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07/22/2007 - 8:18am

Some Restraints Are Worth Giving Up Your Freedoms


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My wife and I are visiting her family in Canada this week, which is my first trip out of the United States (and because of the new regulations, my first passport in-hand). She was just 18 years old when she moved to the US, so she had little experience in living as an adult in that political atmosphere (paying outrageous taxes, living under strict regulations, etc). So when her and I talk about politics and how social systems don't work long-term, she always likes to refer to how everything works just fine in Canada, not actually knowing how the details of how the Canadian system works. I have to admit, neither do I.

We heard an interesting commercial on the radio in Montreal yesterday. It appeared to be a public service ad informing people that the law requires the wearing of seatbelts in vehicles. I don't recall the wording verbatim, but it went something like this, "Do what you like in the privacy of your own home; but on the road, wear your seatbelt. Some restraints are worth giving up your freedoms."

I have no problem with wearing seatbelts, I wear mine all the time. I have a problem with seatbelt laws, because it's not the duty of government to protect people from themselves. But that's not really even the issue here. The issue is that messages like this condition people to believe that some restraints truly are worth giving up your freedoms. Very few will argue that wearing seatbelts isn't a good idea, so the logical disconnect between these two statements is completely ignored by most.

When the government wants to pass even more restrictive intrusions, like eliminating certain foods to curb obesity or banning certain movies to protect children, the propaganda machine will be right there with the previously-accepted phrase, "Some restraints are worth giving up your freedoms."

Not to say that things like this don't happen in the US, just that other perceptually-free countries are somewhat advanced in the way they rule over their populations.



Comments
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Posted by: nobody
07/23/2007 3:54am

"I have a problem with seatbelt laws, because it's not the duty of government to protect people from themselves."

Actually, two of the main reasons the Constitution was written and the government exists is to "promote the general welfare" and "insure domestic tranquility" which encompasses protecting people from themselves if they disregard doing so themselves

Another point worthy of mention is that the law you give as an example not only protects people from themselves, but also protect the insurers of those people, as well as everyone else that has insurance (a large percentage of the public, whose duty it is for the government to protect from other individuals).

Posted by: Nick Coons
07/25/2007 8:21am

<Actually, two of the main reasons the Constitution was written and the government exists is to "promote the general welfare" and "insure domestic tranquility" which encompasses protecting people from themselves if they disregard doing so themselves>

I don't agree. Requiring an individual to wear a seatbelt doesn't promote the general welfare; perhaps it promotes specific welfare.

Laws that protect people from themselves run against the grain of Darwinism, and lead the overpopulation. Stupid people (people who choose to drive without a seatbelt) should accept the consequences of their own actions by increasing the collective intelligence of the population.

At some point, mathematically speaking, the world will become overpopulated because the population continues to increase. I don't have the numbers, so I don't know when that will happen, but it will happen (unless we advance technologically enough to colonize other planets before that happens, and people freely choose to live on those planets, but I wouldn't count on it).

We either let natural selection determine who stays around for the long haul, or we wait until we're overpopulated and look for the government to arbitrarily extinguish people to make room for the rest. I think Darwin has it right.

<Another point worthy of mention is that the law you give as an example not only protects people from themselves, but also protect the insurers of those people, as well as everyone else that has insurance (a large percentage of the public, whose duty it is for the government to protect from other individuals).>

First, I think you make the faulty assumption that seatbelt laws cause people to wear seatbelts, and it doesn't. All it does is give the government an extra revenue stream when they catch someone not wearing a seatbelt. Just like drunk-driving laws don't prevent drunk drivers, gun control laws don't reduce crime, and drug laws don't reduce drug usage.

Secondly, assuming that these laws did cause people to wear seatbelts, how does it protect other individuals or insurance companies? I can see that insurance companies might have fewer severe claims if people wore seatbelts (but not fewer claims in total), unless you're saying that people wearing seatbelts are less likely to get into accidents altogether (which might be true to a very small degree).

There are a lot of things that are bad for my "welfare", but the government doesn't ban those: cigarettes, soda, junk food, video games; the list could go on indefinitely. Why not ban everything that's bad for us and turn this into George Orwell's 1984?

Posted by: nobody
08/03/2007 9:46pm

"First, I think you make the faulty assumption that seatbelt laws cause people to wear seatbelts, and it doesn't. All it does is give the government an extra revenue stream when they catch someone not wearing a seatbelt. Just like drunk-driving laws don't prevent drunk drivers, gun control laws don't reduce crime, and drug laws don't reduce drug usage."

