“The ideal of the ethical man,” wrote the great Victorian scientist and liberal Thomas Henry Huxley, “is to limit his freedom of action to a sphere in which he does not interfere with the freedom of others.”
At Bath Skeptics in the Pub in April, Ian Walker talked about transport-related (ir)rational behaviour and policy. One of the ideas he talked about was “passive driving”. The analogy, of course, is to passive smoking. Every time a smoker lights up in a restaurant or pub or club, the health and life expectancy of all the diners, punters, and staff around that smoker takes a tiny hit. And those people get nothing positive in return. In a liberal society, we defend the right of smokers to give themselves horrible slow fatal diseases. But we expect them not to interfere with the rights of everyone else to their health. And on the occasions when they can not show that restraint voluntarily, we have to resort to legislation banning smoking in restaurants and pubs and clubs.