Denis Leary Would Be So Proud …
Mr. Dixon focuses on the vague benefits of smoker vs. non-smoker “utility,” a value that Dr. Pakko’s article avoids entirely. Instead, Dr. Pakko focuses on the tangible negative costs of smoking bans, providing a counter-argument to recent papers.
So while I agree with Mr. Dixon’s opposition to smoking bans, I disagree with his focus on aggregate utility as a value judgment. As he argues:
“Markets, though still far from perfect, ultimately do a better job of maximizing aggregate utility because each individual market participant is able to estimate his or her own utility in a way that no legislator can, and then act accordingly”
That statement is misleading. I don’t oppose smoking bans (and support the market) because I believe that non-smokers derive less “happiness” from them than smokers do without them. I oppose smoking bans because they are a direct infringement upon personal liberty.
Maximizing aggregate utility is not necessarily a good thing. Abusing certain minority groups might “maximize aggregate utility” if the benefits to the aggregate abusers outweigh the negatives of the abused. That’s why utilitarianism is a dangerous value judgment, especially for governments.
The government’s objective should be to maximize personal freedom to the extent that those freedoms don’t infringe upon the rights of others. And before you say, “But what about the non-smokers? Aren’t their rights being violated?” remember that the non-smokers are in smoking environments voluntarily. Going to a bar is a choice. Attending jury duty is compulsory. I have no problem with a smoking ban in a courtroom.