Monday, October 05, 2009

When worse is better

A recent post of mine over on the Blog at Mises.org:









When worse is better
Jim Fedako



Last week, my family went camping down in the wilds of southeastern Ohio. In addition to wonderful hikes and cookouts, each afternoon I set out on a scenic bike ride. One day, while peddling through the hills and hollows, I ventured along a state route that bisects a tiny hamlet.

Just on the edge of civilization, right before homes once again give way to pine trees, I passed a tavern and caught (what has become for me) the smell of liberty: cigarettes and fried grease.

As a cyclist, that mixture of smells is enough to send my stomach spinning. But as a libertarian, that very same fragrance is a sign of rebellion -- a sign that liberty still has a place in the hearts of some men.

Now everyone in the area (including politicians, bureaucrats, and petty officials) must know the tavern allows smoking, in spite of state laws against it. Yet folks are silent, and smoking continues. Why?

Before I provide my reason, let me contrast this experience with one that occurred not too far from my home in suburban, central Ohio.

One weekend, my family camped at a local campground that has a party house serving burgers, beer, etc. The establishment also has a couple of pool tables and requisite television screens. Instead of eating the Dinty Moore meal we had prepared (heated) for our kids, my wife and I decided to drop in for a burger and pop. We entered, ordered, and waited for our takeout meal.

While waiting, we noticed a few burly men playing a rather loud game of pool. Just as we were paying for our meal, two of the men left to go outside. On our way out, we passed them smoking underneath the outside canopy. Sensing that moral outrage must be near, we stopped and asked them their thoughts on the then-new state anti-smoking laws.

Where we expected outrage, we heard indifference. One of the guys even stated that the law was good since it limited the amount of cigarettes he was able to smoke in a day. Wow, I thought, the nannies have reprogrammed the minds of those who were once free.

I attribute the very different reactions to the interventions of the state into the lives of the citizens of Ohio to one source: public education.

You see, the schools in my area outperform those of the wilds -- outperform them on state-mandated tests of state-mandated curriculum.

In a very real sense, the state, through its schools and curriculum, has succeeded in squashing public dissent of the continued loss of liberties.

So while my locals champion a state that intervenes in their lives, those who attended supposedly poor-performing schools still hold onto remnants of liberty. And these folks have held the state at bay, with their local apparatchiks and nomenclatura too afraid to stop open rebellion -- to enforce the state's anti-smoking laws.

For those who think that government schools are about the threes R's, I suggest asking any recent graduate of a so-called high-performing government high school some pointed questions on the rights of property -- liberty. You will quickly learn that the three R's are simply the diversion used to inculcate future generations.


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