I briefly met an old friend the other day at Narita Airport. His name is Frank. He was on a brief stop-over before being reassigned to China.
Frank is a half-Chinese American friend of mine who I’ve known for years. I guess we were room-mates in our university days. I don’t remember things from those days too well; I was high all the time.
Frank is a very good guy. He’s straightened himself out and doesn’t drink or smoke anymore. Got married and has a beautiful daughter. He’s been a true friend and taught me much.
One thing he taught me was that the government has a duty to look out for the welfare of the public at large. Frank opened my eyes and explained to me why, for example, non-smokers rights trump property rights when it comes to the government outlawing, say, cigarette smoke in privately owned establishments such as bars and restaurants.
Frank and I fought over this repeatedly over the years. I was convinced that the owner of the property, bar, restaurant, what-have-you, had the right to decide if his establishment allowed smoking. I reasoned that if customers didn’t like it, they could go to another establishment. I even pointed out that, in Japan, we don’t have any laws against smoking inside privately owned businesses; yet we have smoking and non-smoking establishments. A good example that quickly comes to mind is a coffee shop called Starbucks. I think you Americans may have heard of it. Starbucks is no smoking. The other side of the coin is a chain called Doutor Coffee. Doutor allows smoking. Some larger Doutor coffee shops even have smoking and non-smoking areas. Can you imagine? How could privately owned businesses come to this when left to their own devices? Must have been a mistake.
I don’t go to Starbucks as Doutor is much cheaper, but don’t let my preferences influence your thinking.
But, even with this evidence, Frank showed that I was wrong. Frank says that the government has a responsibility to guard the public health and do what is in the public good. He says, if it weren’t for the government, some people would be, say, opening pig farms in our backyards and stinking up entire neighborhoods, or doing dangerous things like driving without seatbelts. The government must protect the public. This is why we have seatbelt laws, motorcycle helmet laws, anti-pig farm laws, etc.
Anyhow, Frank says that the rights of non-smokers trump the rights of property owners. I said that he had no right to enter a bar, just a privilege. He claims that there is a right and that the government is here to protect his rights. He says that the government is here for our own good; to protect us and nurture us for the good of the whole.
I asked Frank that, if we were so worried about the public health, say, some guy wiping himself out in a car crash and becoming a burden on society, then shouldn’t we also worry about infectious diseases? Why don’t we pass a law that says it is illegal to go outside in the rain without a raincoat and umbrella? You’d sure hate to have someone catch some new type of flu and be sneezing all over you. This sounds like some good clean common sense to me.
Frank laughed and told me that this kind of thinking was silly and absurd. He stressed once again, that the government is here for our good and the good for society as a whole; they don’t do frivolities. The government is here to decide for us what is best for society. The government will only do what is best for all.
Well, it became time for Frank to board his plane. We both hugged and waved goodbye. I’m sure Frank will enjoy his new work assignment. Just before he walked through the doors to board the plane, I handed him a love letter to show him just how much I appreciate all he has taught me. I, for one, can now rest better knowing that the government is here for our own good. I’m sure Frank will think the same thing I do when he reads the letter.
What was in the letter? Ah, not much. Just a copy of a news article from the town he is moving to. It was some common sense about how the local government is forcing people to smoke and fining them if they don’t smoke in an effort to boost the local economy; of course, for the good of the whole. Sounds like a great idea.
I’m sure Frank will enjoy his new town and his new government-sanctioned habit. What with it being for the greater good and all.
~ Edited by Robert Klassen
Mike (in Tokyo) Rogers [send him mail] was born and raised in the USA and moved to Japan in 1984. He is the president of a mass-media production company and also runs a talent agency in Japan. He is now the Producer/Director/Co-host of Good Morning Garage, the most popular FM radio morning show in Tokyo. His book, Schizophrenic in Japan, went on sale in 2005.