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The Libertarian

Vin Suprynowicz

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Kevin writes in from Texas:

“Hi Vin, I just read your (Nov. 12) column and Googled with some subdued alarm that Nevada voted in a smoking ban. Very interesting, thanks for the public information. I would have never imagined such a thing.

“Here in rural Hillsboro, Texas people still smoke openly, many of them indoors; many inside their own shops. ... All our restaurants allow smoking. There are public ashtrays at the front doors of the County Courthouse. Tobacco puritanism just hasn’t caught on here.

“My explanation for this is twofold: 1) Pompous people from Dallas, 65 miles away, can’t afford to move here and commute, and b) the masses of economic refugees from socialist California aren’t impacting Texas quite as badly as Nevada.

“I disagree with one aspect of your column: You say the gang of New Puritans will not drain and strangle Vegas within five years, and you project a lengthy decades-long death rattle for the city. I disagree. I visited Vegas roughly a year ago, and I was disgusted by how much the Strip has morphed into a pricey Galleria, a giant boutique. In five years, I predict Vegas will already be feeling the pinch of a severe tourist downturn.

“I don’t think it will require better flights to Amsterdam or the Caribbean. One smart U.S. city with gambling could supplant Vegas pretty quickly, especially if it’s an established poker haven.

“My money is on Biloxi, which will be aggressively rebuilding itself soon.”

# ##

I can see the TV ads now, Kevin, suitably illustrated with color footage of tourists happily engaging in the specified activities on the sparkling Gulf Coast, while their opposite numbers are shown in grainy black-and-white footage here in Sin City being clubbed to the ground by Metro’s “New Year’s Eve Squad,” shot down by the Baby’s Daddy Removal Team out in Southwest 11, or herded into Paddy wagons: “Tobacco: banned in Vegas, still welcome in Biloxi! Prostitution: illegal in Vegas, recently legalized in Biloxi! Hashish bars: still banned in Vegas, recently re-legalized in Biloxi! Handguns: registered in Vegas, welcomed in Biloxi!”

Somehow I doubt it, though. Oh, Mississippi’s poor enough to give it a try. But I’ve never thought of the place as a hotbed of laissez faire.

But some jurisdiction will do it, somewhere beyond the reach of Big Brother in his shiny black FBI shoes. At which point I predict they’ll refuse to air the aforementioned ads here in Vegas. “Too offensive to our community sensibilities,” you understand.

I think Kevin may have one thing wrong, though. I believe most smokers will tell you that ashtrays at the courthouse doors generally mean “Put ’em out here; don’t bring ’em in.”
(Which does bring one old question back to mind. Since every federal employee, right down to the uniformed guards, presumably swears an oath to protect and defend the Constitution, wouldn’t you think a federal courthouse would be the one place you could be absolutely CERTAIN no one would try to “infringe” your “right to keep and bear arms”? I’ll believe this is a free country again when the nice receptionist at the federal courthouse says, “Oh, sir, I see you’re packing. You might want to stop by our snack bar; I believe they’ve got a special on hollowpoint .44 this month.”)

Meantime, let’s not miss what’s really going on with such nanny-state edicts as Nevada’s new restaurant smoking ban, which has also been “spontaneously” enacted in a number of other states. One of the most frequently encountered talking points in response to warnings that this will hurt tourism is, “No it won’t; it just makes things the same as the states those tourists come from.”

But how would we respond if someone proposed emulating the kind of human rights violations that visitors from Asia and Latin America would recognize as “just like what they’ve got back home”? (Assume for the moment the current administration isn’t already ahead of us, here.)

The American promise of federalism -- each state left free and sovereign, while a small central government of limited powers and resources would take care of foreign policy, post roads, and outfitting a navy -- meant that Americans were allowed to “vote with their feet.”

If you wanted to live in a city or state which allowed you to carry your firearms openly; which required people to pay for the schooling of their own offspring without saddling other folks with this “collectivized” burden; that allowed you to medicate yourself as you saw fit and live without some religious authority having the power to enforce their orthodoxies on you, you just moved.

Catholics who found the other colonies intolerant tried Maryland. People who got fed up with the prissy Puritans of Massachusetts founded Rhode Island.

It worked real well for hundreds of years, right up through 1912 and -- to a considerable extent -- through 1932.

Some of us have even tried it in living memory, moving to one of the eight states of the intermountain West, the freest we could find.

(I moved to Nevada, a state without a state income tax, where all restaurants had a smoking section, where I was told prostitution was legal and you could carry a gun openly on your hip without a permit. I considered these things important even though I do not smoke and have never patronized a house of prostitution and did not start buying firearms till after I moved here, because they signaled to me that the nanny state had not yet arrived in these parts.)

But the collectivists cannot tolerate any such competing jurisdictions, which make them look silly by rubbing the superior prosperity and creativity and happiness of free peoples in their faces on a daily basis. This is why they shriek so loudly that Nevada must be made just like every other state -- we must eliminate our shameful “low ranking” on the various scales of socialist looting and redistribution, matching what other states spend on each and every counterproductive government boondoggle from “dust control” to “species protection” to all-day government baby-sitting for 5-year-olds.

We must precisely match their smoking bans, their seatbelt and helmet and speed limit and mandatory trash-sorting laws, and their response to the myth of “human-caused global warming” -- and o, the bellowing and hollering if we try to stand alone in resisting any part of this collectivist mantra!

(We actually pay our state legislators to attend conferences back East on how to write our laws to match their “model statutes,” as though Nevadans dream of having the same laws as New Yorkers. You can look it up.)

This has been tried before. If skilled artisans and mechanics fled Stalinist Russia in search of more freedom in Hungary or Poland or Czechoslovakia, why ... just impose the same oppressive regime on Hungary and Poland and Czechoslovakia! What do you think tanks are for?

If all states are the same, why have states?

Aha. For here they’re already ahead of us, with esteemed network commentators arguing that U.S. senators “shouldn’t represent rocks and trees,” but that seats in the upper house should rather be allocated by population as in the lower.

That is to say: if Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Colorado, and New Mexico combined shelter about 19.6 million people and 14 U.S. senators, then New York, with 19.2 million people, should also have 14 U.S. senators ... while California would get about 26.

And you thought we had galloping nanny-state socialism NOW.

O brave new world, that can race toward tyranny with such breathless enthusiasm.