Government bans on smoking in
public [sic] private places are antithetical to liberty and basic property rights. I will not change my view against them, but I find it impossible to get worked up about this story out of Seattle.
… The King County Housing Authority is banning smoking in all units at Plaza 17, the 70-unit apartment complex where [Jackie] Brooks has lived for 14 years.
In addition to the Plaza 17 in Auburn, the authority banned smoking at its 70-unit Northridge 1 in Shoreline and its 82-unit Nia Apartments at Greenbridge project under construction in White Center. The ban starts next month.
Some residents are upset, some are happy. The article also talks about the “strong national movement” to ban smoking, as if such populist demands matter. And the only mention of rights completely ignores property rights, the primary factor involved and so readily violated. None of this surprises.
Still, as a libertarian, I can’t get upset about a smoking ban in public housing. Whether or not government should be providing housing, sure. But it does. That’s the playing field we’re on. So the rules the government sets for
our its property is its decision. Don’t like the smoking ban? Buy your own property or rent from an owner who does not mind smoking on her premises. Get it in the lease.
The article doesn’t mention any specifics of the current rental agreement between the tenants and the housing authority. If such a prohibition is an illegal alteration of the existing contract, argue that. I’ll support such an argument against this ban. But this issue is about property rights. Always has been, always will be, even when it leads to an outcome we wouldn’t choose for our property.
Via Radley Balko.