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Posts Tagged ‘Limited Government’

A few hours ago, I received word from George Allen’s campaign that today he signed The Contract from America.  By doing so, he joins the growing ranks of limited government conservatives like Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, and Representative Michelle Bachmann of Minnesota.  As Allen states, “To me, signing this pledge is an affirmation of my commitment to protecting individual liberty, limited government and economic freedom.”

But what is The Contract from America, you might ask?  I’m sure most of you remember the GOP’s 1994 Contract with America, but now we are talking about a contract from America?  What an odd name.  Doesn’t it sound like some secessionist ploy?  Well, here’s the contract.  Read it yourself:

The Contract from America

We, the undersigned, call upon those seeking to represent us in public office to sign the Contract from America and by doing so commit to support each of its agenda items, work to bring each agenda item to a vote during the first year, and pledge to advocate on behalf of individual liberty, limited government, and economic freedom.

Individual Liberty

Our moral, political, and economic liberties are inherent, not granted by our government. It is essential to the practice of these liberties that we be free from restriction over our peaceful political expression and free from excessive control over our economic choices.

Limited Government

The purpose of our government is to exercise only those limited powers that have been relinquished to it by the people, chief among these being the protection of our liberties by administering justice and ensuring our safety from threats arising inside or outside our country’s sovereign borders. When our government ventures beyond these functions and attempts to increase its power over the marketplace and the economic decisions of individuals, our liberties are diminished and the probability of corruption, internal strife, economic depression, and poverty increases.

Economic Freedom

The most powerful, proven instrument of material and social progress is the free market. The market economy, driven by the accumulated expressions of individual economic choices, is the only economic system that preserves and enhances individual liberty. Any other economic system, regardless of its intended pragmatic benefits, undermines our fundamental rights as free people.

1. Protect the Constitution

Require each bill to identify the specific provision of the Constitution that gives Congress the power to do what the bill does. (82.03%)

2. Reject Cap & Trade

Stop costly new regulations that would increase unemployment, raise consumer prices, and weaken the nation’s global competitiveness with virtually no impact on global temperatures. (72.20%)

3. Demand a Balanced Budget

Begin the Constitutional amendment process to require a balanced budget with a two-thirds majority needed for any tax hike. (69.69%)

4. Enact Fundamental Tax Reform

Adopt a simple and fair single-rate tax system by scrapping the internal revenue code and replacing it with one that is no longer than 4,543 words—the length of the original Constitution. (64.90%)

5. Restore Fiscal Responsibility & Constitutionally Limited Government in Washington

Create a Blue Ribbon taskforce that engages in a complete audit of federal agencies and programs, assessing their Constitutionality, and identifying duplication, waste, ineffectiveness, and agencies and programs better left for the states or local authorities, or ripe for wholesale reform or elimination due to our efforts to restore limited government consistent with the US Constitution’s meaning. (63.37%)

6. End Runaway Government Spending

Impose a statutory cap limiting the annual growth in total federal spending to the sum of the inflation rate plus the percentage of population growth. (56.57%)

7. Defund, Repeal, & Replace Government-run Health Care

Defund, repeal and replace the recently passed government-run health care with a system that actually makes health care and insurance more affordable by enabling a competitive, open, and transparent free-market health care and health insurance system that isn’t restricted by state boundaries. (56.39%)

8. Pass an ‘All-of-the-Above” Energy Policy

Authorize the exploration of proven energy reserves to reduce our dependence on foreign energy sources from unstable countries and reduce regulatory barriers to all other forms of energy creation, lowering prices and creating competition and jobs. (55.51%)

9. Stop the Pork

Place a moratorium on all earmarks until the budget is balanced, and then require a 2/3 majority to pass any earmark. (55.47%)

10. Stop the Tax Hikes

Permanently repeal all tax hikes, including those to the income, capital gains, and death taxes, currently scheduled to begin in 2011. (53.38%)

It certainly sounds promising doesn’t it?  Any effort that seeks to restrain the growing power of the federal government is certainly an idea I can get behind.  It seems, I’m not alone; the concept has the backing of a number of limited government organizations like The Leadership Institute, The Republican Liberty Caucus, and Freedom Works.

