Thursday, December 21, 2006
[Southern California week, continued …]
One upon a distant time (Was it in the 1960s? In California, perhaps?), someone suggested: "Perhaps the restaurant should have a section in which smoking isn't allowed." There were laughs at first, I'm sure, but eventually, of course, both private property owners and then the government restrained the ability to smoke in public places. By such small steps, the world is transformed.
In the San Diego community of Ocean Beach, there is an effort to designate a stretch of the beach as off-limits to alcohol. In southern California, the beach is not simply a resort, but is part of the fabric of everyday life, especially for young people. And on the beach, unlike on city streets, alcohol use generally is permitted. Today, some of the same reasons why drinking is banned on the streets is being asserted for a limited ban at the beach. Deciding when and where it is fair to limit alcohol will raise many difficult policy decisions -- the type of balancing with which public park managers, for example, constantly struggle. But it seems to me that drinking in a public space, like smoking, is one of the few public activities that justifies reasonable government restriction.