United America, Core Value 3: Freedom

January 29, 2014

By: Wayne Baker

Originally posted on Our Values

I grew up in a cloud of second-hand smoke. People smoked everywhere. It was a time when not smoking was abnormal. Now, smoking is banned in many public places, such as restaurants and bars. But a Michigan politician wants to repeal the ban, arguing that it infringes on our liberty.

Does this make sense to you?

The Michigan politician is State Rep. Tom McMillin, a Republican from Rochester Hills. Here is what is said, according to CAPCON-Michigan Capitol Confidential: “I am not a smoker, but to me this is an issue of liberty and property rights. That’s why I didn’t support the smoking ban legislation when it was in the House. If I was in one of these areas with my children and someone started smoking, I’d go someplace else. I believe that’s a choice we always have.”

“Liberty” is the ability to do what you want without restraint—like smoking in public places. Many Americans believe in liberty, but not enough to qualify as a core American value. Rather, “freedom” is one of the 10 core values, as I discuss in United America. Since my new book was just published Monday, we’re using this OurValues.org series to introduce each core value and link them to contemporary issues. United America developed from a combination of my four national surveys of Americans and years of discussing values here at OurValues.org.

Core Value 3: “Freedom”—as summarized in the chart of values, this one means “Having the right to participate in politics and elections; expression of unpopular ideas without fearing for one’s safety.” Freedom, then, comes with responsibility.

This Michigan House bill that McMillin advocates comes 50 years after the first report issued by the U.S. Surgeon General that warned about the health hazards of smoking. Since then, we have made great strides in reducing tobacco usage in America, including bans on smoking in public places. Sustained outreach and education programs have reduced smoking. Smokers are now a dwindling minority. But there is still a long way to go. Some children and some demographic groups continue to light up. The economic costs alone are over $289 billion each year, according to a U.S. Surgeon General report published this month.

Do you see the ban on smoking in public places to be an infringement of your liberty?

Do you support or oppose the ban?

What does freedom mean to you?