However, I do have two questions regarding the contract.  First, what’s with all the percentages after each segment?  Is it a ranking of priority?  Do the number represent folks who sign choosing to accept certain portions of the contract while rejecting others?  Well, after making a few phone calls, I discovered this answer.  In order to gauge public opinion on what are the most important priorities, the organizers held a poll.  The top ten are what are listed here.  The percentages after each are the percent of the vote each won.  “Protecting the Constitution” was labeled the highest priority, while “Stopping the Tax Hikes”, although important, was the lowest concern of the top ten.

Second, I’m not too wild about point number seven.  Sure, I’d like to see federally run health care defunded and repealed, but replaced?  Replaced with what?  Something merely more cost efficient?  I do not believe that the federal government has any constitutional authority when it comes to the health care of its citizens.  Therefore, without additional details, I cannot support this particular plank.

If you will recall, back in 1994, Republicans captured control of Congress by uniting around a list of conservative principles and priorities.  Should they do so again, I would expect them to win a far greater percentage of seats.

Therefore, despite my one particular objection, I believe that this Contract From America is an important step in the right direction.  It may be a funny sounding name, but we need to get Washington under control and we must do so now.  As our former Governor and Senator states, “Only by listening to ‘We the People’ and returning to the foundational principles of freedom, personal responsibility and opportunity for all will America once again be the land of opportunity.”

Although I still need to learn more about this effort,  I certainly do appreciate their motivation and applaud George Allen for signing on to this project.

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Well, today marks another milestone.  Today is my birthday, the big three zero.  Oh, how time flies.  Normally I don’t make much of a deal about birthdays.  After all, how much of an accomplishment is a birthday?  What great feat have I mastered?  Not dying, I suppose.  Nevertheless, I will admit that it is nice to have a day when people pay attention to you.  But in this post I’d like to talk to you what I believe is a more relevant anniversary, my fifteenth.

You see, about fifteen years ago I first took the great plunge into politics.  Sure, I developed an interest earlier.  Let me draw you back into those halcyon days.  I remember voting in our school’s mock Presidential election in ‘88 and ‘92; I stopped in to the local GOP headquarters in November 1994 to pick up an “Ollie!” button.  I watched the election returns at home and remember being excited about the result, though I wasn’t really involved.  Like most Americans, I was a passive spectator.  Soon after that cycle, everything changed.  I eagerly purchased “To Renew America”.  I committed myself to my first important issue, abortion, and so I ordered a bunch of Pro-life literature from Heritage House 76.  I even created a crude bumper sticker, which I proudly displayed on a folder around the halls of my high school.  It was a very simplistic time, a time when everything was clearly black and white.  All Republicans, like my heroes Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and Majority Leader Bob Dole, were good guys, and Democrats, like President Bill Clinton and Minority Leaders Tom Daschle and Dick Gephardt, were the bad guys.  1995 was a year of tremendous optimism.  After all, Republicans dominated the 1994 election unified on the back of the Contract With America.  And after my first attempt at volunteering in that year, Glenn Weatherholtz picked up the 26th House of Delegates seat and Kevin Miller won the 26th State Senator seat, things were looking extremely positive.  But life didn’t stay that way for long.

The next years were a back and forth series of ups and downs, positive at the state level and disheartening at the federal.  In my first Presidential election in 1996, Bill Clinton easily defeated Senator Bob Dole.  In 1997, then Republican Attorney General Jim Gilmore won the Governor’s race in Virginia promising to eliminate the car tax.  Next, in 1998, we had the GOP congressional loss and Newt Gingrich’s fall from power, coupled with the later discovery of his hypocritical affair.  Then in 1999, Republicans captured a majority of the seats in the House of Delegates for the first time since Reconstruction.  During this time, however, I slowly began to come to the critical understanding that politics was more than blind partisanship and the single issue of abortion.  Sure the Republican Party and pro-life work are important, but they are facets of a larger struggle of ideology and principles…conservatism versus liberalism.

