Posts Tagged ‘safety’

Chuck Hurley’s appointment as National Highway Traffic Safety Administration head is a troubling one. Read this great piece by Radley Balko to find out why.

As for MADD, they are a perfect example of an organization whose nanny-statism has crossed the line from being annoying to what I can only succintly describe as evil.

[In case anyone is wondering, I do realize that highway and traffic restrictions affect people other the driver, and thus are not necessarily paternalistic. My comments above concern only those positions held by MADD (and others of its ilk) that are either purely paternalistic or so unreasonable that they can only have been motivated by paternalistic concerns.]

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Ski helmet poll

This poll depresses me. The state by state breakdown is revealing though. New Hampshire, Colorado, Montana and Oregon are red as I expected, though I am a bit surprised to see California that blue.

Anyway, motorcycle riders have resisted mandatory helmet laws in more than twenty American states despite overwhelming public support for such laws. So perhaps there is still hope.

And besides, this news indicates that Swiss skiers almost unanimously believe helmets and such should not be compulsory. Heh.

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Radley Balko reacts to the Pentagon plan that would have 20,000 uniformed troops inside the United States by 2011 trained to help state and local officials respond to a nuclear terrorist attack or other domestic catastrophe.

I predict that while now couched in terms of the necessity for a ready response to a cataclysmic terrorist attack, within five years there will be calls to use these forces for less urgent matters, such as crowd control at political conventions, natural disaster response, border control, and, inevitably, some components of the drug war (looking for marijuana in the national parks, for example).

I completely agree. Not all government measures are necessarily prone to the slippery-slope effect. Effective and unambiguous boundaries — such as constitutional rights supplemented by tough laws — can indeed limit the scope of state action. Unfortunately, this particular plan is precisely the kind that will become a monster. If domestic laws were different, victimless crimes legalized, an expanded right to privacy enshrined in the constitution, civil liberties protected strongly, things may have been different. But in the current setup, any measure that further militarizes domestic security must be opposed. We don’t need more armored tanks in the hands of the police.

National security and public interest have always been the favourite phrases of those who advocate increased state power. Yes, security is important. But at what cost?

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In my previous post, I expressed my distaste for mandatory helmet laws and criticised them from a libertarian perspective.

However, it also seems apt to point out here that as far as things like helmet and seatbelt laws are concerned, there exists a middle path between coercive paternalism and complete unregulation, namely what Thaler and Sunstein call libertarian paternalism. For instance, one could have motorcycle helmet laws that allow riders to go without a helmet but only if they get a special license. To qualify for the license, a rider would have to take an extra driving course (and perhaps submit proof of health insurance). It would involve no extra tests, and getting this special license would not really be harder than getting the more regular license. However, due to the power of inertia in human behavior, and the tendency of individuals to go with the default, many people would opt to get the regular license. This system would enable people to ride without a helmet if they really want to but would also incorporate much of the safety gains of current laws.

(And I promise this is my last post on this topic today.)

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As usual, Jacob Sullum expresses the libertarian viewpoint eloquently:

The number of fatal motorcycle accidents rose in 2007 for the 10th consecutive year, hitting 5,154, 7 percent higher than the 2006 total. [..] Although advocates of helmet laws will be inclined to blame their repeal in several states for the rising motorcycle fatalities, the chief culprit recently seems to be higher gas prices, which have encouraged people to take advantage of motorcycles’ vastly superior fuel efficiency. [..]

Motorcycle riding is inherently dangerous. While wearing a helmet reduces the risk of certain injuries, research suggests the overall impact on fatalities is modest. The unimpressive numbers are one reason motorcyclists have been so successful at defending their right to decide what, if anything, to wear on their heads. “We are the only industrialized country in the world where there is an organized effort to weaken or repeal motorcycle helmet laws,” complains Russ Rader of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Is that a sign of backwardness or a point of pride? [emphasis mine]

How I feel about the last question will be obvious to regular readers of this blog.

I hope that most Americans feel similarly. Judging by the immense popularity of paternalists like Mike Bloomberg, I fear that is not the case.

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