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Posts Tagged ‘switzerland’

Sunset at Rigi

Sunset at Rigi

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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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From the CNN report:

The parents of a 23-year-old rugby player who committed suicide after a training accident left him paralyzed say the decision gave him “welcome relief.”

Daniel James died in a Swiss clinic on September 12, according to a local authority in central England.

But the Worcestershire Coroner Service does not say how James — who was paralyzed from the chest down — got to Switzerland.

British law bars anyone from cooperating with a suicide attempt. Local police say they are investigating.

I do not know if this couple helped their son get to Switzerland. If they did, it was possibly the most beautiful and most painful act of their lives. Of course, in that case, the law will get to them eventually. There will be a trial and possibly a conviction. Those who believe in imposing their value judgments on others will be relieved. Bloggers like me will be mad and frustrated. But eventually the world will return to normal.

[Addendum]:

I believe that suicide is one of the most fundamental rights of a human being. That is not to say I approve or disprove of it. It simply means that I view a person’s life and the decision to exit from it as his most inalienable freedom, one that the government cannot deprive him of in any circumstance whatsoever.

And on a more personal note, it is my preferred (and most likely) mode of exit. In particular, I do not view suicide as an irrational act, though it certainly is one to be taken after great consideration. As for the moment I choose to go, it will be a purely personal decision, involving only myself and perhaps the person closest to me. Those in high office who think they can stop me, good luck.

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