Considering I mention it so often in this blog, I feel like I need to talk a bit about foreign policy.  Interestingly enough, foreign policy was never an important issue to me until after the attacks of 9-11.  Who cares about other nations?  I thought.  Our own domestic policy was all that really mattered.  Sure, I didn’t support Clinton’s adventure in Bosnia, but my objection primarily stemmed from economic concerns.  As I studied more about the issue in college (at first rather reluctantly), I came to realize that how we conducted our affairs abroad had a tremendous impact on policies at home both in terms of security and our budget.  If we are supposedly a Judeo-Christian nation, shouldn’t we treat other nations and peoples as we ourselves would like to be treated?  Now don’t misunderstand, the primary objectives of our government are to secure the lives, liberty, and property of its citizens and so if another nation (or group) seeks to destroy our freedoms or our people, we must prevent them from doing so.  But, as John Quincy Adams reminds us, “Wherever the standard of freedom and Independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own.”  Unfortunately, this seemingly simple time honored principle has gotten me in more trouble in Republican circles than any other.

These last eight years or so have been extremely depressing.  Why?  At the national level, how many government programs, department, and agencies have been eliminated?   Compare that number to how many new bureaucracies have been added.  It’s sad isn’t it, watching the government grow, our liberties shrink, and our constitution reduced to mere toilet paper?  So many politicians cry for change, but how many of them protect our rights, our borders, or the unborn?  So many are pathetic shills.  Until the Ron Paul campaign came along in 2007, I didn’t think politics would ever get better.  Suddenly Paul was a single drop of limited government conservativism in an indifferent ocean of status quo politicians.  He firmly stood for principle over party politics.  Most Republicans I knew shunned Paul and it wasn’t until after the campaign had concluded that they finally viewed the doctor in a positive light.  These days, with the rise of the tea party movement, I’m very hopeful that this new wave of activists will push both the Republican Party and the federal government toward the conservative principles that I have been advocating for a long time now.

Based upon these last years, what will the future hold?  Will taxes, regulations, and mandates from Washington further shackle the American public?  Will the states refuse to obey any more unconstitutional legislation?  Will a great leader emerge to restore the republic or conversely will he or she create a socialist paradise?  We should not look to others for the answers to these questions, but to ourselves.   Right now we have a lot of positive rhetoric and hope, but we need greater numbers and, more importantly, action.  Therefore, I ask you to join me.  Politically speaking, you may be an infant, a teenager like myself, or someone far more experienced, but really age doesn’t mater.  Only by working together can we enact meaningful change. We must not be silent.  We must not be complacent.  Recruit your family, your friends, your neighbors, and your coworkers.  Run for office, draft legislation, write your Congressman, volunteer in your local GOP, or join a Tea Party.  Getting back to the original point about my birthday, if you’re looking to get me the perfect gift, how about a little liberty?

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Sorry for little pause in updates.  My personal circumstances are changing including a potential move, though I should still be in the 26th district.  But on to the topic at hand…

Limited government conservative and establishment Republicans have long butted heads and 2010 is no exception.  For starters, you can look south to Florida for The Rubio/Crist feud.  How about blowback against the maverick John McCain in his primary fight in Arizona?  We in the limited government camp are not alone.  The tea party movement itself rose to tell not only the federal government, but also the Republican Party, that to quote the movie Network, we are “as mad as hell and not going to take this anymore!  Things have got to change!”  Now we don’t merely want change for changes’ sake.  We have seen the supposed hope and change that President Obama offers, and now our future is clouded and uncertain.  We need a new and better direction.  Neither citizens nor corporations should endlessly suckle at the teat of the government, merely crying for bread and circuses.  That crooked road doesn’t lead to freedom and prosperity, but to shackles and serfdom.  To reclaim our nation we need a path paved with the promises of liberty and personal responsibility, not welfare and bailouts.

This year, I believe no battle is more important in war for the heart and soul of the GOP than in Kentucky.  For the side of the limited government crowd we have Rand Paul, son of Texas Representative and 2008 Presidential candidate Ron Paul.  For the side of the establishment, we have Trey Grayson, the Secretary of State of Kentucky.  With the primary less than two weeks away, politicians and political leaders from both wings of the Republican Party have taken notice and have come out swinging with endorsements.  In Grayson’s column, we have Senate Minority Leader and Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell, Dick Cheney, Rick Santorum, and Rudy Giuliani.  Paul’s supporters include Senator Jim DeMint (SC), Steve Forbes, Dr. James Dobson, and Sarah Palin.  These endorsements alone should give you some indication of the quality of the two men.

