2001-02-03 / Letters

Individual Rights

Dear Editor;

I agree with the main point of your January 27 editorial, that the pending bill to completely ban smoking in city restaurants is wrong. However I’m afraid that we are on the same side of this issue for totally different reasons. Your opinion seems based more upon practicality and fairness, while my position is based solely on the fundamental principle of private property rights.

The question here should not focus on whether the 1995 Smoke-Free Air Act has "worked," or if non-smokers already have a reasonable choice of non-smoking restaurants. Instead, this is a simple question of whether a business owner should be allowed to operate his or her business as he or she pleases, including how they choose to cater to smokers and non-smokers.

Unlike government bureaucrats, if a restaurant isn’t properly catering to customer needs, they go out of business. With over 20,000 restaurants in New York City, customers have plenty of choices. If we dislike the quality of the air, the taste of the food or the ambiance, we can, and should, find another place to eat.

Sure, restaurants serve the public, but they are still private businesses and should therefore be under the exclusive control of their owners, not city government. What gives Peter Vallone, the mayor, or anyone else the right to dictate how free men and women run their establishments? Don’t they think restaurateurs (or customers for that matter) are smart enough to set their own smoking policies? I find their attitude arrogant, insulting and downright un-American!

It’s dangerous to judge the validity of new laws by what we judge as "fair," since fairness is a relative thing. Instead, let’s hold every new rule and regulation up to our proud American tradition of individual rights, personal property and freedom from government interference. When held up to these standards, most new laws would never see the light of day. We need to get back to basics and begin to take responsibility for our own actions and not look to government to solve our problems.

Let’s tell the city council to kill this new bill and while they’re at it, repeal its 1995 predecessor. 


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