Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Government, Americans, and Smoking in Your Car

A few days ago, I wrote a rambling post about how much the government should regulate/legislate our lives.

It's a subject that I find of particular interest when comparing the commonly held beliefs of people in different countries, notably Canada and the United States.

That is to say, it's always been very apparent to me, that most Canadians and most Americans have a fairly different point of view when it comes to the role of government.

It was my contention that our American neighbours tend to see us as a sort of socialist playground wherein we all wander around wearing plaid, abusing our universal health care system, happily giving half our money to the government, listening to Neil Young, and attending the occasional gay marriage.

Whereas we Canucks tend to think of Americans as well-armed NASCAR enthusiasts, eternally angry with whoever they elected to run the place, listening to Kid Rock, and attending the occasional execution.

While these are fairly broad caricatures (some Americans prefer Korn to Kid Rock), I recently had occasion to witness just how accurate they actually are.

Now, I don't often make it a habit to discuss politics with Americans (see above re: socialism and the likelihood of concealed weapons), but recently it happened by chance.

I was playing blackjack at a casino in Las Vegas when an obviously American couple sat down. I'm not making a joke when I say "obviously" American, he was wearing an Ohio State sweatshirt and if memory serves, she had a sweatshirt with an eagle on it.

Anyway, as we chatted, as so often happens when people share in the joy that is giving money to a casino while drinking free, watery, American beer, they actually touched on the subject of the role of government.

She said something along the lines of, "I heard y'all can't even smoke in your cars anymore!"

As odd as that sentence may seem, it is (sort of) true.

In 2009, Ontario passed legislation that makes it illegal to smoke in your car if you are driving with children. I clarified this and said, yes, that is basically true.

In response, she said, "You'd never get that in the states. People where we're from would see that as Big Brother interfering with their lives."

It's kind of a crazy statement, not just because it seems blissfully ignorant of the details of Orwell's famous novel, but also because it's probably true--and it speaks to a sort of uniquely American resistance of government legislation.

Here, one would think, is an issue where clearly the government has people's best interests in mind.

As the article I've linked to above notes, "Children exposed to second-hand smoke are more likely to suffer sudden infant death syndrome, asthma and cardiac disease."

"Being exposed to one hour of second-hand smoke in a car is the same for a young child as smoking an entire pack of cigarettes."

In short, smoking in a car with a kid = bad.

And yet, there are people who would say it is not the government's business to tell me what I can and cannot do in my own car with my own kids.

I wonder then (but didn't bother asking), what these people's idea is for the role of government? If it's not there to enact laws that attempt to protect and improve the lives of its citizens, what is the government for?

Just tax cuts, frying criminals, and policing the rowdies at Kid Rock concerts?

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