July 18, 2017

The latest news comes as no surprise to most residents of Minneapolis, who’ve been besieged by numerous mandates, bans, and restrictions in recent years by its City Council.  Many anti-liberty ordinances from the city have since been enacted by surrounding suburbs, and often eventually, statewide by the legislature.

However, Libertarians in Minneapolis are beginning to RESIST.

Last month, LPMN Policy Director and Minneapolis Libertarians Co-Coordinator S.L. Malleck addressed the Minneapolis City Council about the harmful effects of a minimum wage.  Now he’s challenging DFLers on the Council yet again, this time about a proposed new ban that would affect many retailers and residents, including the poor and minorities.

Still in an early stage, the city’s Health Committee is proposing a ban prohibiting most stores from selling menthol and flavored tobacco products.  A public hearing will be held on July 24.

Responding to the latest proposal, Mr Malleck offered his comments to the Committee:

To the Minneapolis Health, Environment, & Community Engagement (HECE) Committee,

I would like to comment about the proposed ordinance which would ban the sale of menthol and flavored tobacco products by all retailers except those deemed to be a “tobacco products shop”.

I’ll start by saying that I do not use menthol or flavored tobacco.  Nonetheless, I’m speaking up to defend the rights of other residents in our city — my neighbors! — who do.

I know several adults who like flavored tobacco products.  I also note that this ordinance targets menthol tobacco, a product preferred by minorities.  Thus, I see this proposed ban as an attack on individuals in the black community, and therefore, an attempt at racist discrimination.  Perhaps this ordinance is intended to “protect” them.  But instead of trying to PROTECT them, perhaps it’s time for the City Council to RESPECT them.  Respecting someone means allowing every individual to make their own choices freely and voluntarily, and defending the personal decisions they make about their own lives, even if others might disagree with them.

Furthermore, this ban amounts to “restraint of trade“, a violation of antitrust principles by benefiting some retailers over other retailers.  In effect, it is a form of “crony capitalism”.  By banning some retailers from selling these products, it would restrict competition, which tends to drive up prices.  Any price increases would disproportionately impact poorer consumers who are least able to afford higher costs.  Therefore, in addition to harming some retailers, it also harms the poor.

I ask that members of the Committee OPPOSE this proposed ordinance.  However, if the Committee would like to issue an informal suggestion or recommendation that people refrain from menthol and flavored tobacco products, backed by whatever arguments you would like to offer, I think that would be reasonable.  So long as all adults in Minneapolis ultimately retain their ability to choose the tobacco products of their own preference, and all retailers retain the ability to provide them to their willing customers.

This proposed ban is anti-competition, anti-poor, anti-minority, and anti-choice.  Please respect the choices that ALL adult individuals make, whether or not you may agree or disagree with them, and no matter their income level or skin color.

The public hearing will take place in Room 317 at Minneapolis City Hall on July 24 at 1:30pm.  For those unable to attend, comments may be sent by email to the Committee at health@minneapolismn.gov by July 19 (city residents should include their name and address, so City Councilors know that you are a resident).

This issue highlights an aspect that clearly differentiates Libertarians from all other political activists.  We don’t just selfishly defend the particular freedoms that we find important.  We also stand up to defend the freedoms of our neighbors!

Concerned about the expansion of government control and the erosion of individual liberty?  Please consider joining and becoming active with the Libertarian Party of Minnesota.  Libertarians support liberty on all issues, all the time!  Libertarianism is a philosophical and political movement to promote personal freedom, strong civil liberties, a genuinely free marketplace, and peace.

Want to comment? Join this conversation on our Facebook thread.