On many issues both candidates share the same (or nearly the same) views: abortion, taxes, and spending.  Therefore, I don’t believe it would be fair to say that either candidate is not conservative.  What makes Paul a better choice, in my mind, is his limited government mindset.  I think Erick Erickson of Red State sums up my thoughts pretty well.  “The problem with Republicans in Congress is that they lost their way. They were willing to do things they otherwise would oppose because George Bush told them to.  And they have been willing ever since to go along with strategies that were poll tested and mother approved because that is what the leadership wanted and told them to do.”  He goes on to add, “I want men and women of high moral character who are men and women of conservative principle, not of party.

When of party, politicians think too often of saving themselves, not the country. For too long the Republicans have invested in solid party guys who advance the party’s agenda, but not conservatism and certainly not smaller government.”

Amen Mr. Erickson.  We need leaders who are not afraid to actually lead.

Like his father, Rand Paul is against bailouts of all kinds, the Federal Reserve, and even opposes the Patriot Act and the War in Iraq.  Although such a line of thinking is not popular with the establishment Republicans and may even be considered radical, I believe that this path is the only method to save the Republican Party and, more importantly, our nation as a whole.

Although I do not live in Kentucky, I wholeheartedly endorse and support Rand Paul.  Neither side will be able to claim ultimate victory as a result of this primary, but a win for Paul will likely create aftershocks felt across the land.  Sooner or later in our own cities, counties, and states, both you and I will have the opportunity to choose between the status quo and a limited, constitutional government.  On that day, will you have the courage to take a stand?

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I don’t really understand why charity is such a seasonal thing.  During Christmas time just about every shopping center sports a little red booth, a matching kettle, and a bell ringer.  You see one, and either ignore it or toss whatever loose change you have available and go on your way, not thinking much more about it.  But what about the other 11 months of the year?  Are there no poor folks during those times as well?  Do they magically disappear?  Are there no hungry, no homeless, and no ill the rest of the year?

Consider, if you will, the situation in Haiti.  Prior to the earthquake, who took time out of their day to consider the plight of the poorest nation in the western hemisphere?  Until the Hollywood actors and Washington politicians filled the airwaves with the tragedy were we roused to action.  I’m afraid to tell you kind hearted folks that given the high unemployment, lack of education, rampant corruption, and extreme violence commonplace in the island nation, US dollars will not be a suitable fix to solve the nation’s woes.

A friend of mine recently wrote on his Facebook page,  “America: the only country where we have homeless without shelter including disabled veterans, children going to bed without eating, elderly going without needed meds, and mentally ill without treatment – yet we have a benefit for the people of Haiti on 12 TV stations.”  He makes a good point.  When properly motivated, Americans are some of, if not the most, generous people on the face of the Earth.  But I assure you, need is not a foreign concept.  Right here in Virginia, we have children struggling to learn to read, out-of-work mothers and fathers unable to feed their families, homeless shivering in the cold, night wind, and free clinics in need of medicine.

So what are you doing to help?  Do you donate your time or money to the local soup kitchen, the homeless shelter, or neighborhood charities?

Now before some of you think I’ve gotten all bleeding heart liberal on you, I assure you that charity is neither strictly a conservative nor liberal concept.  The true question becomes whether it is freely given through goodwill or mandated by the government.  When you think about it, it might seem strange that God grants humans free will.  After all, we could all be little carbon copy saints, compelled to perform good deeds 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  By contrast, we have been given the ability to be as generous or as selfish as we choose.  But, then again, isn’t the motivation for an act often as important as the deed itself?

