lot of chocolate cake and other fattening foods increase the likelihood of heart attacks, diabetes and other health problems, and given the nature of our medical care system, those with better eating habits will end up paying at lease some of the resulting care-related expenses.

Posted by: Ed Brynes at May 10, 2012 9:26 AM

Thanks Ed, I suspected that's the direction that someone would go pretty quickly, or worse, fining parents for giving their kids dessert.

However, before we go there, do we all agree that smoking in a car with small children is a bad idea?

Posted by: Patrick at May 10, 2012 9:37 AM

As much as I hate these 'personal responsibility' laws, it's no worse than outlawing Happy Meals on the 'left' coast.

Posted by: Max D at May 10, 2012 11:05 AM

Second-hand smoke really isn't nearly as dangerous as it's made out to be. Really. Being in a fossil-fuel burning vehicle made out of sunlight-exposed hydrocarbons for a long period is probably just as nasty.

We would be MUCH better off blocking food stamps for junk food and soda, from a 'time and money spent helping kids' standpoint.

Posted by: mangeek at May 10, 2012 12:27 PM

However, before we go there, do we all agree that smoking in a car with small children is a bad idea?
Posted by Patrick at May 10, 2012 9:37 AM

Extinguishing parents liberty to raise THEIR children is.
I grew up in a smoking house and was driven around from infancy with adults, including extended family and family friends who smoked-most of them are in their 80's and still with us. In 50 years the only times I have been in hospitals is at visiting hours.
I and other kids in my family also were driven around in the beds of pick-up trucks. A lot of fun.
Progressives suck, pure and simple. They suck every joy out of life in their sick idea of turning the planet into an Atheist Left workers state like North Korea.

Posted by: Tommy Cranston at May 10, 2012 12:51 PM

This is a tricky issue for libertarians, if only for the reason that we put more thought into the matter than, "We don't like this, so ban it."

There is no question that it's harmful to the children, but that's not the end of the analysis - it's only the beginning. The degree of the harm is directly relevant here, because everyone can agree that it's more harmful than feeding your kids a KitKat Bar (legal) and less harmful than shooting your kids in the leg (illegal). This could well be a "battle of the experts" issue in the end. My understanding is that the science of the health effects of second-hand smoke is not yet clear.

The other, more fundamental question is whether we really want to the state to concern itself with such things. Saying it's harm isn't enough - there are legitimate concerns about how this will affect law enforcement, where the revenue will go, what the opportunity costs are, mission creep, eroding respect for rule of law (inasmuch as it hasn't been destroyed already by parking/speeding enforcement), and inserting the state into family decisions, even if they are poor ones. Slippery slope should be a major concern here.

Posted by: Dan at May 10, 2012 1:09 PM

"more fundamental question is whether we really want to the state to concern itself with such things"

Agreed wholeheartedly.

In fact, I want to see the anti-texting law and the new 'no dogs on laps' law tossed. Instead, have a 'willfully distracted driving' multiplier on fines and penalties. You crashed into someone while driving? That's 1x the penalty, you crashed into them while lighting a smoke/eating a cheeseburger/putting on makeup/texting/talking on the phone, etc? That's 2x the standard penalty.

Posted by: mangeek at May 10, 2012 3:07 PM

Forfeiting our personal decision making abilities (or lack thereof) to an inefficient burdensome government is heading down that slippery slope. The cure is worst than the disease. Next we will burden police that eating lollipops while driving sets a bad example for the toddler in the car seat.

Posted by: ANTHONY at May 10, 2012 3:21 PM

Mangeek - Why use fines at all? Make it criminal if they are actually endangering people. Then everyone - the state and the drivers - would be forced to take these offenses seriously instead of reducing them to a financial transaction with the bureaucracy. Put people on trial for speeding, driving distracted, driving impaired, etc. But before anyone thinks I'm advocating for authoritarianism on steroids, think about the ramifications of that: the prosecution and defense would have to put on a real case instead of shuffling people through the kangaroo court traffic hearings we have now, and these laws would get proper public attention. Law enforcement would thus be forced to resume its proper role of protecting life and property from actual danger instead of just generating revenue through silly vehicular violations that endanger nobody.

Posted by: Dan at May 10, 2012 3:33 PM

So you are saying that my father,his mother,all of my aunts and uncles on the paternal side of my family were child abusers. Further,you are saying that all family friends who smoked around children were child abusers.

Do you also think that my great aunt Rose who chewed tobacco and spit it into an empty coffee can during family card parties was a child abuser?

