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The Right to Make Bad Decisions

When I was young, my father made a point about the importance of looking at things from other points of view. He believed strongly in Dr. King's dream that all people should judged by their character and work, not their race, creed, gender or any superficial aspect. I was a bit disappointed, therefore, to find his ideals a bit inconstant when I told him about my fiancé, shortly after I proposed to her. My wife, you see, is of a different race, and while in theory my father was a man of broad mind, in the actual event he was far narrower in his tolerance. As time passed, he came to respect my wife and when we had a daughter he was delighted, but I recall the incident as an example of the distance between ourselves and whom we would like to be. I have met some very fine people in my lifetime, some of whom were people of great integrity, courage and ideals, and some who dismayed me with their attitudes and behavior. I notice that as I got to know people better, while some were clearly better or worse in their morals and actions, none were completely worthless and no one was perfect. Also, some people whom I could not stand in one way, were good people in others. You have to really get to know the person to see more than one dimension of their character, and over time many of us learn from mistakes and our judgment and behavior improve. That should not really surprise anyone; the whole automobile insurance industry is predicated on the belief that experienced drivers are generally safer and better risks than new drivers, and that education and time will improve the skills and habits.

I have also learned that some folks have to find things out the hard way. Having just completed my MBA, I went looking around for advice on the classes I still need to take in order to sit for my CPA license. Along the way, I found an interesting website which had a number of college forums. I visited the section on business schools, and found some lively discussions, including a number of prolific members with strong opinions but poor experience. It's fascinating in a way, how people will voice an opinion on something they have never done and about which they really know very little. Part of that, I suspect, is the attraction of online forums, where you can writer as long a post as you please without fear of interruption. Sure, you may get a sharp retort, but the thing there is that it comes in response to your article or comment, and that means you are making things happen. In blogging, that's pretty cool, but it's far less cool when politicians start doing it.

Laws. There's no doubt that we need them, but at some point they get to be burdensome, especially when the guys passing the laws make sure that they are not forced to abide by those laws. And at some point they become unreasonable, ridiculous, and cross the line into tyranny. Take the seat-belt law, for example. I'm all in favor of people wearing seat belts, they are a great invention. But a law requiring everyone to wear a seat belt? That, to me, is over the line. Think about it - if I have an accident and I am stupid enough to not wear a seat belt, who does that hurt besides myself? It does not increase the danger of the situation for other drivers or pedestrians, or the public at large. So what is that law meant to do? It's a law meant to keep us safe. That may sound good, but nowhere in the federal or any state Constitution does it say that the government can pass laws in order to make us safer from ourselves. That's why it makes no sense to ban trans-fats. Yes, it's stupid to gorge on things that will give you a heart attack, but the government has no business choosing the meals of honest citizens. It's one thing and a good idea to require restaurants to tell is what's in their foods, so we can make informed decisions, but quite another to tell us we cannot make those choices ourselves.

The government passes more and more laws every year, and for what? Some of them are necessary, but in truth most are not at all necessary, and more and more of them take away our choices in order to protect us from the consequences of those choices. The thing is, if we are not allowed to make our choices, to face natural limits to what we can do and to see the direct consequences of our actions, instead being told by the nanny state that others will decide for us, then how do we learn? People today decry what they see as environmental threats, but they fail to realize that humans have faced such threats before - efforts to eradicate rats began when it was discovered that they carried plague, sanitation of the water supply began when it was discovered (then forgotten and later rediscovered) that there was a way to provide a clean water supply and remove foul waste, and coal was largely replaced with oil as the new energy source proved more efficient and cleaner. All of this happened without a single environmentalist agency. We are quite capable to seeing and addressing our needs through our own faculties and efforts, if only the government would stop pretending we cannot. Our economic markets can repair themselves, indeed history shows they always have, if only the government would stop borrowing generations of future earnings to try to create a solution by artifice. And the voters can be trusted to find and support the best candidates and political platform, there is no need or cause to keep presenting us with a PR-spun packaged candidate as fake as the late MJ's nose.

We will make mistakes, to be sure. Some of them will be huge blunders, and that's a fact. But that's how we learn, and for all the best intentions of government, it's more than time for these esteemed politicians to stop spending our children's future, stop pretending they can control everything and prevent any bad news, and just go home to do some honest work. They do far more harm than good, and it's apparent they are learning nothing themselves.


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Comments (26)

DJ, we live in a society th... (Below threshold)
GarandFan:

DJ, we live in a society that does not want consequences. Everyone should be 'free to do their own thing'. When it turns to shit, then "others" MUST come to the rescue. The word RESPONSIBILITY is no longer mentioned. The word is anathema to liberals. It's sooooo 'judgmental and repressive'. Can remember years ago the commercial that began "So you're a drug addict; an alcoholic, well IT'S NOT YOUR FAULT!" Oh?

