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March 29, 2012

HARBESON: Care for a smoke?

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — People who want to manipulate and control others will often make issues more complex than they really are, usually by avoiding basic principles like property ownership.

This benefits those in government because, in the confusion, inconsistent laws are created, which increases conflict and the illusion that even more government interference is needed.

How do we simplify issues so people can think about them in a clear and consistent manner? It’s easy — just frame the issue as if it only involved you and a neighbor or two. I’ll use the smoking ban issue as an example.

Let’s say your neighbor smokes. You prefer to stay away from smoke but you enjoy his company and you want to watch the Final Four games with him. So you invite him over and ask him not to smoke in your home. He can choose to accept your invitation or not. He doesn’t try to force you to let him smoke in your home. He accepts your property ownership claim and understands you make the decision.

Now let’s say it’s the other way around and he invites you over to watch the game and eat. He may smoke while you are there so you can choose to accept his invitation or not. You don’t try to force him to not smoke in his home. You accept his property ownership claim and understand that he makes the decision.

This mutual respect of property ownership is what helps the two of you live peacefully as neighbors. You are free to decide how, or if, you will to interact with each other. You are free to make any arrangements and agreements you wish in regards to smoking without government involvement.

Now let’s say the same neighbor invites you in to his business as a customer to eat and watch the final championship game. He may decide to smoke. Does it now seem valid to go to the government to have them force your neighbor to not smoke or let his friends smoke because you want to be there too?

If you think this is valid, why? What has changed in the individual relationship between the two of you? You are still an invited guest and he’s still the property owner. The only difference is that rather than just eating his food, you will pay him for it.

Does this voluntary exchange create a property ownership claim that entitles you to use the government to create rules for his property that you prefer, even over his objections? If so, then why isn’t it equally valid to tell him what to do when you voluntarily enter his private residence?

Maybe you agree with me and don’t see any validity in the idea that an ownership claim in the property was created just because you became a paying customer. Many people do remain consistent at this point.

But let’s take this one step further — your neighbor offers you a job to serve food to the people watching the game. Again, he decides to allow smoking. Do you think it is now valid to go to the government and force him to ban smoking on his property? Why?

You are exactly as free to leave, or not even enter, this relationship with your neighbor as you were when he invited you to his home or invited you to his privately owned business as a customer. Never at any time did your neighbor point a gun at you and force you to enter either property, nor did he force you to work for him. At all times your relationship was based on voluntary interaction.

So what is it about the relationship that has changed that gives you, through the use of government force, a property ownership claim now, but did not exist when you were invited into his home and to his business to watch the game?

One more question to consider — if you want to use government force against your neighbor so he can’t allow smoking on his own property because you voluntarily agreed to employment, who is the aggressor in this situation?

— Clark County resident Debbie Harbeson likes to keep it simple. You can send her a simple message by writing to Debbie@debbieharbeson.com.

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