To follow this blog post fully, you will need to visit Bob Muller's blog here and follow the threads he copied from his Facebook discussions.
I didn't want to address the plastic bag issue per se, because it annoys me. I find it typical of the way government tries to fix things. Ban it, tax it, or subsidize its competition. If that fails, nationalize it. In fact, if passed en masse, Wal-Mart, K-Mart and all the rest would be saved from having to make that thorny decision alone. Being Kyoto friendly is risky; on average, any company adopting a good environmental policy (like discarding cheap plastic in favor of paper) is incurring more expense, and by extension, a potential decrease in the bottom line. But hey, if Uncle Sam, or some guy in Raleigh makes everyone Kyoto friendly, there is no competitive advantage, and no risk that such a course might prove unprofitable.
So, I was surprised to find a local business owner quoted on the above-linked blog supporting not only this bag banning law, but cheering the demise of smoking in North Carolina restaurants and bars in 2010. Comments like this from business people, even folks I very much admire, such as the one mentioned on the blog, are why I no longer sympathize when business leaders whine about government intervention in any form.
Smoking, like plastic bags, is an issue over which restaurant and bar owners agonize. If they ban the practice in their establishments, they risk losing clients to those competitors who allow smoking. While on the surface they might oppose the government dictating what goes on within the confines of a private establishment, in reality, once a law is passed, the majority heave a sigh of relief. Once everyone is on the same non-smoking playing field, there exists one less competitive decision to make.
I know, I know. Some of you are going to tell me that second hand smoke kills more people than are mauled by polar bears, and therefore constitutes a public health hazard. And, we already allow the government to inspect places that serve food, so what's another level of intrusion? But (and, again, I greatly respect and like this person), we're talking about an establishment that is, after 8PM, a bar. Serving alcohol. In the long run, which "drug" causes more health and social problems in America, tobacco or alcohol? How many people, leaving a restaurant are involved in fatal car accidents after smoking ten Marlboro's?
There is always a tip-off that a government intervention is "bad" when the big corporations--the one's that love to stomp on the mom and pop stores--start siding with the government. Was there any coincidence that Wal-Mart today scolded "employers" for not offering health insurance to all employees? Hell no. If they have to do it in order to keep the New York Times off their back, so should the Ben Franklin's. Force enough small competitors to offer health insurance and in the end, you have no competitors.
The same occurred with smoking bans on airlines. The big carriers pushed for an all or nothing rule; that way, Southwest and Jet Blue couldn't offer an enticement that the big guys were under pressure from their unions to eliminate.
When the smoking ban was debated in Virginia, the same pattern emerged. The Outback's, Applebee's and Friday's lined up behind the ban. As large companies, they hear complaints from many clients about smoking, and they are more likely to be under the media microscope. But, if they ban smoking, they lose clients to smaller, locally owned restaurants that appeal to a clientele willing to put up with cigarette smoke. As a result, a broad smoking ban removes one of the last remaining advantages a locally owned restaurant or bar might be able to offer versus the national chain store.
I know this a long post, but I find it disconcerting that "we" accept these interventions into the private sector without so much as a whimper. Governments ban plastic bags, chain stores, drive-thru restaurants, "formula" stores, trans fats, smoking, signage, outside displays, indoor lighting, parking lot lighting, and the number of parking spaces per employee and projected customer.
I wonder how the local restaurant owner, supportive of the smoking ban, would react if MADD or a newly emergent Prohibition movement were to take aim at draft beer and spirits instead of cigarettes and cigars; then succeed in convincing a legislature that these drugs posed a major health hazard and should be banned except for home consumption.
Something tells me he might think differently!