A flaw or two in the seat b... (Below threshold)
epador:

A flaw or two in the seat belt argument.

1) You are more likely to remain in control of your vehicle after something bad happens if you are strapped in. Additionally, it prevents you from becoming a deadly missile that injures or kills someone else in or outside of the car. That DOES have consequences for others.

2) If you are seriously injured, we all end up paying the consequences in medical, disability and insurance, and possibly for death benefits, welfare support for family when the life insurance runs out, etc.

3) EMR units, police, etc., have to deal with the accident victims, dead or alive. Its nasty business, and less nasty if folks are less messed up rather than tossed about.

Seat belt laws are an easy ... (Below threshold)
Second to Nun:

Seat belt laws are an easy example, as is smoking in public. Second-hand smoke is a real issue also - but it does impact the rights of smokers.

It used to be that rants like "why can't I hurt myself if I want to?" resonated with a segment of the public, but these days most people recognize that we live in a finite world where your behavior frequently does have an impact on others.

You're free to do stupid things in your home as long as you don't endanger others. Get in your car and go down the freeway at 60 doing stupid things, like not wearing a seat belt, and your actions can have an impact on others.

In your home - your business.

In public, it may matter.

Motorcycle helmet laws are another classic example, and the previous commenter's example holds true there too.

Our right to make bad decis... (Below threshold)
davidt:

Our right to make bad decisions gives us the right to make the bad decision to delegate our right to make bad decisions to polititians to make bad decisions 'for' us, which we pay for.

Why no seat belt laws for m... (Below threshold)
davidt:

Why no seat belt laws for motorcycle riders?

Why no seat belt laws for bus riders?

Why no helmet laws for car drivers and passengers?

Why no helmet and seat belt laws for bicycle riders?

Good analysis but we have t... (Below threshold)
Thomas Jackson:

Good analysis but we have this problem because we have developed a professional political class. The nation would be better served by a lottery system of selecting representatives and limiting how long they can actually work each year to say three months.

How else can one explain the government mandating how much water our toilets can use or the type of light bulbs we may use?

Worse it causes the public to have distain and finally contempt for the law. Especially once you realize you have no control over the law and that it doesn't represent or protect you.

DJ: How far do you carry t... (Below threshold)
James H:

DJ: How far do you carry this argument? I'd like to address it, but I'd rather not use a reducto ad absurdum.

Would it change anyone's mi... (Below threshold)
Joe Miller:

Would it change anyone's mind to discover that the expense imposed on society by motorcycle accidents is higher after the introduction of mandatory helmet laws? Perhaps riders who would have been killed outright instead suffer totally debilitating injuries or "linger" for a time before shuffling off the mortal coil. That would throw a wrench into the argument that we can tell them what to do because it imposes a cost on "society," right?

When people bring up the ar... (Below threshold)
James H:

When people bring up the argument that government should allow people to make their own mistakes, I don't think about motorcycle helmet laws or seatbelt laws. Instead, I think about prescription drug regulation.

In this country, laws stipulate that you may not obtain certain drugs without a doctor's prescription. Why? Because as a layperson, you don't have the expertise to determine what drug is best for you and in what dosage. And any number of those drugs carry both beneficial and harmful effects.

While it's entirely possible to carry prescription-drug regulation to the point of ridiculousness, I think the underlying rationale for regulation is sound. And you can expand that rationale to other areas that require specialized knowledge, such as finance, business, and the building trades.

So, let me get this straigh... (Below threshold)
max:

So, let me get this straight. If we apply the Drummond/Matthews theorem, which states that if a person says one thing, it can be assumed that they mean the opposite, does that mean that you are actually against the right to make bad decisions?


When I read the post, I won... (Below threshold)
d.k.allen:

When I read the post, I wondered how long it would take to get to the social benefit argument.

Not long.

"2) If you are seriously injured, we all end up paying the consequences in medical, disability and insurance, and possibly for death benefits, welfare support for family when the life insurance runs out, etc."

B.S. argument, pure and simple. It presupposes a welfare state. The concept of less government intervention includes a proscription of welfare for stupid tricks. Also, the insurance point is moot, if you allow the insurer to refuse or reduce compensation if it can be shown that no seat belt was worn. This is perfectly acceptable.

"...a finite world where your behavior frequently does have an impact on others..."

A finite world? What the heck is that? And yes, behavior does frequently have an impact on others. But not seat-belt behavior. Focus.

