None of these activities on an individual basis mowing a lawn, sitting in an idling car waiting for a hamburger, or lighting a few chunks of charcoal contributes in any major way to the pollution of California’s air, but when done by thousands of residents each day, they add up to a significant problem.
Los Angeles’s actions showed that Americans are willing to accept such significant limitations on their behavior in order to achieve the desirable goal of clean air to breathe. Laws have been used to enforce compliance in health matters for over a century. In 1905, a precedent was set for the state’s police power in the area of health when the Massachusetts legislature passed a law that required all adults to be vaccinated against smallpox.
A man named Jacobson refused to comply and went to court, arguing that the law infringed on his personal liberty. The trial court found that the state was within its power to enforce the law. Jacobson appealed his case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. He lost: The Supreme Court upheld the right of the state to restrict an individual’s freedom “for the common good.” The courts may then be called on to interpret the authority.