As communications manager for the Property Rights Network, it never ceases to amaze me that Michigan residents possess an intuitive knowledge of property rights that seemingly eludes state policymakers.

A recent stop at a Kalkaska watering hole for a drink and a cigar proved no exception. Civility mandates that a cigar smoker receive permission from other patrons before lighting up. The affirmative reaction to my request was unanimous, and prompted an interesting conversation among the bar’s owner, employees, and guests. Comments ranged from “If people don’t like smoke, they should avoid places where it’s allowed” to “I’m sick of government telling me what I can and can’t do.”

While these comments circuitously address the issue of banning smoking in public places, one argument cut straight to the core. The young female bartender piped up, and I paraphrase: “In my opinion, it’s the owner of the business that should be allowed to make the decision whether people can smoke in his place or not.” This wisdom, derived from personal experience and devoid of ideology, frames the issue in the proper perspective of property rights. Why is it that so many of our legislators can't use the same clear-headed logic employed by this young woman?