"Get in your car and go down the freeway at 60 doing stupid things, like not wearing a seat belt, and your actions can have an impact on others."

Many stupid things at 60 MPH can have an impact on others. Not wearing a seatbelt is not one of those things.

"...the expense imposed on society by motorcycle accidents..."

In a nanny state, perhaps. The whole point of the post is, get your nanny-butt out of my face.

But beyond those logic-circling and defying society-benefit arguments, we also have these gems:

"3) EMR units, police, etc., have to deal with the accident victims, dead or alive. Its nasty business,"

But then, that is their job, no? What they signed up for?

"You are more likely to remain in control of your vehicle after something bad happens if you are strapped in."

Yeah, when the car is flipping, rolling end-over-end, or smashed head-on into the oncoming rig driven by a sleeping trucker, I'm sure you have so much more control of your vehicle.

The arguments presented in favor of seat-belt laws have never held water, except in the context of pre-existing nanny-statism - i.e., "We already take care of you, so stop making it so hard to do so..."

A flaw or two in YOUR argum... (Below threshold)
Dave:

A flaw or two in YOUR argument.

1) You are more likely to remain in control of your vehicle after something bad happens if you are strapped in. Additionally, it prevents you from becoming a deadly missile that injures or kills someone else in or outside of the car. That DOES have consequences for others.
I guess everyone is Jeff Gordon now? Have you actually controlled a vehicle in an accident? Its not easy by stretch of the imagination and I was doing under controlled circumstancses on a race track. In fact the only time we have any "proof" of remaining in control after something bad happens is in a controled situation such as a crash test or on a race track. To actually control an out of control vehicle takes skills that most average and above average drivers do not have. Most people can not even control a 20MPH slide, let alone one at highway speeds. Every input to the car, be it steering, throttle or brake, is magnified exponetially the faster you go and most people ALWAYS over correct leading from bad to worse. Take a high performance driving class and learn this, whether or not you have a high performance car, the reality is that racing is all about control. And no one ever has enough practice with control.

2) If you are seriously injured, we all end up paying the consequences in medical, disability and insurance, and possibly for death benefits, welfare support for family when the life insurance runs out, etc.
Yada yada yada. Then I guess it can be up to the govt to decide when to pull the plug? Driving a car is a dangerous game whether you take the most precautions or none at all. I know people who died or have serious injuries from racing, where they do nothing but put the driver/rider in the safest possible situation with the most saftey equpiment. 6 point harness, roll cage, fire system, the whole 9 yards and people still die. Dying is part of life unfortunatly. Those bills get paid anyway. Call it the cost of doing business.

3) EMR units, police, etc., have to deal with the accident victims, dead or alive. Its nasty business, and less nasty if folks are less messed up rather than tossed about.
They cant do their job? People do nothing but my life and my job more difficult by screwing up their own work which I am then responsible to fix becayse without it I cant do my job. These people wouldnt HAVE a job if we all drove perfect and never had accidents. So the argument of making their job easier is frail and superficial at best.

You are just putting up a list of reasons WHY politicians think they need these laws in place. This is the same reasoning they use to get these laws passed and now you buy into it. Which is fine, but please dont think of us who accept the risks we take as stupid and ignorant of the consequences. If you WANT to wear a helmet while riding a motorcycle good for you. I do. Pavement hurts. ALOT! The reality is that most serious motorcycle accidents leave the person disabled in someway shape or form and having your brains intact, keeps you alive... Which can be WORSE than being dead. If you WANT to wear a seatbelt same deal. But if I CHOOSE not to wear those items, that is my business and not yours. The guys cleaning up the road way get paid by the hour anyway. So its not like they are breaking the bank. Hosing brains off the road with bleech isnt that hard.

I do think that motorcycle and driving classes should encourage good habits and require them while in training. Same with the actual tests. After that though you are on your own. And we dont do enough to licence drivers or riders out there. Way too many inexperienced drivers and riders on the road. This is what leads to accidents. If you want to reduce accidents increase the requierments for getting a licence and make it more expensive. Although Im sure in this country it would be considered racist if we did that.

DJ -- It seems you're basic... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:

DJ -- It seems you're basically making the libertarian argument that free markets and people's common sense will protect individuals and the public from dangerous products and behaviors.

There are obvious cases involving food safety and drugs that demostrate there's a legitimate need for government regulations. The same is true for some environmental regulations. You only need to look at the history of the Cuyahoga River to see that the free market was unable to protect that environment.

Unfortunately, environmentalism has turned into a religion for some and the pendulum has swung too far in favor of environmental protection over the public interests of having a growing economy. Also, environmental law is about to cross over into the realm of junk science with the carbon cap and tax law being pushed by dumbocrats.