When the government mandates either a welfare state or foreign aid, in many ways it usurps the role of God.  It is as if they declare, “we in the government know what is best and shall compel our subjects in act in accordance with our wishes.  Give us your wallets and do as we say.”  God is not a grim tyrant so why should we allow our government to act in such a fashion?  Forced giving like that causes numerous problems.  First, as the government drains money from us, we feel less inclined to give of our own free will.  Why should I donate more?  The government already takes care of the poor.  Second, as anyone knows from even the most limited understanding of the government, it is rife with inefficiency and graft.  Most charities send a far higher percentage of your donated dollar to those in need and have far less bureaucracy.  Third, government welfare and entitlements grossly overstep both the Constitution and traditional boundaries of churches and other related religious organizations.  Then again, maybe our government is nothing more than a supplier of bread and circuses?

The Salvation Army is right, need knows no season, but it also knows no border.  Open your heart, your checkbook, and your schedule to those in dire straits not just in December, but also right now.  Remember the gaunt faces on the television, but don’t neglect your neighbor in need next door.  So what’s it going to be?  Charity is (and should be) your choice, not coercion.  I’ll leave you with this familiar quote.  “…Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.  For I was hungry, and you fed me.  I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink.  I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home.  I was naked, and you gave me clothing.  I was sick, and you cared for me.  I was in prison, and you visited me.”  Matthew 25:34-36 (NLT)

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Despite the lyrics of the Green Day song, I doubt that very many people “want to be the minority”.  Now today’s discussion of minority has nothing to do about race, but rather ideology.  However, as I’ve said in the past, it makes no sense to rectify past discrimination of certain races by promoting racist policies toward another group.  Is the only solution to ending racism by enacting discriminatory laws?  But I digress…

In politics, to be in the minority often means a lack of power, prestige, and respect.  Who cares to join a movement that cannot ever affect policy?  Not many people.  From my experiences, that one point is the greatest failing of the Libertarian Party.  Many active Libertarians I have met seem perfectly willing to maintain their minority status.  Without reaching out to a broader base, all that they will ever be is a discussion group, pontificating about their vision of a perfect society, but never taking the necessary steps toward making their dreams a reality.

The same could hold true for limited government conservatives in the Republican Party.  There exist factions of the Republican Party (the so-called moderates, the neo-conservatives, and the blind party loyalists) who don’t want to see us succeed.  They have either embraced the notion of big government or refuse to take a stand on the important issues of the day.  Like so many facets of life, the easiest path in politics is to accomplish nothing.  If a politician or party doesn’t either pass or promote legislation, then no one will rise in opposition to them and they can hold power for a long period of time, generating kickbacks for themselves and their faithful supporters.  Except for the whole kickbacks thing, the American political system was intentionally designed to slow and outright prevent new laws.  The founders of this nation developed a system of governance and Constitution that they liked and didn’t want the next generation to radically rock the boat.  For the most part, this system worked until politicians and parties fell down on their duty to defend the nation and it’s Constitution from all enemies.  While big government liberals actively continued repeatedly to press for the expansion of the federal government, conservatives, for the most part, have quietly acquiesced or, even worse, joined in, looking to gain benefits for their constituents.

Although some people are enamored with the prospect of a third party (and I’ve written about the topic a bit), unless such a party supplants and replaces one of the two major parties, it will always be the minority and thus ignored.  Names do change, but realistically in the whole history of American politics, the only party to achieve such success was the Republican Party, who formed after the splitting of the Whigs.  Most Americans really do not give 2¢ about politics and so, in truth, all political movements are minority movements; still, of those who are politically active and influential, I do not want to be part of the minority.  I honestly believe that the only realistic path to success is to push the Republican Party and Republican politicians (kicking and screaming if necessary) back to the principles of limited government conservatism that they claim to hold.  Should politicians or leaders balk or act contrary, we must withdraw our support and find new candidates to replace them.  To use a plant analogy:  although some of the branches are rotten and in need of pruning, the solid roots of the modern Republican Party alone make it worth retaining.  We must not be afraid consistently and ardently to champion our values and compel our representatives to do likewise.  Otherwise, be prepared to remain the minority.

