Forums > Social Chat > State intervention in personal choice

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onewheeldave
GOLD Member since Aug 2002

Carpal \'Tunnel
Location: sheffield, United Kingdom

Total posts: 3252
Posted:In my younger days I was very opposed to the state impinging on issues of personal choice. I know that many who post here feel the same.

I'm starting this thread as a result of some issues sparked of by a recent drug related thread. As it was a thread with a very specific topic I had to request that people didn't discuss government control/legislation issues on drugs, as it was distracting from the threads topic.

However, as it's an interesting question I thought I'd start a new thread on it.

I'm now in a position where I have to dispute my previous belief that there's no place for state intervention in choices that are considered to effect only the individual concerned.

A prime reason is the number of lives saved by the seatbelt laws.

When I was a child it was acceptable and normal to not wear seat belts, and there was a lot of debate, and resentment, when the seat belt laws were brought in.

People generally accepted that seat belts saved lives, but maintained that the individual had the right to choose to take advantage of this. That he/she had the right to risk their life by not belting up.

However, after many years of seat belt legislation we seem to be in a position where people don't resent this restriction on their personal liberty, I think most people are so accustomed to seat belt wearing that they feel very exposed if in a car unbelted.

There is no doubt that a lot of pain and death has been prevented by the laws.

So what do people think- is it a good thing that the state stepped in and enforced its will in this example?

If so, is there a place for it to step in on other issues?

Or, does anyone feel that it's always wrong for the state to do this?

If so, how can they justify the lost lives that would ensue?


"You can't outrun Death forever.
But you can make the Bastard work for it."

--MAJOR KORGO KORGAR,
"Last of The Lancers"
AFC 32


Educate your self in the Hazards of Fire Breathing STAY SAFE!

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Rick aka Loki
BRONZE Member since Dec 2000

Rick aka Loki

member
Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Total posts: 134
Posted:I don't consider the seatbelt law situation to be one where the incident doesn't affect a number of people. The family of the people involved would suffer for that person's carelessness.

Seatbelts don't just save lives, they decrease the level of injury. Here in Canada, a lot of us kind of accept a certain level of regulation because our health care is paid for by our taxes. If it costs less to heal someone because they were wearing a seatbelt, it's less burden on all of us. Same thing with bicycle helmets. If I bang myself up on my bike, I go to the hospital for cheap or for free and they fix me up. I'll wear a helmet as a thank-you for that.

I think, especially when we're talking about people in a society with social structures built in, that it's pretty hard to find anything that concerns the individual that doesn't have some effect on the group. The trick is finding a balance between the importance of personal freedom, including the freedom to do things that are detrimental to the group in some way, and the good of the whole society that supports the individual.


-Rick aka Loki
oh, man, a signature?... uuh... this is like coming across wet cement... uuh, shoot, I had something clever I was saving... I hope I don't run out of sp

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The Beaker


member
Location: A bit of everywhere

Total posts: 3
Posted:You have a point, some laws out there are obvius in their life saving interventions. I for one support a helmate law while riding a motorcycle. To me the seatbelt and helmate laws go hand in hand.

I have laid down my bike on a few occasions and because I was wearing the proper cloths walked away with only burises. I was even dragged by my bike for over 900 feet, totaled my Shadow but a bike can be fixed pretty easily and it is actually fun to fix it on your own. The body isnt so lucky.


There are of course some laws that just dont make sence, like I heard of one in Pa., it is illeagle for the babysitter to eat everything in someones fridge! I can understand that you dont want someone to eat you out of house and home but wow that is crazy!


Dude, check out his guy, he's gonna set himself on fire!!

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Dio


Dio

HoP Mechanical Engineer
Location: OK, USA

Total posts: 729
Posted:Yeah for more of the outlandish stuff check out a website that's been around for a while...

www.dumblaws.com

In all honesty, the seatbelt and helmet laws are good to enforce because they DO directly help the user. Having been in an upside-down car once in my life, I'm a die-hard seatbelt enthusiast who has witnessed first-hand their benefits.

