Blogs > Liberty and Power > Closing the Last Private Space in America

May 5, 2006 11:41 am

Closing the Last Private Space in America

Long ago, it was commonly claimed that a"a man's home is his castle." Of course, it is no longer possible to say this with a straight face.

In recent decades, many of us came to regard the interior of our automobile as a new" castle" of freedom and sovereignty. Apparently, however, if a growing number of state legislators have their way, the days of this last private refuge are numbered.

By a vote of 66 to 31, the Louisiana House just approved a bill to"prohibit anyone from lighting up a cigarette, cigar or pipe in a vehicle while a child required to be in a booster seat or car seat is riding along _ a child up to 60 pounds, or up to about eight years old."

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David T. Beito - 5/8/2006

You're right, we can never know. My guess is that private road companies would leave smoking alone, however, since smoking has no conceivable relationship to operating a car, car accidents, etc.

Interestingly, when I first moved to Nevada to take the jobt it UNLV it had only been made illegal to drive with an open drink in hand. It was still legal for passengers to partake.

Anthony Gregory - 5/8/2006

David, I think you make a good point, but I don't know if "what the market would do" is a very good test to see how just it would be if government is doing it. Maybe some private roads would prohibit cigarettes if you have a kid in the car, who knows? At any rate, I happen to think that smoking with a kid in the car is arguably more offensive than not wearing one's seatbelt. At least there's a pretext that someone other than the offender is being protected by the smoking restriction. That isn't to say it's not a terrible law.

But what about not being able to have an open container of alcohol, or other controlled substances, and the cops being allowed to stop you and make you do a drug test, under threat of jailtime if you resist? This has long been the way it is, and I'd like to think private roadowners would be more civil.

Sudha Shenoy - 5/6/2006

These sorts of statutes are virtually unenforceable. What are the police going to do, stop cars moving along the highway? It opens the door wide for yet more arbitrary decisions by the police: yet another statute under which to charge people -- or not charge them. If the former, guess what happens to the statistics of solved crimes? -- Yet another instance of the parasitic State -- the Old Man of the Sea.

David T. Beito - 5/5/2006

Good point but this strikes me as much greater abuse of liberty than seat beat laws. If a private toll roll company owned the roads, it might impose similar seat-beat restrictions for safety and liability reasons. I can't imagine that it would do the same for second-hand smoke.

Anthony Gregory - 5/5/2006

The state has long dictated what people can do in cars. If you're in a car, the government claims all sorts of power over you, what you can do while driving, what you can ingest, etc. It claims the right to stop and search you and do blood tests. It claims the right to force you to wear a seatbelt. This is nothing new, really, although the new tobacco regulation in Louisiana is an ominous development.