Fanning the Flames: The Freedom Project Blog


Freedom to Breathe?

By Shawn Healy
As I sit in front of a computer at my desk in the Tribune Tower in Chicago, I acknowledge from the outset that the content of today's posting will be subject to charges of hypocrisy, as I am a proud resident of the Second City (most of the time). We are the city that limits street vendors and musicians, bans foie gras, indoor smoking, maybe even trans fats. These qualifications aside (a city of big shoulders living in a glass house), I couldn't help but be startled from emerging news out of California this week. The San Francisco City Council banned the use of plastic bags at grocery stores, and the Mayor has pledged to sign the ordinance into law. The City of Burbank, on the other hand, wants to ban OUTDOOR smoking in a state that long ago banned puffing in indoor environments (two other CA cities have already done so).

While I applaud the spirit of both actions, I can't help but think we are rolling ever faster down this slipperly slope of eroding personal freedoms and government intrusions into all aspects of our lives. Plastic bags are certainly bad for the environment when thrown away, and I do use them twice for garbage receptacles and to bring my lunch to work, but why can't consumers themselves demand that their grocery stores abandon their use?

Moreover, as a non-smoker, I certainly enjoy the impact of the local smoking ban (yet to take effect in bars), but fear that we will head the way of Burbank. Some cities even prohibit smoking in personal cars when children are present! I acknowledge the danger of second-hand smoke, but also believe that people should be trusted to make personal decisions about their individual health. While it is probably irresponsible to smoke around children, for example, is it the right and duty of government to forbid the possibility?

We are left to ponder what may be next. Burbank and San Francisco are nearly a continent away, but the nanny state unites us all.


Post a Comment

<< Home


Managing Director

McCormick Freedom Project

Shawn is responsible for overseeing and managing the operations associated with the McCormick Freedom Project. Additionally, he serves as the in house content expert and voice of museum through public speaking and original scholarship. Before joining the Freedom Project, he taught American Government, Economics, American History, and Chicago History at Community High School in West Chicago, IL and Sheboygan North High School in Wisconsin.

Shawn is a doctoral candidate within the Political Science Department at the University of Illinois at Chicago where he received his MA in Political Science. He is a 2001 James Madison Fellow from the State of Wisconsin and holds a bachelor's degree in Political Science, History, and Secondary Education from the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

Subscribe to
Posts [Atom]

About Fanning the Flames and the McCormick Freedom Project

Fanning the Flames is a blog of the McCormick Freedom Project, which was started in 2006 by museum managing director Shawn Healy. The blog highlights the news of the day, in hopes of engaging readers in dialogue about freedom issues. Any views or opinions expressed on this blog represent those of the writers alone and do not represent an official opinion of the McCormick Freedom Project.

Founded in 2005, the McCormick Freedom Project is part of the McCormick Foundation. The Freedom Project’s mission is to enable informed and engaged participation in our democracy by demonstrating the relevance of the First Amendment and the role it plays in the ongoing struggle to define and defend freedom. The museum offers programs and resources for teachers, students, and the general public.

First Amendment journalism initiative

The Freedom Project recently launched a new reporting initiative with professional journalists Tim McNulty and Jamie Loo. The goal is to expand and promote the benefits of lifelong civic engagement among citizens of all ages, through original reporting, commentary and news aggregation on First Amendment and freedom issues. Please visit the McCormick Freedom Project's news Web site, The Post-Exchange at