Non Nobis, Sed Aliis – or Else!

Email Print
FacebookTwitterShare

Epiphany
on I-95

Driving
back into the oxymoronic "Free State" of Maryland recently,
I was struck with the first sign of altruistic tyranny. It had been
there for years. Indeed, I had commented on it frequently — ridiculed
it, actually — just not in this new-found context.

The
unholy marriage of Altruism to Tyranny would produce a union not
unlike the late Samuel Francis' idea of Anarcho-Tyranny – only
nicer. It comes in the exchange of the State telling you in velvet-lined
words to sacrifice your rights, freedom, individuality — or else.
Here is an example:

Welcome
to Maryland, the Free State

Please buckle your seat belt

We care about you

And it's our law

The
translation is Altruistic Tyranny:

We are soooo
concerned about you,
do
as we say or we'll slap you with a
huge
fine and expensive points to your license.

"Seat
belts save lives" is not a slogan to trifle with. Those annoying
statistics pretty much conclude lives are indeed saved and injuries
reduced when seat belts are fastened in a conscientiously applied
program of careful driving and regular use. There is, though, one
niggling number in those records that's bothersome. When the propaganda
touts "In 72% of all fatal accidents, the deceased were not
wearing seat belts," that strongly suggests the remaining 28%
who died were buckled up at the time — in accordance with State
law.

This
raises a pertinent question: Would those so dearly departed be with
us today if they had civilly disobeyed the state's Altruistic Tyranny
law and just sustained, say, "serious injury"? Unfortunately,
we will never know. We certainly can't expect any reputable agency
to offer even verifiable conjecture that might significantly contradict
the empirical wisdom of the State, now could we? Let's take a peek.

The
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) report on
highway fatalities and seat belt use for 2002 showed "48,250
people died in traffic accidents. Of that number, 19,103 were not
wearing seat belts." Now imagine the effect of this PSA (Public
Service Announcement) played on the radio:

"According
to the NHTSA's most recent statistics, 60% of highway fatalities
were people wearing their seat belts!

So buckle
up, everybody! Even though seat belts might not save
your life, we still care about you – and we'll ticket you
anyway if you don't obey."

The
NHTSA doesn't offer any figures citing how many of the 29,147 dead
seat belt wearers might be tooling around today had they not been
forced under penalty of law to buckle up – nor are there figures
showing how many of the 19,103 equally dead non-seat belt wearers
may have survived had they been wearing their seat belt, voluntarily
or not. NHTSA also doesn't number the number of people who are very
alive today specifically because they left their seat belt in the
Off and Unbuckled position.

But
the central issue is not whether "seat belts save lives."
Available statistics seem to indicate wearing one tends to increase
your chances for survival and, maybe, prevent sustaining a serious
injury. "Seat belts may save lives" is much more
accurate but a lot less motivating (or reassuring) than the current
slogan. And it doesn't play well into the Nanny State regulatory
mind-set of the imperial government.

The same NHTSA report reveals the State's condescension and parental
position:

Convincing
the American public to wear seat belts is a top priority for former
emergency room physician,
Jeffrey Runge. Dr. Runge is now the Administrator for the NHTSA.
He is pushing for Congress to give states incentives to pass bills
that would make not wearing a seat belt a primary offense. This
means that a driver or passenger can be ticketed for not wearing
a seat belt. The ticket would not have to accompany another violation,
such as a speeding ticket.”

In
an accompanying study by The Reliability Center, Inc, a Virginia
based consulting and training outfit, V.P. Robert Latino, Sr. fleshes
out the elitist perspective:

Wearing a
seat belt these days is commonplace. Most of us feel awkward when
we do not wear seat belts today. However, there is apparently
still 25% of the driving population that feel they do not need
to wear safety belts and their conscious decision is costing the
rest of us billions of dollars per year. It would also appear
that we feel we as a country, need to further regulate in order
to enforce compliance to this common sense
requirement.
(Emphasis mine.)

Damn
those 25%!

Personally,
I don't "feel" anything about seat belts or "as
a country." I think as an individual and, as such, retain
an inalienable freedom to choose with the understanding and acceptance
of the consequences — good or bad — which will result from my decisions.

You
may have surmised correctly I eschew seat belt use.

(I
won't bore you with the gory details of being forced into a highway
barrier at 70+mph by a weaving 18-wheeler. Suffice to say, my car
split in half, did a 360, tossing your humble writer across the
highway into a ditch, landing with a neck broken in three places
and few other lacerations and contusions. Had I been wearing a seat
belt, this article wouldn't be nearly as entertaining since my half
of the car stopped quite suddenly, thanks to a conveniently located
concrete wall. The impact relocated the driver's seat to the trunk.
Had I been buckled in, I would have been a bright red stain on that
wall and you would be reading someone else's work in this space.
Oh — the offending truck driver didn't bother stopping. That's OK
though – I didn't regain consciousness for 6 weeks to express
my undying gratitude.)

Maryland
is among a growing number of states that now make failure to don
your seat belt a "primary offense," meaning cops can pull
you over and ticket you just for the heinous crime of driving around
unbuckled. Luckily, most of our Boys in Blue have better things
to do but when did "selective enforcement" become comforting?