However, for the government to step in on matters of personal choice is touchy... take abortion, for instance. That's a situation involving a choice, and either legalizing or illegalizing (is that a word?) abortion isn't something with a definitive cause-effect relationship to the people affected by the legislation.

The choice to use nicotine is another such personal choice. Illegalizing it would decrease lung cancer deaths, bad breath, and my personal aversion to Denny's... but it would also take a social activity away from smokers. Not wearing a seatbelt is neither social nor beneficial in any way whatsoever, so making it a rule to wear really doesn't take anything away from those who would be forced to make changes in their lifestyle (unless there's some no-seat-belt-addicts out there somewhere).

Illegalizing cigarettes would be laughed at and would probably generate a heavy smuggling trade (very similar to how pot is nowadays). Alcohol would fall under the same situation - prohibition was even tried once and failed miserably because the people were unwilling to go along with it.

When the government steps in and wants to change the way we do things, I think we have to weigh what "freedoms" we might actually be giving up, and decide if it's worth it or not.


What hits the fan is not evenly distributed.

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onewheeldave
GOLD Member since Aug 2002

Carpal \'Tunnel
Location: sheffield, United Kingdom

Total posts: 3252
Posted:quote:Originally posted by Dio:

In all honesty, the seatbelt and helmet laws are good to enforce because they DO directly help the user. Having been in an upside-down car once in my life, I'm a die-hard seatbelt enthusiast who has witnessed first-hand their benefits.

However, for the government to step in on matters of personal choice is touchy... take abortion, for instance. That's a situation involving a choice, and either legalizing or illegalizing (is that a word?) abortion isn't something with a definitive cause-effect relationship to the people affected by the legislation.
Some people would say that abortion isn't a matter of pure personal choice though, they'd want the rights of the unborn to be taken inot account.
I'm not offering an opinion either way on that, but, in a sense, calling abortion a matter of personal choice is begging the question.

quote:Originally posted by Dio:

Alcohol would fall under the same situation - prohibition was even tried once and failed miserably because the people were unwilling to go along with it.

It could be argued that the incredibly high level of corruption amongst the government officials responsible for enforcement, were more of a factor in prohibitions failure.

The officials turned a blind eye to a lot of the alcohol producers and huge amounts of money was being taken in bribes.

Again, I'm offering no opinion on the rights/wrongs of prohibition, simply challenging the common opinion that it is unworkable due to people not accepting it.


"You can't outrun Death forever.
But you can make the Bastard work for it."

--MAJOR KORGO KORGAR,
"Last of The Lancers"
AFC 32


Educate your self in the Hazards of Fire Breathing STAY SAFE!

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Charles
BRONZE Member since Jun 2001

Charles

Corporate Circus Arts Entertainer
Location: Auckland, New Zealand

Total posts: 3989
Posted:I think personal liberty infringments get a hell of a lot more press than all the benefits such laws (liek the seatbelt laws) and other services provided by local/national goverments.

I'm am always grateful that I live in a western-styled country that had a welfare system, comparatively low rates of corruption, a decent police force and a million million other things.


I think sometimes we get so bogged down in the 3 things we aren't allowed to do, that we forget about the 6 million things we CAN do, that people in other countries can't.

Like walking in park at night with a good chance of not getting robbed.

Or laws to try and protect me from geting killed by drunk drivers on the roads.

Etc etc...

Summing up, I think every time a goverment "interferes" with our choices, we shoudl weigh up not only the benefits of that interference to people other than ourselves, but also the benefits the existing laws already offer us that we do not want to lose.

I think there is always a place for that "interference", but, there are certain limits where it will not be tolerated by society.

And i'm pretty happy with that type of self-regulation...


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frostypaw


Great balls of fire
Location: Tunbridge Wells, Kent

Total posts: 643
Posted:quote:I'm now in a position where I have to dispute my previous belief that there's no place for state intervention in choices that are considered to effect only the individual concerned.

