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Letters to the Editor

Posted: Friday, February 28, 2003

Smoking ban proposal is economic issue best left in people's hands

I would like to give the people of Kenai an economic view to the proposed smoking ban.

Most of us perceive economics as having a place on Wall Street or that economics deals only with financial numbers or high-level business board rooms. That belief is true, to a point; however, economics, at its most basic level, concerns itself with how people or groups of people make choices.

I would like to discuss how economics treats choice, opportunity cost, consequences and externalities.

First, economics believes that rational people will always make the best choice for themselves. We may not always agree with the choices made by others. When I go to a restaurant, I believe that it is in my best interest to exchange my money for the food supplied. On the other hand, the owner of the restaurant believes that it is in his best interest to exchange the food supplied for the money I give him.

Opportunity cost is explained as the next best alternative to a choice I make. When I decide to go to a restaurant, my cost is the next best thing I could have done with my time. I could clean my bathroom or watch the television. Whatever that alternative may be is the economic cost of going to the restaurant.

Economics tells us that all choices have unintended future consequences. If I go to a restaurant, I might find some money in the parking lot or I might get into an accident on the way home. Either way those future consequences probably did not figure into my decision to go out that night.

Externalities are the leftovers that might affect me as a cause of someone's decision. If on one side of my house I have a neighbor with a beautiful garden, I receive the benefit of seeing and smelling the flowers growing there. If I go to a restaurant and the person at the next table is smoking, I also experience the externality of the smell of the smoke.

Where does that leave us economically? If I choose to go to a restaurant, I must, as a rational person, take these economic principles in mind.

I make a choice whether or not to frequent a restaurant that allows smoking. I make that choice understanding the implications involved.

From the owner's perspective, he has the choice whether or not to allow smoking in his private establishment. Economics tells us that if his profits slump because people disagree with him, he has a choice to make. He may choose to continue to allow smoking in his establishment and thus lose profits, or he can choose to ban smoking himself in order to cater to the paying clientele. In essence, do the customers who frequent his restaurant give him the economic incentive to continue status quo or to make a change?

If the restaurant market in Kenai is left to make up its own mind, the people's choices will have a far greater impact than more governmental rules.

It is my firm belief that, we, as a populace, have a far greater impact than the government. I urge the people of Kenai to keep this economic issue in their own hands rather than hand over personal responsibility to others.

Mike Gustkey, Kenai

Assembly member Martin shows courage on ANWR

I am very proud to be represented by Milli Martin, the only Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly member to vote against the resolution supporting the opening of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas development.

Her comments as to why she did not support this resolution were right on the mark. We have an obligation to future generations to protect this incredible wilderness.

During World War II, energy conservation was promoted as a patriotic act. Why aren't we doing that now? Dependence on foreign oil and the need for new domestic sources would be greatly reduced by simple acts of conservation.

Milli Martin is right in advocating to save the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Sacrificing the last remaining 5 percent of wilderness along the Arctic Coastal Plain to feed our greedy consumption of oil is the epitome of selfishness. Right on, Milli. Theodore Roosevelt would be proud of you!

Nina Faust, Homer



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