In
Feeling
Your Pain
, James Bovard reveals we can thank our empathetic
President, Bill Clinton who pumped adrenalin — and our tax dollars
— into willing bodies of police departments to make sure you and
our wee ones would come to no harm — or else!

The U.S.
Department of Transportation (DOT) under Clinton awarded tens
of millions of dollars annually to local and state police departments
and highway patrols to set up roadblocks and fine all violators
of mandatory seatbelt laws. DOT' s website warned that the
feds have "zero tolerance for unbuckled children." 
DOT gave bonus awards to local and state agencies that inflict
the most tickets on citizens.  The agency also suggested
offering free hats, T-shirts, and coffee mugs to “enthusiastic
officers who are personally committed to increasing seat belt
and child safety seat use” –  i.e., who write the most tickets…

Naturally,
the children were the pretext for this expansion of government
power.  A press release from the 1998 crackdown on seatbelt
violators proclaimed that the campaign  “represents the largest
coordinated effort by law enforcement to protect children in America’s
history.”  Apparently, nothing government has done in the
last two centuries is as benevolent as making parents pay $50
for unbuckled kids.  Yet, while children are ritually invoked,
the vast majority of tickets are written to nail adults not wearing
seatbelts….

A 1998 DOT
report to Congress proclaimed that “highly visible enforcement
. . . is more effective because the perceived risk of receiving
a seat belt citation is increased, even if the actual risk is
only slightly higher.” Thus, the federally funded roadblock campaign
is an exercise in mass deceit. The feds presume that people are
fools who must be continually frightened by government agents
or else they will all go plunging over a cliff to their death.

Recently,
the Maryland legislature made it legal again for motorcyclists to
zip about, unfettered by a coif-destroying helmet. When it comes
to the possibility of sustaining serious bodily injury, where would
you rather be: wrapped inside any make of auto or straddling a 500
cc engine protected only by Wranglers and a "If You Can Read
This, My Wife Fell Off"" t-shirt? One is left to conclude
that Maryland only "cares" about people already safely
tucked inside a car than those enjoying the occasional bumble bee
in the teeth. Motorcycle riders are free to make their own decisions
about personal safety despite their bodacious exposure. Hmmmm…maybe
the repeal of the helmet law was really retribution for all those
years of noisy biker rallies during legislative sessions demanding
an unencumbered cranium.

Parents
can also be on the receiving end of tickets, fines, even serious
pokey time for not cinching their under-age tax deduction in a (state
approved) industrial strength car seat which must then be properly
strapped (according to state instructions) in the properly bolted
(according to state specifications) back seat. This location is
only appropriate since so many children started life back there
anyway. The state supersedes parental responsibility without assuming
any of the burden should the little tyke make a premature exit from
this life as the result of severe Following Too Close and Mom's
ewe-like obedience to the intrusive law. Curiously, States so concerned
about a kid's scraped knee or more serious injury also maintain
abortion is legal and a matter of choice. Seat belts…helmets…car
seats…abortion – apparently not all choices are created equal
or left to individual purview.

When
this subject rears its ugly head on the air, it invariably elicits
comments like: "The
insurance claims you make for the injuries you get from not wearing
your seat belt make my premiums go up — so it's just fine, fine,
fine with me that cops can give idiots like you a ticket for being
so stupid." Just as invariably, I tend to reply: Some insurance
companies are refusing injury claims if the injured was not wearing
a seatbelt at the time said injuries were sustained. Since an insurance
policy is merely a contractual agreement to terms and limits between
the insurer and the insured, a company could make benefits payable
(or not) on any basis upon which both parties agrees. Don't like
the terms? Take your business to an insurance company that recognizes
your freedom to choose – as well as your right to be stupid.
Higher premiums, you say? Well that's the price you pay for this
corner of the free market. Now all you have to do is convince your
state representatives to change the law to get the cops off your
back.

On
that note, maybe some gutsy, clear-thinking legislator will take
a cue from this aspect of the Nanny State, demand repeal of the
Anarcho-Tyranny law and introduce the Legislator's Responsibility
Act. It would work like this: since Congress and states are so quick
to pass these in loco parentis type laws, supposedly protecting
us from our terribly irresponsible selves, politicians who vote
"Aye" will be held personally and financially responsible
for the "unintended consequences" of any over-reaching
statute. When anyone is killed because, say, state-required seat
belt use prevented them from possibly being thrown free from their
vehicle before it slammed into a wall, possibly saving their life,
all lawmakers who voted in favor of the law would be held personally
liable for significant financial damages awarded to the survivors.
Large minimums would be established. No longer holding office would
not absolve a former legislator from his voting record. Similarly,
governors and former governors would be held responsible for signing
the stupid bill into law in the first place. Overridden vetoes would
exonerate them — and automatically double the fine of the representatives
who voted accordingly.

I
won't be holding my breath, having already suggested this brilliant
idea to those (allegedly) representing me here in the "Free
State." None of these highly skilled elected officials has
any intention of introducing my proposed legislation. However, they
did seem to like the part about my car slamming into the wall.

March
10, 2005

Brian
Wilson [send him mail] is
a talk show host, author and speaker. He’s heard on better talk
radio stations across the country through his Vacation Relief Service
and most recently vented his libertarian views on KSFO/San Francisco.

Email Print
FacebookTwitterShare
  • LRC Blog

  • LRC Podcasts