Recently you wrote an article titled "Libertarian Myths" and I was rather excited at the prospect of reading a libertarian's view on myths spread by Libertarians. However, the article was entirely different, and addressed things you see as myths or misrepresentations of libertarian ideas. Anyway, the idea that drug laws don't reduce drug use and abuse, or DUI laws don't reduce drunk driving, or gun control laws don't reduce (gun)crime is completely false, or in other words, is a myth, popularly espoused by libertarians, anarchists and anyone else who disagrees with those or any other laws (or proposed laws). Your idea that protective laws don't increase public safety is erroneous and is a libertarian myth.

The regulations that require automakers to include safety belts, airbags, head rests, shatter-resistant windshields and other devices that protect the consumers, combined with laws requiring vehicle passengers to wear their seat-belts and drive in an unimpaired state have significantly reduced the number of vehicular fatalities and injuries since such laws were implemented. This is an undisputable fact, just look at the numbers of accidents, injuries and fatalities and the extremely significant reduction in those numbers despite an ever-growing number of vehicles in use over the past few decades.

"Despite [the] steep increase in motor-vehicle travel, the annual death rate has declined from 18 per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in 1925 to 1.7 per 100 million VMT in 1997--a 90% decrease"
http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm4818a1.htm


For the effectiveness of gun-control compare places that ban guns (like the UK, Switzerland, Malaysia and most other Western Nations) to those that do not ban guns (like the USA and many third-world countries) and you can see a significant difference in crimes commited, murders and attempted murders (and the success-rate of homicide attempts).

My view, which is undoubtedly correct (and backed up by plenty of studies), is that seatbelt laws do unequivocally and significantly increase the number of vehicle passengers using seatbelts, although they are not effective at making sure every single person uses them. By your standard, since everyone doesn't wear seatbelts, the law is ineffective, but that's an illogical view. If the law increases the number of people wearing seatbelts by only a small percentage, then it is, in fact, effective. If we imposed the death penalty for breaking this law, it would be far more effective, but still not 100% effective. But even with the tiny penalties involved, the laws are very effective.


"Secondly, assuming that these laws did cause people to wear seatbelts,"

It's not an assumption, it's a fact. The assumption that they do not cause people to wear seatbelts is a libertarian myth.

"how does it protect other individuals or insurance companies?"

The use of seatbelts reduces the amount of physical injury (damage) sustained to individuals in automobile accidents. That reduction in physical damage to individuals translates into smaller claims to the insurance companies who insure those individuals. A reduction in the total amount paid out in claims result in lower premiums to consumers and higher profits to insurers.

"I can see that insurance companies might have fewer severe claims if people wore seatbelts (but not fewer claims in total),"

Sure there would be fewer claims in total; fewer heads through windshields and fewer shards of glass or metal through eye-balls equals fewer claims, and those claims that are made would be for lower sums of money because less physical injury (damage, which costs less to "repair") occurs to a person wearing a seatbelt than one not wearing a seatbelt in the vast majority of accidents.

"unless you're saying that people wearing seatbelts are less likely to get into accidents altogether (which might be true to a very small degree)."

I'd say there is probably quite a bit of truth to the assertion that responsible, law-abiding citizens are less likely to get into accidents.

"There are a lot of things that are bad for my "welfare", but the government doesn't ban those: cigarettes, soda, junk food, video games; the list could go on indefinitely. Why not ban everything that's bad for us and turn this into George Orwell's 1984?"

There is a substantial difference between protecting the health and security of the public (with Constitutional laws and regulations) and implementing a police state that relies on absolute mind-control a la 1984. If you can not see the difference, perhaps you are too susceptible to anti-state propaganda which relies on an absolutist view of reality based on myths and dogmatic rhetoric, rather than an objective view of reality based on historical analysis, facts and logic.

Posted by: Nick Coons
08/03/2007 11:34pm

<Recently you wrote an article titled "Libertarian Myths" and I was rather excited at the prospect of reading a libertarian's view on myths spread by Libertarians. However, the article was entirely different, and addressed things you see as myths or misrepresentations of libertarian ideas.>

In hindsight, I probably should have called it "Myths About Libertarianism."

<Anyway, the idea that drug laws don't reduce drug use and abuse, or DUI laws don't reduce drunk driving, or gun control laws don't reduce (gun)crime is completely false, or in other words, is a myth, popularly espoused by libertarians, anarchists and anyone else who disagrees with those or any other laws (or proposed laws).>

Not only do these laws not reduce their related activities, they actually increase them.

Gun-control laws are obeyed by law-abiding citizens (by definition), which ultimately makes it more difficult for law-abiding citizens to acquire guns. Criminals fear gun-carrying citizens to police at a ratio of 3-to-1. So when criminals (who have no regard for gun-control laws) enter an area where they can be fairly certain that people are not armed, they feel more comfortable to commit their crimes.