Oh how did we manage to grow up without the state protecting us from those horrible adults?
One of grandmothers,who was born in the 1800's,used to give me a little wine with soda on occasion. I know she loved me dearly.

My mother gave me paragoric when was teething. Was she abusive too?

In other words,you're nuts.

Posted by: helen at May 11, 2012 1:06 AM

I was also given Sweet Spirits of Nitre during my infancy and early childhood for pain relief from ear infections. Was that abusive? It worked. Can't get it now as far as I know. Can't get paragoric for teething either.

The Biggov is overreaching now into our personal lives. Now even trying to control what we and our children eat.

Posted by: helen at May 11, 2012 1:28 AM

Yes,that homemade gingerbread,from scratch chocolate cake and homemade lemonade really messed me up.Tsk! How could they give us such things (sarcasm in the highest)

One of my winter after school snacks was a piece of white bread smeared with molasses. Got a problem with that? I liked it.

Posted by: helen at May 11, 2012 1:39 AM

I don't smoke and don't like seeing people smoking in a closed car with kids however I also do not know if kids are actually harmed by this. Can this practice be scientifically (not just statistically) linked to children with asthma?

My brother and I grew up with a smoking dad and there is no evidence of harm from second hand smoke with us. I haven't seen conclusive evidence of harm done to others either.

I think the burden of proof of harm should be very high before we ask the government to "make people stop" doing anything.

Posted by: Chris P at May 11, 2012 7:08 AM

So helen, it's not child abuse if the person doing it loves the child? Gotcha, thanks.

Posted by: Patrick at May 11, 2012 7:34 AM

Obviously something that was not child abuse in 1950 or 1960 could be child abuse today because scientific understanding and standards have changed. Intent is a factor.

Posted by: Dan at May 11, 2012 7:49 AM

"it's not child abuse if the person doing it loves the child?"

Sort of like how pitbulls are banned in Central Falls unless the owner is white, or smoking weed while driving is only an offense if you are playing rap music, and prostitution is only illegal if you don't give freebies to the police.

Posted by: mangeek at May 11, 2012 10:47 AM

Oh Lord, give me the patience and perserverence NOT to blow something up!

Enough with this insanity. Leave me and my decisions on how to run my life the hell out of government's reach.

Tax revenue on tobacco ranks, what, 2nd in RI? Last I looked, it is legal. Driving while smoking is not driving while intoxicated.

And, what happened to all the tobacco settlement money (remember that?) meant to "educate" people about the hazards of smoking the legal weed; or, to educate people about the potential effects of 2nd hand smoke?

How about this? For all of the arguments about paying for other people's behavioral health issues and thus utilizing legislation to control behavior (Rep. Williams likes that notion), how about we just weed out those that (you) will likley judge to be of poor parenting quality by starting at the beginning? We offer up a free dream car of the recipients' choice along with 2 years of free gas and insurance in exchange for receiving a vasectomy or a tubal ligation. Can you think of other incentives that may appeal to the potential pool of people who may fall into the "poor judgement" category? That way, we'll stem the birth rate of those "lesser qualified" folk, neuter the argument of paying for others' bad behavior (the deal will be cheaper in the long run) and ultimately
rid ourselves of thos pesky bad actors.

See the slippery slope?

Posted by: Lee at May 11, 2012 10:08 PM

Okay Patrick,my family were too ignorant to distinguish between love and what today is a politically correct definition of abuse. But you might be correct,it might have been abusive.

Smoking around children might be considered abuse. Advocate then to have it declared illegal,anywhere,at any time in the state.

No smoking in cars when children are also in the cars,no smoking in homes when children are also in the homes. Make it so the police can pull people over and take them away in handcuffs in front of their children or fine them so severely that it will hurt the whole family.

The millions of us who managed to grow up to be healthy adults after living in those conditions are just anomalies. Right?

Continue the train of reasoning. It's okay to restrict people from smoking in their cars or homes,so it's okay to restrict other activities in homes or cars. Example,no drinking alcohol in your home if children are present.

Now,let's talk about the school breakfast programs,which according to the reasoning given to the general public,were started because children weren't being given breakfast at home,so couldn't concentrate on their studies because of hunger.

Well,I thought that not feeding one's children is considered at the very least child neglect if not abuse. Further,could there really be so many children unfed by their parents that a huge school breakfast program would be required?

If children who weren't being fed were known to the schools,why didn't the school contact social services to find out what was going on with the parents that they wouldn't feed their own children?

Posted by: helen at May 17, 2012 9:59 PM
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