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In recent times, there has been little for limited government conservatives, such as myself, to be happy about.  If you will recall, back in 2000 Governor George W. Bush campaigned as a “compassionate conservative”, whatever that truly means.  I always have assumed that conservatism, at its heart, is sufficiently compassionate as it promotes the ideals of personal reasonability and liberty, over reliance to a burdensome government that can give you anything you want, albeit inefficiently, but also take away everything you have.  Unfortunately, as a result of the 2001 terrorist attacks, the Bush Administration broke just about all of its supposed ties to limited government conservatism.  It became a sort of conservative dark ages.  As expected, the military budget increased to combat terrorism, however, George W. Bush supported many policies which ran counter to conservative ideals:  immigration amnesty, greater federal involvement in education with the No Child Left Behind Act, attempting to nominate a person to the Supreme Court with little knowledge of Constitutional Law, laying the foundation for a police state through the Patriot Act, and starting a pre-emptive war in Iraq to name the biggest issues.  Unfortunately, as George Bush was a Republican, far too few conservatives were willing to speak against his policies.  I am certain that if a Democrat advocated legislation such that Bush advocated conservatives would have raised a big fuss.  I recall wistfully remarking to one of my professors the hope that the Republican Party would offer a conservative alternative to Bush in the 2004 Presidential election.

The 2008 Republican presidential election didn’t provide a whole lot of hope for conservatives either.  Early front runners like Rudy Giuliani, who was far from a social conservative, Mitt Romney, who supported state sponsored healthcare and has held both points of view on many political issues, and Mike Huckabee, who although a social conservative seemed to forget about limited government and fiscal restraint, filled me with considerable concern.  As you know from reading this blog, I decided to rally behind the only Republican candidate who consistently spoke in favor of shrinking the national government, Representative Ron Paul.  Unfortunately, too many conservatives scoffed at the idea of Paul being their nominee.  Some firmly believed in Bush’s conflict in Iraq while others lumped Paul as being the same as some his more radical, conspiracy-minded followers.  Nevertheless, John McCain became the Republican nominee.  As I have stated in the past, although Senator McCain advocated a few conservative policies, he is not a conservative.  This truth should have become painfully clear as a result of the McCain/Feingold muzzle on free speech, his support for amnesty, and his insistence during the debates of compelling the government to buy up and renegotiate bad mortgages.  Yuck!  Although many conservatives grudgingly voted for McCain, others either stayed home on election day, voted for Obama, or voted for a third party candidate.  Still, I was still surprised by how badly McCain lost.  Conservatism was further removed from the national stage.

For the first time in a long while, I’m beginning to gain a glimmer of hope.  Now I believe that we are only a few years from a conservative renaissance.  “How can that be?” You might ask.  Under Obama and the series of bailouts the state has grown ever larger.  What politician is willing to take a stand for my liberty…for my tax dollars?  Just look at recent events.  More and more states have passed resolutions reclaiming their sovereignty as protected by the 10th Amendment.  We don’t know what sort of legal impact these resolutions will make, if any, but it is clearly an important step if we wish to reign in the federal government.  And consider the tea parties.  In hundreds of locations across the nation, thousands upon thousands of disenchanted citizens gathered to protest excessive government taxes and spending.  Think back to last year at this time.  If the protest occurred then, wouldn’t they have been labeled as radical or ignored completely by media outlets like FOX News?  Have either spending or taxes risen so dramatically between Bush and Obama?  Hardly.  And yet now that a Democrat lives in the White House, conservatives and Republicans of many stripes can band together in opposition to Obama’s policies.

The present time harkens back to 1994 when the Democrats controlled the Presidency, the House, and the Senate.  However, unlike that time, we must nominate and elect principled limited government Constitutional conservatives who will remain true to their values, not be corrupted with the temptations of power and kickbacks.  Then, and only then, we will enjoy the fruits of a lasting conservative renaissance.  Our goals are clear.  Let us not waiver.