A prime reason is the number of lives saved by the seatbelt laws.I'd argue that the seatbelt laws aren't just for you.

A child in the backseat of a car without a seatbelt on can strike the front seat, in a crash, with the force of a charging elephant very easily killing both them and the front seat's occupant.

The seatbelt laws have exceptions too - taxi drivers, bus drivers and some others don't have to wear them.

In that case the law is good - reminding/forcing people to consider each other and take care - because otherwise people don't.

But it certainly isn't always like that - prime examples being the sex regulations and drug regulations

It's illegal to sleep with someone under 16 here - FULL STOP. A fourteen and a fifteen year old have recently been arrested for shagging each other... this is insane. In an attempt to protect youth they've taken it too far, if you're 16 and sleep with a 15 year old you could end up on the sex offenders registar

choice is unfairly diminished

And in the drug case what about people with multiple sclerosis? Cannabis has been shown to SERIOUSLY help then in a way no other manmade or natural chemical does - but if they do it... they're criminals

Messed up. In both these situations the state has drawn solid lines between black and white, whereas the reality is more shades of grey. People would be better off being well informed and making their own decisions


I can SEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

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telic


I don't want a title.


Total posts: 940
Posted:I believe that laws restricting personal liberty must be kept to an absolute minimum.

1. In a free country, we are all free to go to hell in our own ways. Requiring seatbelts by law is like outlawing suicide - in the end, it is education and help that makes the difference, not penalties for failure to comply.

2. We have criminal penalties for too many small things already. The more petty things, like failure to wear a seatbelt, we criminalize, the more criminals we create. There comes a point where everyone in the society is a criminal for some small reason, and that leads to great trouble that I doubt I need to elaborate upon.

3. An it harm none, do what thou wilt. Some of you have argued that it hurts the family and friends of the victim. Sure, it absolutely does. And when I spin fire it hurts my mother, she freaks out and gets worried and upset. When I walk down a street at night, that hurts her, too. Failing out of school hurts a student's family members. Would you outlaw those things? Every choice we make tends to hurt someone who we care about, who thinks they know what is better for us.

4. Yes, seatbelt laws save lives. Absolutely. Seatbelt education would strike a better balance, however. It would still save lives, while permitting individual choice and risk-taking, and lack of stops would make traffic more efficient.

5. Slippery slope argument. Seatbelt laws are a small step, sure. What's next? Smoking laws? As of a few months ago, no one can smoke in bars in my hometown anymore. At first I was happy, cause I hate the smell of smoke. Then I thought about it some more. People smoke on the streets more, and irritate me. Bartenders are losing jobs. And once again, the government is saying that our society is so derelict that the law has to step in where courtesy once ruled. It is a sad thing to say. And after that, what? Porn is too dangerous, let's outlaw it? And gatherings of more than 10 people, and barbecues, and free speech, and this, and that..

6. As adults, we have the right to determine what is acceptable risk for ourselves. A law that applies the same way to all can never do the personal cost-benefit analysis that each of us does when deciding whether or not to wear a seatbelt, smoke, or whatnot. That cost-benefit analysis is the absolute right and joy of being human. Life is about risks, and each person alone can determine which gambles it is worthwhile for him to make.

7. We all have our things. Some of us think seatbelts are uncomfortable, and are willing to take the risk of a crash. Some of us are into bdsm, and are willing to take the risk of a scene gone wrong or a bite that scars. Some of us like to spin fire, and are willing to take the risk of burns. Some of us smoke, and are willing to take the risk of cancer. Some of us like walking in the night air, and are willing to take the risk of being mugged. Freedom is the freedom to do that which your mother [the government] thinks is too dangerous. Better to have some deaths than to live in a small box.


E pluribus unum, baby.

