Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

More simple proof that libertarianism is a crock

The right to ride a motorcycle on public highways without a helmet is a classic liberty claim. So what if it's risky, or the nanny state thinks it is? It's my right to make the choice -- it's my life.

As the linked essay by Busko, et al demonstrates, it is in fact risky, although opponents of helmet laws will often proffer alternative facts. In 1967, under the oppressive rule of Communist president Ronald Reagan, the Department of Transportation issued a program standard making helmets mandatory for motorcyclists, and congress voted to withhold federal highway funds from states that didn't enforce the guidelines. Soon, all but three states had helmet laws. There ensued a sharp decrease in motorcycle fatalities and head injuries.

All glory to Her Holiness Ayn Rand, freedom again prevailed in 1976, when people's choice president Gerald Ford signed legislation repealing the mandate. The following year, motorcycle-related fatalities increased by 23%. Free at last, thank God almighty we're free at last! By the way, just so you know, motorcycle fatalities are 14% of traffic deaths, even though motorcycles account for less than 1% of miles traveled; and motorcyclists are 27 times as likely to die in a crash as automobile occupants. Have fun!

Now maybe you think it's just fine if fools want to kill themselves and it's no business of the government to tell them not to. (I won't speculate about what freedoms you don't want people to have, I'll stipulate for the sake of argument that you aren't an outrageously blatant hypocrite. But do think about that.)

Here's the problem.  Two thirds of the cost of treatment for motorcycle-related injuries are borne by the public, mostly Medicaid. Bikers who are disabled cannot work, and usually become public charges. They, along with the dead ones, no longer pay taxes and their families are deprived of support, may also become public charges, and in any event their children and other loved ones will suffer. While your liberty to be a moron is at stake, so is my liberty not to have to pay for your foolishness.

This is the fundamental problem with libertarianism. All decisions involve tradeoffs between one person's liberty and another's. Your liberties don't stop with you.


mojrim said...

One correction: Evil Commie LBJ was president in 1967.

Technical translation said...
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Anonymous said...

While your liberty to be a moron is at stake, so is my liberty not to have to pay for your foolishness.

Maybe you're on to something, here...

Clearly, the logical conclusion is to have the federal government simply outlaw motorcycles everywhere.

Next, they could force all citizens to drive under 35 miles per hour of not drive at all.

And since more than half of all those people having babies were paid for on the public dole, have them sterilized by decree of Washington if they've made poor education choices in life and can't afford them. Then you wouldn't have to 'pay for their foolishness'.

Cervantes said...

Dear anonymous:

The point is that there are always tradeoffs among liberties. We have to decide, through an inclusive political process, what is and is not worth it. Wearing a motorcycle helmet seems a trivial burden, but the point is, the government doesn't do it only to protect people from themselves; but to protect the rest of us from the consequences of their bad choice. Whether that's worth it or not can be debated, perhaps, but it's never just about "me."

Cervantes said...

Mojrim -- you misread it. The year was 1976, not 1967.

mojrim said...

Cervantes - Second paragraph, second sentence, referring to the evil commie Ronald Reagan as president. He was governor of California 67-75 and president 81-89. I fundamentally agree with you on this matter (as per usual) but little things like that can weaken the argument.

Anonymous said...

We have to decide, through an inclusive political process, what is and is not worth it.

We did. That was my point.

All of this has already been decided through an inclusive democratic process...even the helmet laws.

Perevesti said...

This is a very useful article and desperately useful

Anonymous said...

Would it not be possible to develop a system where you can do any damn thing you want to do, but you would have to insure the rest of us against the cost, statistically speaking, of your doing it?

What Libertarian could object to that?

OK, we'd have to put a price tag on human life (and quality years of life) in order to do that, and that could be a tad sticky.

JenBob said...

There will always be a cost associated with liberty.

It's up to you to decide if your liberty is more important than the cost.