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Recently the General Assembly passed a bill (SB 1105) that “prohibits smoking in all indoor restaurants, bar and lounge areas, and restrooms in restaurants in the Commonwealth, with certain exceptions where smoking may be permitted.  Requires the posting of ‘No Smoking’ signs and provides for a $25 civil penalty for a violation of these provisions” (official summary from the G.A.’s website) as of December 1 of 2009 unless those places of business create portions of their establishments with alternate ventilation systems.  This law, as is done in the case of both gun control and abortion, is another incremental step toward outlawing the practice of smoking altogether.  Rather than pushing for an outright ban (which would met with tremendous resistance), opponents of smoking have slowly pushed their agenda.  For the longest time, we have had a “sin tax” on tobacco products which was much higher than just about any tax on any other good and much greater than the typical sales tax in most states.  Over time the tax would increase, thus although the good itself was not illegal, the inflated price would discourage citizens from either continuing their habit or trying the item for the first time.  Today I read in the DNR that the FDA and the federal government are looking into the regulation of tobacco. I should note that I have not nor do I ever plan to use any tobacco product and personally I strongly discourage the use of any tobacco products be they smoked, chewed, snuffed, or dipped.  I find all of these practices both disgusting and harmful to one’s health and I greatly look forward to the day in which no person uses these products.  So then, I must be a big fan of this new law?  No…not at all.  Business owners, not politicians in Richmond or Washington, should be able to decide for themselves if they wish to allow smoking in their places of business.  Now I prefer to frequent businesses that do not allow smoking as I don’t like being around the smoke, but that is my decision as a consumer.  If a business chooses to allow smoking, either for personal or financial reasons, that preference should be their option.  Like many nonsmokers, I’ll be less likely to come in, but, on the other hand, smokers will likely appreciate the opportunity to light up.  Given the massive crusade against smoking, I find it hard to believe that any customer or employee is not aware of the potential risks of either smoking or of second hand smoke.  If you enter such an environment then I say caveat emptor.  As a parent, if you don’t want your kids to be around second hand smoke, then don’t take your kids to a place that permits smoking. Don’t instead go to an establishment that allows smoking and then complain to the manager when the person beside you lights up.  It’s not the manager’s fault…it’s not the smoker’s fault…it’s not the government’s fault…it’s your fault for not being a responsible parent.  Your choices at that point are to sit there or leave.  I’d advise leaving.  Simple enough.

Besides tobacco usage, people engage in all sorts of activities that are potentially dangerous to their health.  So does that concern give the government the right to be the health police?  These days obesity is a major issue.  I believe that the mass consumption of fast food is a major contributor to the health decline of many Americans.  If they were to greatly reduce or, even better, eliminate patronage at these establishments, I sincerely believe that the average health of citizens would improve dramatically.  So then should I advocate government regulation for the betterment of my fellow citizens?  Again, the answer is no.  First of all, the ends do not justify the means.  Should we look to the government to solve all of society’s problems?  Obviously, like tobacco, many citizens freely choose to engage in these behaviors we consider risky.  Must their freedoms be curtailed because we know (or supposedly know) better?  I’m sure that I myself partake in behaviors that shorten my life expectancy.  For example, I know that I should exercise more frequently, but due to various reasons, I do not do so.  Should the government (local, state, or federal) mandate exercise requirements for me?  Heaven forbid.  Such a policy, although expected from a fascist police state, is unreasonable for a supposedly free republic like our own.

What about seat belt laws?  Although I think we can all agree about the importance of wearing a seat belt while either driving or riding in a vehicle, is it really the prerogative of the state to decide for us whether or not we should engage in protecting ourselves?  Fortunately the government has wisely restrained itself from being our nanny in our own autos, and therefore…oh no…wait a minute…that’s not right.  My mistake.  For some reason we’ve come to believe it is reasonable for the government to be our co-pilot for the sake of our own safety.  Gee, as we surrendered our choices and personal responsibility to the government on this issue, it should come as no surprise that the government seeks to extend its influence further into the public health and safety debate.

Now I think that the public should not turn a blind eye when companies attempt to mislead people concerning the dangers or potential dangers of using or consuming their products, but if we know what the risks are, then each person should be able to decide for him or herself if he or she chooses to use such products or engage in those behaviors.  When it comes to smoking in private businesses it is time to get the government out!  Nevertheless, I expect that the crusade against tobacco products will intensify in the coming years.  Prices will continue to rise and one day you won’t be able to smoke at all in public, and then not even in your own home.  Although I ask that you continue to show the courtesy of refraining from smoking in confined areas (especially around me), to all my friends who enjoy a the liberty of a good smoke I say, “smoke ‘em while you got ‘em”.

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