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Seatbelts! Free Choice in the Age of Coercion

September 27, 2009
 by Ross Kenyon

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Some individuals value the freedom of the unrestrained ride over any safety a helmet or seatbelt provides. Why should the government force you to protect yourself more than you care to do yourself? Oh, and when are the sunscreen mandates coming out?



New Hampshire is the only state in the union that does not have mandatory motorcycle helmet laws or seatbelt laws in automobiles for adults. The stated reason for this is that the government should not protect you from yourself. If one voluntarily chooses to pursue a course of action - so long as it does not violate anyone else’s person or property - their actions should be respected as the conscious decision of a free adult.

I recently hiked Humphrey’s Peak in Flagstaff, Arizona, and as I was coming back down to the tree line, it began to rain and thunder - necessary conditions for lightning. Despite this, we continued passing people on their way up with another hour or two of hiking to go in the exposed mountain top above the tree line. We warned them of what they might encounter, but they foolhardily continued their trek to the mountain’s peak. Should I have stopped them against their will with force? Should the government intervene when people take stupid risks that are not violating the rights of others?

I personally find it absurd to risk being struck by lightning on top of mountain with no cover. I also find it absurd to ride a motorcycle without proper protective gear, or operate a car without a seatbelt. In my estimate, neither are worth the risk that comes with crashing (an act that earns one the title of "squid" on account of what they look like afterwards), or flying through the windshield. Some adults, however, feel that it is worth the risk. They value the comfort of an unrestrained ride more than the amount of safety gained by wearing a seatbelt in a car or protective gear on a motorcycle. When someone takes a risk like that, no matter how silly it may seem to an outsider, it should be respected as the voluntarily decision of a free adult.

Of course, you are able to use your reasoning abilities to try to convince someone that they have sized the situation up incorrectly - that they are acting irrationally. However, to use the government’s monopoly on force to coerce people to operate against their own will and judgment when violating no one else’s person or property is tyrannical. It assumes that adults are unable to make important decisions for themselves and need the government to force them into compliance. If we follow this reasoning, we should surely outlaw fatty and salty foods, cigarettes, and sunscreen will soon be mandatory at all outdoor locales in central and southern Arizona!

It’s a dangerous road to travel down. One can try to convince people to freely accept a healthier or a safer lifestyle, but it is wrong to impose it upon them with the use of force so long as they are violating no one’s person or property. We shouldn’t use the police to pull the cheeseburger out of your mouth or enforce mandatory exercise in support of public health.

It is a violation of individual rights and liberty to pursue such a regimen of coercive intervention.



Related Content:

I am a voluntaryist and you can be too, if you want. - Ross Kenyon
Sandy and Price Gouging in New York and New Jersey - Nick Coons
Changing the World - Nick Coons


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