New York's mayor Bloomberg recently proposed a ban on the sale of sodas over 16 ounces in certain venues. Many libertarians are upset about what they see as government intrusion into business and personal liberties, which I can understand. When reading about the issue, I noticed something that took me by surprise, however. Many libertarians are upset at Mayor Bloomberg for passing an earlier law that restaurants must post their health inspection ratings. Why is that a problem for anyone, libertarian or not? How is it an infringement to ask a restaurant to post health inspection ratings? It's certainly not an infringement upon the customers that wish to eat there - unless libertarians do not believe consumers have a right to know how sanitary a restaurant is before paying for a meal. How far are libertarians willing to go to allow businesses the freedom to do whatever they wish? Would they prefer it if government stopped requiring chefs, restaurant workers, doctors, nurses, etc., to wash their hands after using the bathroom or treating other patients? A common libertarian argument used to oppose the passage of smoking bans is "if you don't like the rules of the establishment, don't go there". Would libertarians accept that same argument for handwashing in restaurants, doctor's offices and hospitals? Would they prefer that we just let restaurants and the health care industry decide for themselves whether it's worthwhile to force people to wash their hands? After all, under libertarian philosophy, handwashing takes up valuable time, and in the service industry, time is money. Health and restaurant workers could serve more patients by forgoing all of that washing, lathering, rinsing and drying. In addition, restaurants and hospitals could save money by removing sinks, dryers and paper towel dispensers; the savings in supplies, water bills, and maintenance fees could be pocketed by restaurant owners. The waiting time to see a doctor would be shorter, too; each time a doctor sees a patient, he has to wash his hands thoroughly, adding a good two minutes to each patient's appointment time.
If health is not of importance regarding cigarette smoke or restaurant inspection grades, it shouldn't be an issue regarding handwashing. And as most Rand Paul libertarians would say, if you don't like the idea that your chef or doctor doesn't wash his hands, stay home -- it's your choice.