Reported in comments, this from California:
Smokers will continue to be able to light up at state beaches and parks after Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a bill Friday that would have banned smoking in both those places.
In his veto message, Brown suggested that the ban — which would have applied to cigarettes, cigars, marijuana and e-cigarettes — was overkill.
“If people can’t even smoke on a deserted beach, where can they?” Brown wrote. “There must be some limits to the coercive power of government.”
Brown also objected to the $485 penalty that violators would have been slapped with, calling it excessive.
This prompted thought.
Firstly surprise that Jerry Brown vetoed the bill. I imagine that more or less any other ‘progressive’ California politician would have readily assented to the bill, and thought nothing of it.
Secondly, given that Brown thinks there should be some limit to the coercive power of government, he sees the role of government as essentially coercive. He doesn’t seem to have any problem with that. Perhaps that’s his definition of government? It’s there to force people to do things.
In fact, ‘liberals’ and ‘progressives’ seem to be the most coercive people around. They always seem to want more government, and more coercive government, to make people do things. Their ideal world seems to a sort of prison or boot camp where people are being told what to do the whole time. Conservatives and libertarians, on the other hand, seem to want to minimise government, and minimise coercion.
Tobacco Control always uses coercion against smokers. They are to be coerced and coerced and coerced until they finally do as they’re told, and stop smoking. They are to be coerced with smoking bans. They are to be coerced with propaganda messages. They are to be coerced with taxes. They are to be coerced by exile to the outdoors. They are to be coerced by eviction from their homes. They are to be coerced by denial of medical care. They are to be coerced in every way imaginable. And in fact Tobacco Control spends its entire time dreaming up new ways of coercing smokers to stop smoking. Banning smoking on beaches is another great new way of coercing smokers. There is no limit to the coercion they’ll use – something very well expressed in one of the comments under the article:
New bill: If you drop your cigarette butt on the beach you get executed on the spot. Your choice: Stabbed a hundred times and tossed into the ocean for the sharks. Cyanide capsule. Old fashioned wire garrote. Poison needle to the neck. Sound suppressed .45 ACP to the heart. It will take several thousand examples but I believe eventually the smokers will have serious second thoughts about flicking their butts all over the beaches.
But Jerry Brown seems to think that there must be limits to the coercive power of government. Perhaps as State governor, wielding the full coercive power of the state, he’s sometimes confronted by the question: how far can/should you go? Why not just execute the smokers on the spot, like the commenter suggested? What’s wrong with doing that? Is there anything wrong with it at all?
And if Brown thinks there must be limits to the coercive power of the state, it rather suggests that he doesn’t know where those limits lie. He doesn’t have an answer to that question. And maybe he’s hardly even able to ask it.
Tobacco Control (most likely in the form of Stanton Glantz) must be outraged at Brown for turning down another golden opportunity to coerce smokers. Because Tobacco Control would use unlimited coercion. Which is why they’ve come out in support of ISIS executing smokers in Syria. That’s what they would like to do. Tobacco Control is always working to push the limits of coercion to a new level. But they have to do it step by step. Once people have become acclimatised to one level of coercion, they can be introduced to the next heightened level of coercion. And there’s no top limit.
I somehow imagine that Jerry Brown will be eventually prevailed upon to sign the bill. And if he won’t, he’ll be replaced by somebody who will. Look at the mess.
In the comments, and in the photo at the top of the piece, the focus was mostly on cigarette butts rather than secondhand smoke. You’d almost think that smokers visited beaches simply to litter them with butts, perhaps not bothering to actually smoke them. They just go down to the beaches, and empty their cigarette packs straight onto the beach unsmoked – perhaps finally crumpling up the pack, and leaving that behind as well in its torn cellophane wrapping.
It raised the question of what is and isn’t ‘litter’. Beaches are littered with all sorts of stuff. They usually littered with sand. Quite often they’re littered with pebbles as well. And they’re littered with seashells, which are the dead bodies of animals. In the photo there are bottle tops and straws and even a peanut shell.
The natural world is full of natural litter. It’s full of animal excrement and the corpses of plants and animals. Trees litter the ground with their leaves.
But nobody ever regards this natural litter as ‘litter’. It’s only what humans leave behind that is regarded as ‘litter’. Bottles, beer cans, cigarette butts, napkins. It’s only litter of this sort that spoils the beach. In fact, the presence of humans seems always to entail spoilage. Hence “unspoiled” regions, where nobody lives. As soon as humans show up anywhere, they despoil it, apparently. We humans seem not to regard ourselves as part of the natural world, but as invaders and interlopers who shouldn’t be there at all. Thinking of this sort seems to underlie environmentalist thinking: we shouldn’t be here.
But the natural world doesn’t seem too bothered. It just grinds everything down to dust. It grinds rocks down to pebbles and sand. It grinds seashells down into bright white sand. And it’ll grind bottles down into sand, because sand is what they are made of. And it’ll do much the same with beer cans and napkins and cigarette butts and oil slicks and plastic.
There are Pacific atolls whose waters are littered with debris of war. Ships, planes, guns. The bottom of the sea is everywhere littered with sunken ships. The wreck of the Titanic is a very large piece of human litter lying at the bottom of the Atlantic ocean. But this – and many other such wrecks – are protected. They are pieces of litter that must not be picked up. They are sacred places. In some cases they are even war graves.
Beaches are perhaps the breaker’s yards on which the natural world breaks things down to dust. They’re garbage tips. The beach is a scrapyard or junkyard in which everything is slowly being hammered to smithereens. The waves breaking on the beach are the hammer blows of nature’s smithie, and the beach his anvil. And the tides are the occasional sweep of his hand to remove the broken pieces. Taking the family to the beach is like taking the family to a used car scrapyard, to sit among the rusting wreckage eating sandwiches and drinking coke while watching cars being crushed. Why should anyone complain about bottles or cans or napkins or butts on a garbage tip?