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onewheeldave
GOLD Member since Aug 2002

Carpal \'Tunnel
Location: sheffield, United Kingdom

Total posts: 3252
Posted:quote:Originally posted by regyt:
I believe that laws restricting personal liberty must be kept to an absolute minimum.

1. In a free country, we are all free to go to hell in our own ways. Requiring seatbelts by law is like outlawing suicide - in the end, it is education and help that makes the difference, not penalties for failure to comply.

I dispute this. Prior to the seatbelt laws all the facts about their life saving properties were available and known, yet many didn't use belts.

Now almost everyone does, so far more lives have been saved by the legislation than education achieved.
quote:Originally posted by regyt:
5. Slippery slope argument. Seatbelt laws are a small step, sure. What's next? Smoking laws? For the slippery slope argument applied to smoking I would argue that the sheer fact that smoke is present in all bars is itself an invasion of the personal liberty of many non smokers.

I guess if I wanted to sum up my feelings I'd say that in cases like this I'm not just looking at the personal liberty aspects, but asking myself 'what are the consequences of this law'.

If a seat belt law will have the consequence of saving many lives/much pain then it's worth considering.

And if a law restricting smoking has the consequence that less people have smoke inflicted upon them, and that the social acceptibilty of smoking is eroded so that future generations are less inclined to be subject to the peer pressure to take up what is basically an addiction, then it's worth looking into.

As I've mentioned in other threads, it seems very strange to me that nicotine, as one of the most addictive (and therefore choice reducing) substances in the world, is so often hoisted as an expression of freedom of choice.


"You can't outrun Death forever.
But you can make the Bastard work for it."

--MAJOR KORGO KORGAR,
"Last of The Lancers"
AFC 32


Educate your self in the Hazards of Fire Breathing STAY SAFE!

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telic


I don't want a title.


Total posts: 940
Posted:quote:Originally posted by onewheeldave:
I guess if I wanted to sum up my feelings I'd say that in cases like this I'm not just looking at the personal liberty aspects, but asking myself 'what are the consequences of this law'.Fair enough. That's very utilitarian of you. To sum up my feelings, the ends do not justify the means, and the consequences have to be balanced with the personal liberty aspects. And I feel it is important that people be at liberty to be stupid, to die, to choose poorly, because freedom only to choose well is no freedom at all.


E pluribus unum, baby.

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Stone
GOLD Member since Jun 2001

Stream Entrant
Location: Melbourne, Australia

Total posts: 2830
Posted:I think State intervention often indicates poor Government.

With the example of seat-belt laws, I thought (and I could be wrong) that in the USA air-bags were developed because people did not want to wear seat-belts. While it is true (and I wear a seat-belt) that the number road death has decreased, it is also true that another consequence is that the number of para and quadriplegics has risen.

Also, there is "invincibility factor" when people were mc helmets, and I'm not sure if this is still the case, but when helmet laws were repealed in some States of the US, injury level actually went down, because the people who rode without helmets took more care. In Australia, they decided that all bikes should have their head-lights hard wired on all the time, which was not a great idea for batteries etc. Most sensible bikers suggested that the best option was to ride with the light on when circumstances require extra lighting for safety. Some motorist have trouble judging distances as a motor bike with its head-light on can be closer that it appears; a car with headlights on would be much further away.


If we as members of the human race practice meditation, we can transcend our fear, despair, and forgetfulness. Meditation is not an escape. It is the courage to look at reality with mindfulness and concentration. Thich Nhat Hanh

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frostypaw


Great balls of fire
Location: Tunbridge Wells, Kent

Total posts: 643
Posted:quote:And once again, the government is saying that our society is so derelict that the law has to step in where courtesy once ruledThis is, essentially, the problem.

Laws are logical on the whole - i.e. wear a seatbelt or you risk your life and other people's - but people Don't Do It

Don't kill... but people do it

etc

sad thing!

and smoke in bars - the sad thing to me is that bar managers don't install good air conditioning. they can, and the smoke problem goes away completely, but they don't.

it's laziness sadly


I can SEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

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