Today I read that Honolulu, Hawai’i is considering jailing bus customers who are deemed ‘too smelly’.
That’s right: stinky bus riders would be penalized financially up to $500 or go to jail for up to six months.
Not surprisingly, the American Civil Liberties Union says it is “concerned with laws that are inherently vague, which opens the door to discriminatory enforcement based on an officer’s individual prejudices.”
Okay, true enough.
But the overarching problem with this type of law — despite being difficult to enforce — is that it restricts the freedom to live one’s own life and make one’s own choices based on a moral judgment declaration issued by the state: Thou Must Shower Daily and Wear Deodorant! Furthermore, it encourages nanny-state laws of this type that restrict human behavior to crop up in other areas and in other parts of the country.
Of course, wearing deodorant and showering are social norms that one should expect to follow in a society.
But why should the state be their enforcer?
The purpose of government is to protect individual rights and to punish individuals who harm others.
A harm is a wrongful hurt. Not wearing deodorant is not a wise choice, but it is not a harm.
A majority of AOL readers polled agree that the Hawai’i smelly bus passenger ban is good public policy.
Professor Andrew J. Cohen of Georgia State University researches social toleration. He says:
“A [classical] liberal government has as its primary goal the maintenance of a social environment within which individuals can pursue their own conceptions of the good. Toleration is thereby seen as an instrumentally valuable good — meta-good — that is the priority of right over good and which is manifested in [classical] liberal neutrality.”
Heck, over eighty percent of those polled have been offended by a stinky rider on a bus.
I’ve definitely sat next to some smelly folks on airplane flights before, but the last things I would wish upon them are fines or jail time.
My grandmother has ridden on buses in her city since the late 1940s — as her primary means of transportation. I’m sure she’s encountered many a stinker. None of the stinkers have caused her quality of life to decrease — except perhaps for a half hour on a bus.
This past weekend I was on a flight where two fellas who had never met each other before plopped down next to each other on the airplane and would not stop talking. Of course, they were talking very LOUDLY and were seated directly behind me.
One of the men was bragging to the other about how he was flying to DC to consult Mr. Obama on “federal regulations” at the White House. They talked for the entire two-hour flight.
Should these loud, obnoxious men be banned from talking? They weren’t following social norms and they were bothering me and everyone around me.
The plane landed and we were all done with them.
The same is true of the bus passengers coping with a rancid smell. There is a choice to avoid them, ignore them, or simply deal with the odor. Of course, confronting them is another option that an individual can take.
I’d ask for a little more social toleration, please.
If you’re so inclined, contact Councilmen Rod Tam and Nestor Garcia — who co-sponsored the anti-odor bill — and explain to them kindly that, in a free society, individuals must be allowed to have poor hygiene.
As Jacob Hornberger once said, “If you’re not free to choose wrongly and irresponsibly, you’re not free at all.”
Significant penalties on individuals is the wrong approach. How ’bout penalizing government (by shrinking its size and starving it of unnecessary dollars earned by the American people!) for the wretched stink it has enacted upon us all?