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Posts Tagged ‘personal responsibility’

In London (my British friend informs me) it is illegal to ride a bicycle without wearing a helmet. I find that amusing because Londoners can jaywalk legally; so it is the precise opposite of California, where helmets are not mandatory for adult cyclists but jaywalking is illegal. Actually I think that both jaywalking  and riding without a helmet should be legal, but at least (careless) jaywalkers (sometimes) disturb cars by coming in their way and can potentially even cause other people to have accidents. A cyclist without a helmet, on the other hand, is endangering no one but himself; the probability that a cyclist ends up disrupting traffic by some stupid maneuver is not really decreased by forcing him to wear a helmet. So I am not terribly bothered by jaywalking regulations while a helmet mandate would drive me crazy. I don’t think my friend even got the argument; he was clearly arguing from the point of view of relative safety, not individual liberty.

I suppose we cannot escape the nanny-state wherever we go but some laws are more oppressive than others. To give a closely related example, American laws do mandate seatbelts while driving (unless you live in New Hampshire!) but that affects me less personally because first of all, even if you violate this rule it is virtually impossible to get caught by a cop for it and secondly, I would anyway wear a seatbelt most of the time irrespective of the law. Bicycle helmets are another matter — I do not wear them unless I am planning to ride on a busy road for an extended period of time, and more importantly a cop can see from far whether or not you are wearing one, thus making it very easy to get caught.

And you see, there is this little complication: having a paternalistic rule imposed on me offends my morals very strongly. So in short, cycling in London would either make me vulnerable to lots of fines or make me very very angry for a significant part of the day. To save my sanity, I would therefore not cycle. And I really like cycling. 

So, as I informed my friend, the London helmet rule is sufficiently disconcerting to me that I will never accept a long-term position there (of course, even without that rule, Britain is one of the most unlibertarian places in the world). Thankfully, my google searches have so far showed no evidence that I am required to wear a helmet while cycling in Switzerland. In fact I have learnt the happy news that in Denmark, Netherlands and Switzerland — which I have previously mentioned in this blog as probably the three most libertarian countries in the world from a personal issues standpoint — almost no one wears helmets while riding a bike.

It may be a small matter to most people but it’s a big deal to me: the fact that I can bike around in Zurich without going crazy makes me very happy.

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County sheriff sitting on an ATV tries to warn young, fit, surfers out of the water, but the surfers wind up rescuing the deputy. OMG, this is so funny!

This video makes me angry. Some idiots decided to drink merrily on the seafront while the hurricane approached and later had to call 911 to be rescued. Ultimately they were airlifted to safety by the coast-guard.

I think it is perfectly fine if people decide to take their chance with a hurricane and ignore mandatory evacuation orders; but please be aware of the dangers and the consequences. If you decide to drink beer at the fishing pier after being repeatedly begged to leave and told umpteen times that the storm surge is going to sweep you away — do not call later for help. Millions of dollars of taxpayer money are wasted and other lives put at risk in rescuing those who take foolish decisions. It also makes it easier for the government to pass nanny-state laws which takes everyone else’s freedom away, including of those who really value this freedom and know the meaning of the term ‘personal responsibility’.

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This is very depressing news.

The Dutch cabinet has proposed a ban on the sale of all hallucinogenic “magic” mushrooms because they could induce life-threatening behaviour.

A bill will now pass to the Dutch parliament, where a majority of lawmakers are expected to back a ban after a teenage French girl who had eaten mushrooms died jumping from a bridge in 2007.

Magic mushrooms are one of the safer drugs — they are non-addictive and less harmful than legal drugs like tobacco. Millions of people have tried them without doing anything remotely approaching jumping off a bridge, and in many cases have found the experience enriching. Yet a single isolated incident seems to be enough for the Dutch to ban it for all. Are the simple concepts of personal liberty and the individual bearing the consequences of his actions so hard to grasp?

As Andrew Sullivan, in whose blog I found this news, writes in this post

When even Amsterdam is becoming a center for extinguishing individual freedom, you know our age is getting darker.

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