What We All Should Be Afraid Of

By Gordon Mott , Marvin R. Shanken | From Emeril Lagasse, Sept/Oct 2005
What We All Should Be Afraid Of

In late June, a bill was proposed in the city council in Washington, D.C., to ban alcohol sales in the district. The sponsor, Carol Schwartz, submitted the bill as the council was debating whether or not to impose a smoking ban in D.C.

Her argument was simple. If the government was going to get into the business of banning legal substances, then there was a whole list of things that should be banned, starting with alcohol. Here are some of her comments:

- Let's be honest, people are dying. Pure and simple. Drinking kills.

- People are free to drink at home, for now. But beverages at restaurants and bars should be limited to tea, sodas and milk.

- If drinkers insist on drinking alcohol, and they will, they can just step outside onto the sidewalks with their flasks and drink.

She also cited statistics from Mothers Against Drunk Driving that three in ten Americans will be involved in alcohol-related crashes. And she added that the Bureau of Justice reported statistics that show 40 percent of crimes are committed under the influence of alcohol.

Here's the catch: Schwartz wasn't serious. In fact, she withdrew the measure after two hours. According to a published report, she said she proposed the bill to serve as a "wake-up call that once you start toying with people's liberties, you never know where it might end."

Schwartz's real intent was to show the serious flaws in the antismoking bill. She wanted to force her fellow council members to consider the unfairness of the smoking restrictions and the inappropriate logic that is being used to get city councils all over the country to pass their antismoking bills. As an adamant opponent of the proposed smoking restrictions, she had suggested alternatives, really compromises that offered tax incentives for smoke-free businesses and mandated ventilation systems for those who wanted to create smoking sections.

We have one word for Schwartz: Bravo. If more legislators like her had the courage to stand up to the steamroller of the antis, more antismoking laws would include some form of compromise. New York City was a good example; for years, smokers and nonsmokers coexisted under a law that allowed smoking sections, but with strict rules about separation and ventilation. Then the antis used their propaganda to get passed one of the most restrictive smoking laws in the United States.

But Schwartz got it right. If you use the same logic that the antismoking forces have used, and apply it to a host of other products—alcohol, red meat, candy—you would be required to arrive at the same conclusions: impose such onerous restrictions that you are, in effect, banning them. And that's what the extremists are trying to do. They want to reestablish forms of Prohibition, like the one that once halted virtually all alcohol sales in America. Their methods have become consistent: muddle up the truth to get their agendas imposed on the rest of us—in many cases, the majority of us.

We should all be afraid of these extremist positions that restrict our freedom to make choices for ourselves. Like Schwartz, we should all be fighting against the tidal wave of restrictions on our private lives. The battle will be won by people who care enough to stand up and say, That's enough.