Monday, May 19, 2008

Saving Us from Ourselves

Idaho police are going to start cracking down on people who don't wear seatbelts. Idaho law requires people to wear seatbelts, although (a) the cops have to have some other reason to pull you over besides a seatbelt violation, and (b) the fine for not wearing a seatbelt is only $10.00. Citing statistics on deaths related to the failure to wear seatbelts, police all over the state are launching a campaign to make everybody buckle up, or else.

there people whose lives have been saved because they wore a seatbelt? Undoubtedly. Are there people who have died because they didn't have a seatbelt on? Sure. Is wearing a seatbelt a good idea? Of course. But does the fact that something is a good idea give the government the right to make it compulsory? The state has the duty to protect the rights of individuals against encroachment by others, and to punish those who commit such encroachments; but who told the state it had the right to interfere with the freedom of individuals to risk their own safety?

is true that we are not morally justified in unnecessarily assuming grave risks. Whether not wearing a seatbelt falls into that category is debatable: riding in a car is always a dangerous proposition, even with a seatbelt. Just getting up in the morning is fraught with perils, visible and invisible, to which we must either expose ourselves or fritter away our precious time on earth trying to avoid them. But people who don't want the state to be a moral arbiter in the arenas of, say, sex and marriage are prefectly prepared to have the state encroach on our free will when it comes to our personal safety, even where the moral stakes are less clear.

reedom has consequences that we must be prepared to live with, and one of these is that individuals might choose to do stupid things to themselves. If we are not prepared to live with the consequences of freedom, then the only alternative is tyranny.

r, as Benjamin Franklin is said to have commented, those who are prepared to trade liberty for security deserve neither and will lose both.


  1. Hear hear.

    I just wrote about similar seat belt stupidity here.

  2. On the other hand, if people are going to insist the government pay their medical bills, then the government certainly has a right to insist they take whatever the government believes to be reasonable precautions. Since people who pay their hospital bills (along with taxpayers) subsidize those who can or do not, I think the reasonable rule would be that those who do not have insurance or a demonstrated ability to pay a large hospital bill should be required to wear helmets (when riding a motorcycle) or seatbelts (when driving a car). The rest can do as they please. Government handouts should always come with strings. Accepting money from the government that one did not earn necessarily should entail some restrictions on one's freedom to discourage abuse. (John sees some patients in the ER weekly who have no ability to pay. That means the rest of us are footing the bill when these patients come in--often by ambulance--complaining of a sore throat.)

  3. I must agree with Moscovite. While freedom is the essential element in life without any doubt, as our society has accepted more subsidy from government over time, the citizens have a responsibility in response to that subsidy. Our freedom can be a fatality in the process. Requiring seatbelt usage to protect children in a society that permits the killing of children in the womb is an irony that we have come to live alongside.

  4. An irony compounded by the big election issue of a war that has killed 4000 US soldiers since it started, a sad statistic indeed, but one that pales compared to the 4000 children brutally murdered daily in the abortuaries of this nation!

    So by the acceptance of the premise that the state may tell us we must wear a seatbelt, that same nanny state has the right to tell us not to kill our kids; after all, we all will be paying for the PTS treatment necessitated by your abortion.

  5. But Muscovite and John, if those who accept government subsidies thereby incur a duty to wear seatbelts, how do the cops distinguish between somebody who's accepting subsidies and somebody who isn't? The ability to make such distinctions entails even further government intrusion into our private lives.

    Another "irony" is that "freedom" from the Catholic Church has led ultimately to creeping tyranny, owing to the destruction of the Church's network of aid to the poor, and its replacement by statist welfare programs.

  6. That is the problem, one cannot be expected to discriminate between those who do receive and those who do not. Not possible.

    It affects society at all levels and the limits of government intrusion knows no bounds. That is the irony of liberals who complain of civil rights when the government taps into our personal lives via wiretaps and surveillance.

    While I agree that the Patriot Act overstepped the bounds of liberty in our society, the cause of laxness about our liberty is often caused by more government spending and instrusion at other levels and arenas of society.

    Freedom is still the issue. Not the freedom of classical liberal capitalism, but the freedom of Christ that within reason [the reason that St. Thomas talks about in his discertations on virtues] that enables us to retain the fruit of our labor, and to gift that fruit, as well as our own personal time, energy, and intelligence to others freely without statist coercion.

    Alas, it seems we are losing this attachment and care for our own personal freedom for the collective.

    Further, the West is in deep, deep trouble for it has lost the will to die for what it believes in.

    Few, if any, radical Islamic have lost the will to die for what he or she believes in!

    And, they believe in a religion that has been sold to the West as a religion of force, not of love.

    If the West do not believe in something worth dying for, what is left but to live for what we can enjoy and eat, drink, and be merry until death. If that is the principle of life in the West--nothing more than material well being--then it may deserve its demise.

    But for myself and my family, and may I say for so many of my friends, that freedom is worth the measure and the price that has been asked of us, and that we must continue to fight for good, right order, and good judgment, first to stop the killing of the innocent, and second, to lift up the idea that freedom and responsibility go hand in hand with moral behavior that will eventually bring true justice and true charity across society--not more expansive and unlimited government and spending!

  7. My own rant (written many years ago) on the right to be stupid is not so insightful as some of the comments here. But then, I was still an agnostic when I wrote it.