Unselfish

posted 28 November 2005

So, Pink Lady says the students of Warwick are imbeciles for banning smoking in the union. I disagree.

There are a few tangential points I could make, like a union that can't compete on drinks prices being doomed to start with, or the union always appearing on the brink of financial ruin until the next squadron of freshers arrive, or that half the services provided by the union appeared even in my time to be self-aggrandizing busywork for too many staff. But these do not come to the core of my disagreement, which is the Lady's accusation that such a move is "selfish".

Stupid? Debateably. Illiberal? Certainly. Financially damaging? Almost certainly. But selfish?

Let's consider if the vote had gone the other way. In that case, a majority of students would have been selfishly forcing others to breathe in their smoke, risk getting lung cancer, and wash their hair and clothes of pollutants at the end of the night. Non-smokers may be selfish, but at least their selfishness doesn't irritate the eyes and throats of the pure, decent smokers who are generously filling the air with the fumes of tobacco at no charge to the grateful student body.

Of course it's selfish. Democracy is the people voting in their own self-interest. It would be stupid to do anything else. Democracy is government by the majority of selfish people, and democracy, like its sister capitalism, operates on the principle that people will be maximally selfish all the time. You want them to be selfish.

So hurrah to a smoke-free union! I just hope I and my fellow selfish non-smokers will soon get a chance to vote the same way London-wide. And if it turns out the smokers are still in the majority, we'll just wait for a few more of them to die off. It won't take long.

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