Areas where citizens can freely carry guns, or are in fact encouraged to carry guns, have lower incidents of violent crime.

<Your idea that protective laws don't increase public safety is erroneous and is a libertarian myth.>

Not necessarily. I just think that what you and I see as "protective laws" are not the same. But for the most part, laws don't normally prevent "wrong" behavior, they just allow society to punish the behavior afterwards.

<The regulations that require automakers to include safety belts, airbags, head rests, shatter-resistant windshields and other devices that protect the consumers, combined with laws requiring vehicle passengers to wear their seat-belts and drive in an unimpaired state have significantly reduced the number of vehicular fatalities and injuries since such laws were implemented. This is an undisputable fact, just look at the numbers of accidents, injuries and fatalities and the extremely significant reduction in those numbers despite an ever-growing number of vehicles in use over the past few decades.>

What is indisputable is that the use of these safety devices has lowered injuries and fatalities. What is easily in dispute is whether or not regulations were the cause of the implementation of the safety devices. The free market creates these things because it sells cars. Politicians legislate that these items need to exist in cars (even though they would otherwise) because it's popular and gets votes.

<For the effectiveness of gun-control compare places that ban guns (like the UK, Switzerland, Malaysia and most other Western Nations)>

Wait a second, did you just say Switzerland bans guns? You've got to be kidding me. Switzerland is exactly the opposite; they actually have compulsory ownership laws. All males of military age are *required* to own a fully automatic gun, and permits for handguns are easily acquired.

<to those that do not ban guns (like the USA and many third-world countries)>

The UN rates England and Wales as having the worst crime in the developed world:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?
xml=/news/2002/12/01/ncrime01.xml&sSheet=/news/2002/12/01/ixhome.html

Now I know that one can find all sorts of crime statistics about crime that say numerous things because of the way various sources categorize crimes, so this is not meant to necessarily show the ineffectiveness of gun-control in the UK. It's difficult enough to find a real, comprehensive apple-to-apples comparison, let alone try to attribute those statistics to a single variable (gun-control laws, or a lack thereof) when there are many variables between different societies.

<My view, which is undoubtedly correct (and backed up by plenty of studies), is that seatbelt laws do unequivocally and significantly increase the number of vehicle passengers using seatbelts,>

Really? Care to provide sources for these studies?

<By your standard, since everyone doesn't wear seatbelts, the law is ineffective, but that's an illogical view.>

You're making an assumption about my views. I would agree with you that the law is effective if it increases the number of people who wear seatbelts. What I don't see is any evidence that seatbelt laws increase seatbelt usage.

<A reduction in the total amount paid out in claims result in lower premiums to consumers and higher profits to insurers.>

The insurance companies are going to make their profits anyway. If claims went up, insurance premiums would go up to match. They don't need compulsory seatbelt laws to protect their profits.

<Sure there would be fewer claims in total; fewer heads through windshields and fewer shards of glass or metal through eye-balls equals fewer claims,>

If a car gets into an accident, the driver's head goes through the windshield, and the passenger breaks an arm, there is a claim for the event. If a car gets into an accident, but the driver and passenger are both wearing seatbelts and sustain no injuries, a claim is still filed for the event. So wearing seatbelts doesn't reduce claims, just the severity.

But I'm assuming that you're saying that a claim is filed for the car, a separate one for the driver, and yet another for the passenger, a total of three claims for one incident. So it looks like this bit is semantics, and probably not important :-).

<and those claims that are made would be for lower sums of money because less physical injury (damage, which costs less to "repair") occurs to a person wearing a seatbelt than one not wearing a seatbelt in the vast majority of accidents.>

Agreed.

<I'd say there is probably quite a bit of truth to the assertion that responsible, law-abiding citizens are less likely to get into accidents.>

I would say that the same responsible people would get into fewer accidents if they didn't wear seatbelts. If only there were a way to test this theory, since responsible people don't get into a car without putting on a seatbelt.

<There is a substantial difference between protecting the health and security of the public (with Constitutional laws and regulations) and implementing a police state that relies on absolute mind-control a la 1984. If you can not see the difference, perhaps you are too susceptible to anti-state propaganda which relies on an absolutist view of reality based on myths and dogmatic rhetoric, rather than an objective view of reality based on historical analysis, facts and logic.>

What I don't see the difference between are the specific examples I provided, such as compulsory seatbelt laws, banning junk food, video games; or even drugs, alcohol, television, internet porn, etc. All of these things can be argued as "bad for us", and can be banned under your criteria as "protecting the health and security of the public."

I am very anti-state; not based on propaganda, but based on history. It is the nature of governments to intrude on citizens. Governments within the past few centuries have figured out that it's easier to do it in little bits so that few notice (like the analogy about putting a frog into boiling water).

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