|Adam Meier, Fort Thomas City Council. FTM file.|
The majority of Northern Kentucky legislators are against the ban because it is a property rights issue, and those who invest and create the business should be able to decide what legal activities take place on their premises. The few who voted for the ban noted that they were previously against it but changed their mind based on calls from constituents, with one legislator commenting that he voted for it because his constituents "seem to be overwhelmingly for (a ban)."
It is important to note, however, that the proper role of an elected official is not merely to carry out the will of the majority of voters. Voting based solely on popular opinion is a poor approach to legislating – often a cop-out for those more concerned with re-election than effective governance. It is critical to remember that we are in a Constitutional Republic, not a Democracy, and with good reason.
James Madison, the presumed author of Federalist No. 10, saw direct democracy as a danger to individual rights and advocated for a representative democracy in order to protect individual liberty from majority rule. The smoking ban legislation is a perfect example of why our founders selected a constitutional republic form of government and not a democracy.
The right of a private business owner to allow a legal product on his/her privately owned property is a minority liberty interest, that is, a property right exercised by a small minority of business owners. But that is not good enough to the majority faction who prefer it banned everywhere in the state simply because they do not like it.
FA Hayek said: "The freedom that will be used by only one man in a million may be more important to society and more beneficial to the majority than any freedom that we all use." Otherwise stated, when you protect the freedoms of a few, you safeguard freedom for all. Today we are talking about smoking. But tomorrow we could be talking about the ban of some liberty you enjoy.
Certainly, our elected officials should listen to the concerns and opinions of their constituents. However, they should also methodically consider those opinions and weigh them against the minority liberty interest at issue – and protect those liberties and freedoms whenever possible. They should be our safeguard from the suppression of liberty from the majority. We are reminded of this premise in the Kentucky Bill of Rights, Section 2, which states that "Absolute and arbitrary power over the lives, liberty and property of freemen exists nowhere in a republic, not even in the largest majority."
When it comes to issues that affect the liberty interest of our citizens, I'd like to ask our legislators to keep all of these factors in mind when making a voting decision, not just the "majority opinion" of the voters.
Adam Meier is an attorney licensed in Kentucky and Ohio and a member of the Fort Thomas City Council. The views and opinions expressed here in this opinion editorial do not reflect the views or opinions of Fort Thomas Matters, it owners, writers, or editors. These are solely the ideas of the author.