The problem is in deciding which government regulations are need and which are not. To my knowledge there's no systematic process for making such judgments, and thus, the solution is to create and promote such a process.

Mac the counter point that ... (Below threshold)
Dave:

Mac the counter point that DJ mentions and gives examples of is that when we figure out that there is a problem or that we did make a mistake we also get to fixing. True that we dont have the forethought to not do it in the first place, but we do have the ingenuity and know how to fix things when they become a problem for us. We dont need the govt out there to protect us from all the evil and bad out there. We can do it ourselves. Is there doubt that Cuyahoga would have been cleaned up without the aid of a govt agency? I doubt it. While some basic levels of regulations are fine, the point is that many are vast, unclear and over reaching. And the only way to get them back under control is to do away with them and put in some common sense laws instead. Like its common sense to not poop where you eat. Well if someone doesnt know this, they had better learn it quickly. Laws have become a way for people to stay stupid and not have common sense. In order for people to relearn common sense they need to see the impact of their actions on the commnity as a whole. Some people just dont care and that is what the basic regulations are for, but most people will care. Ostrization from the community has become a thing of the past with the interent now. People can just get on there and bitch about the fact that they are stupid, and how they are the victims.

Mac the counter po... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:
Mac the counter point that DJ mentions and gives examples of is that when we figure out that there is a problem or that we did make a mistake we also get to fixing. True that we dont have the forethought to not do it in the first place, but we do have the ingenuity and know how to fix things when they become a problem for us.

You only need to look at the history of the Cuyahoga River to see a counter example to the point DJ raised. It's quite obvious when a river catches fire as the Cuyahogo did in 1868, 1883, 1887, 1912, 1922, 1936, 1941, 1948, 1952, and 1969 that there's something wrong with that environment, yet nothing was done to change the behavior of industry along that river until the government took action. That's because the individual companies polluting the river assigned no value to maintaining that environment. There are many food safety, product safety, and snake oil examples that also serve as counter examples to DJ's point.

I'm a conservative, but I reject the libertarian argument on the basis of numerous counter examples. There is a legitimate roll for government in protecting the public from careless or uninformed behavior. The seatbelt argument DJ used failed to consider the fact the seatbelts keep the driver in place so that they can attempt to control the vehicle after an initial impact, such as when someone hits the back quarter of your vehicle as you cross an intersection. Something similar happened to me and I was able to regain control of my car after the initial 360 spin. The principle is that a diver at the controls may be able to prevented a secondary accident, and thus, there's a legitimate public interest in requiring seatbelts.

Yes, the public interest augment has been overused to pass laws that restrict personal freedom with minimal benefit. The solution is to change such laws though the political system. That's what happened to the national 55 MPH speed limit. It took 20 years, but that Nixon era law was eventually overturned.

From a practical perspective, if there's no political will to change specific bad or unpopular laws there's absolutely no political will to throw out all the laws and start over as you seem to be suggesting.

I'm with you on seat belt (... (Below threshold)
glenn:

I'm with you on seat belt (and helmet)laws IF:

A. The person who doesn't want to use belts or a helmet signs a release stating that no public funds will be expended on their behalf if they are injured.

B. They display evidence (some sort of designator on the vehicle and on their drivers license) of same. No heroic measures to be provided. Can't have it both ways, guys. Your freedom to be stupid shouldn't cost me money.

If I want to wear it I do. ... (Below threshold)
914:

If I want to wear it I do. Sometimes I dont feel like it and do not.

But if dogooders like the professional thiefs in government get ahold of something, its all about money. Why not require people to wear a 6 point harness and helmet shoulder pads elbow pads, knee pads, shatterproof goggles in case You get plastered by a june bug doing 65 mph? Or are we going to require windows that stay up? wether or not its 103 in the shade in my old chevy van with no A.C.

A helmet may come in handy for hailstones, tree limbs the occasional bird droppings as well.

Who are You going to sue? God

The seat belt law should ... (Below threshold)
MF:

The seat belt law should still be required for children. Have a relative that is a police officer and when he pulled someone over and the parent and the child weren't seatbelted
then he would write a ticket he did not want the child to die because of the stupid parent's principals/ignorance.

I agree with you Mac to a p... (Below threshold)
Dave:

I agree with you Mac to a point... And that point is that it should be the LOCAL govt making these decisions and the LOCAL public need be involved. If the elected officials wont do it, vote in someone who will. There is no need for the EPA and the like to be controlling what types of light bulbs we have in our houses under the assumption I cant turn my lights off or passing over reaching broad generalized, yet specific regulations.

