The EPA and Anti-tobacco Zealots
Tobacco smoking has been one of the hot controversies of our time. Many people find tobacco smoke annoying, smelly and just plain dirty and unpleasant. Some smokers themselves agree with that sentiment. Today's smoking restrictions, not to mention the attack on smokers and extortion of tobacco companies, could not have been engineered simply on the grounds that tobacco smoke is unpleasant. We needed another reason. So the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) literally manufactured, using bogus science, the finding that second-hand smoke is a class A carcinogen causing death and illness for tens of thousands of people who are simply around tobacco smoke. The major news media, along with anti-tobacco zealots, convinced us of the wisdom of the EPA report. They downplayed or ignored findings showing EPA science to be bogus and outright fraud. (1)
The EPA and anti-tobacco zealots "proved" that tobacco smokers harmed other people. Stopping and preventing harm to others, especially to the nation's children, is something most Americans can wholeheartedly support. Thus, all manner of smoking regulations descended upon the nation from bans on smoking on airplanes, in airports and restaurants to bars, workplaces and even outdoor open air stadiums. Let's pretend that the EPA's bogus science about the harmful effects of secondhand smoke is legitimate and examine this business about harming others.
The first thing we should acknowledge is that we live in a world of harms. The secondhand smoke from my cigarette might harm you. However, your being able to prevent me from smoking harms me; I have less enjoyment. We cannot say which person's harm is more important and should take precedence. The reason why is that it is impossible to make interpersonal utility comparisons. In other words, there is no scientific way of deciding whose well-being is more important: whether the harm you suffer from my smoking is more important than the harm I suffer from not being permitted to smoke.
This impossibility of making interpersonal utility comparisons is applicable to most well-being type comparisons. For example, suppose there is a beautiful lady that both Jim and Bob are pursuing. If Jim wins her hand, Bob is harmed and if Bob wins her hand, Jim is harmed. There is no scientific way anyone can determine whose harm is more important and should take precedence over the other.
In a socialistic society, conflicting harms are resolved through government intimidation and coercion. In a free society, conflicting harms are settled through the institution of private property rights. Private property rights has to do with rights, belonging to the person deemed owner of property and protected by the state, to keep, acquire, use and dispose of property as he deems fit so long as he does not violate the property rights of another.
Therefore, in a free society, whether smoking harms others or not is irrelevant. The relevant issue is who owns the...