"Did you really think that we want those laws to be observed?” said Dr. Ferris. "We want them broken. You'd better get it straight that it's not a bunch of boy scouts you're up against - then you'll know that this is not the age for beautiful gestures. We're after POWER and we mean it. You fellows were pikers, but we know the real trick, and you'd better get wise to it. There's no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What's there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced nor objectively interpreted - and you create a nation of law-breakers – and then you cash in on the guilt. Now, that's the system, Mr. Rearden, that's the game and once you understand it, you'll be much easier to deal with." ~Ayn Rand in Atlas Shrugged.
There has been a lot said here and other places—especially Facebook—about the City of Conway’s proposed ban
on smoking. I personally vote with my wallet and avoid places where there’s a lot of smoke. It’s my money and I’ll spend where I dang well please. I refuse to give up the freedom to make that choice. After all, I can post files to the RivertownRadio.com server from the Bahamas.
So obviously, second-hand smoke is not high on list of things to worry about. Much higher on that list is having myself or others turned into a manufactured criminal. What’s a manufactured criminal? As in the section from Atlas Shrugged above, it is someone who has a day-to-day action made illegal on the whim of the powers that be. Let’s look at a hypothetical example.
Mildred is an accountant in Conway, SC. She belongs to 1st Baptist Church where she sings in the choir and volunteers with the United Way. She always drives 25 mph down Laurel Street and been a respected member of the Chamber of Commerce since she open her business 32 years ago. Mildred pays her taxes on time and even sponsors a rec league softball team. Mildred is by anyone’s measure a good person.
But Mildred has a dark and sinister side…she’s a smoker! She smokes in her office while number crunching and has done it for 32 years! Her clients are aware of this and since they rarely if ever go into her office—they just drop their documents off with the receptionist—they don’t care. But Mildred needs to be saved from her self. So the compassionate city leaders pass a law banning smoking and instituting a series of fines for failing to comply.
Well, Mildred is not very interested in local politics and doesn’t pay the debate any mind. As long as they leave her alone, she’s pretty happy with whatever City Council wants to do. After all, they are her neighbors.
So it comes as a shock when one day one of her clients notices the ashtray on her desk and tells her that it’s now against the law to smoke in her office. She tells the client that, “what the City doesn’t know wont hurt it”, and goes about her business. Ah but word of her transgression gets back to the powers that be and she receives a notice to stop smoking in her office. Oh yeah, she’s to send in the fine of $100 while she’s ceasing.
Mildred, instead of ceasing and forking over the cash, decides that she doesn’t want to be a criminal. She is engaged in a legal pastime with a legal product. She has been smoking in her office for 32 years and her age, she feels that she can make her own decisions. And her decision is to not be a criminal.
The City sends more citations with larger amounts and Mildred continues to ignore them. After all, she hasn’t changed, the law did. So finally, a policeman comes to her office to reason with former pillar of the community, now criminal, Mildred. The officer starts out being pleasant, but when it is obvious that Mildred has dug her heels in, he threatens her with arrest. Mildred replies with, “I don’t choose to be arrested because I’m not a criminal.”
The shocked policeman—who Mildred taught in Sunday School—starts to say, “But it’s the law” when Mildred says, “I refuse to accept this unjust law.” The stunned officer leaves and reports back to headquarters.
Now, is the City going to arrest Mildred? Are they going to throw her in jail? Are they going to shut her long operating business down? Will they use public resources to pursue a long and drawn out legal action that may end up bankrupting Mildred and embarrassing the City?
Remember, Mildred hasn’t done a thing different than she has for 32 years. Think this is an extreme example and nice ladies don’t practice civil disobedience when they think they are in the moral right? Rosa Parks anyone?