My question about the river is what did the LOCAL population do about it? Why didnt the LOCAL population do something? Where was their sense of community? Why did the fed have to step in? Where is their sense of this is wrong and we need do something about it? If the local govt DID get involved then fine. But I dont mind local govts exercising control over their populations. Thats the idea of the Constitution. If a business doesnt like it, then it can relocate. If people dont like it, they can relocate. The issue I have is when the fed uses its over reaching power to make it so that this is law EVERYWHERE and not allow the people of the community to make their own choices about their own lives and livelyhoods. Maybe the amount of money and jobs that the Cuyahoga provided was more important than the river being on fire? I dont know I wasnt alive back then. Who are we to tell the people of that area that they cant make that choice? Now if the people who live there want to change it, then so be it. But I dont like the idea of the EPA at all.

This is my overall problem with do-gooder laws. They infect EVERYONE for the stupidity of the few. The few stupid people who didnt do anything about the river. The few stupid people who thought that wearing a belt or not wearing a helmet is a good idea. But if wearing a seat belt is so safe, why not build cars with 5 or 6 point harness like we have in race cars? I know the answer, but if 2 points of a seat belt are good, wouldnt 5-6 be better? Why not make helmets mandatory in cars? Or seat belts on bikes?

At what point does the madness stop? We can say oh that wont ever happen, but dont you think that people said the same thing 40-50 years ago? My grandparents can give numerous examples of how most people thought that something could NEVER happen and yet it's standard today. So say that something is stupid and not relevant is no longer an answer. The govt had proven that they can and will make the most outlandish idea a reality.

Posts 2 and 3 said it all.<... (Below threshold)
Larry Dickman:

Posts 2 and 3 said it all.

For crying out loud, stop WHINING!

Have some nuts and stop wearing your seat belt already.

"Oh but some big bad liberal will pull me over and give me a ticket."

Maybe with the new Public Option, you can get a spine replacement like the other guy did here.

Dave,I ag... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:

Dave,

I agree with you Mac to a point... And that point is that it should be the LOCAL govt making these decisions and the LOCAL public need be involved.

Many laws are local or state, but with certain things in makes sense to have the same law nationwide. Using a river as an example, what about people who live downstream. Should people upstream be allowed to dump anything they want into the river? Maybe they don't think it's a problem because they get their water upstream of their pollution. The same is true of air, it moves from one place to another, so the laws need to be consistent state or nation wide. I'm not saying the EPA hasn't gone overboard, but the idea of a federal law for things that move makes sense.

Products move from place to place, so when I buy a TV I want it to work everywhere in the U.S. To do that there needs to be federal regulations. I buy food that comes from many places, so I want food safety standards that apply to wherever the food is grown. I drive across the nation and I want consistent laws wherever I go. I want a green light to mean the same thing in every state. I want to drive on the right side of the road in every state. I want a gallon of gas to be the same volume in every state.

I submit that people who desire only local control haven't though much about the reasons for having consistent standards, regulations and laws nationwide. Yes, the federal government goes overboard in several areas, but the solution is not to discard the good to get rid of the bad (the baby bathwater thing).

This is my overall problem with do-gooder laws. They infect EVERYONE for the stupidity of the few.

Someone else's stupidity may cost you your life. A drunk diver is not just risking their own life, so laws are passed against that form of stupidity. Cell phone use while driving is also stupid, but getting that act banned is taking a long time because so many people do it that there's a significant political force opposing such laws.

But if wearing a seat belt is so safe, why not build cars with 5 or 6 point harness like we have in race cars? I know the answer, but if 2 points of a seat belt are good, wouldnt 5-6 be better? Why not make helmets mandatory in cars? Or seat belts on bikes?

To know the answer to your question is to know the solution to the problem you cite. The reason why we don't have 5 or 6 point harness and ejection seats in cars is because of political opposition to what many see as overkill. Political action is how laws get enacted, modified, and repealed in this nation. That's the system we have, and in a nation that calls itself a democracy, that's the only system there is going to be. Work within that system or forever be frustrated about it. That's one choice you are free to make.

Hey DJ, what's my IP addres... (Below threshold)
max:

Hey DJ, what's my IP address now?

Have you ever heard of a proxy?

Have you ever heard the saying, never assume?
depp=true
notiz=Next time you use a proxy, you're gone.

I'm not jmc. ... (Below threshold)
max:

I'm not jmc.

max, You could be g... (Below threshold)

max,
You could be gone like jmc.

I was accused of being jmc.... (Below threshold)
max:

I was accused of being jmc. I am merely correcting DJ's error.

max, You used a prox... (Below threshold)

max,
You used a proxy to prove what point. It's
just as easy to refute without the deceit.




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