To the editor:
Darrell Lea’s letter (“Hypothesis fails,” June 23) attempts to dismiss my comparison of Jim Crow laws and the smoking ban by arguing that the former were based on immutable characteristics (race) and therefore wrong, while the latter targets chosen behavior (smoking preferences) and is therefore permissible.
This is a classic example of a straw man fallacy, i.e. attacking a non-essential point while avoiding the essential one. The reason both types of legislation are identical is not their particular ends but their means. Both uphold the premise that it is moral for the state to prohibit voluntary associations of individuals on private property through the initiation of force.
Whether government seeks to prevent voluntary associations based on immutable characteristics (race, gender, hair color, etc.) or personal choice (smoking preference, religion, esthetic taste, etc.) is irrelevant. The central question is whether the right to voluntary associations on private property (for any reason whatsoever) exists or not.
The only way to avoid such straw man fallacies and other forms of non-essential thinking in politics is through the consistent recognition of one simple fact: All government action is based ultimately on force. The question then becomes whether government should be restricted to the retaliatory use of force (i.e. protecting violations of individual rights) or allowed to initiate the use of force against peaceful persons.
Can you imagine the clarity that would ensue if all City Commission meetings, presidential debates, etc. were suddenly couched in terms that explicitly acknowledged this fact and its full implications?