November 18, 2009

Free Dumb

Have you ever watched someone eating and driving, or mountain biking with no helmet, or listening to Hannah Montana and just wanted to reach out and smack them?  Seriously; what's wrong with some people?  Isn't there anything we can do to curb this blatant idiocy before they all start to breed and promulgate the "stupid" gene?

Sadly, the answer appears to be "yes."  Here are a couple of the more blatant examples from recent legislation:
-Driving with a Cell Phone
-Smoking in Restaurants

The banning of these things is atrocious, and patently un-American.  Don't believe me?  Read on, my pinko-commie-fascist friend!

Driving with a Cell Phone
Yes, driving must have rules for safety.  No, I'm not advocating for a complete abolition of traffic safety regulations and stop lights.  What I'm getting at is that when the government bans cell phone use in the car, it is arbitrary and intrusive.  In short, it is legislating behaviour and not action.

We all know people who can drive, talk on the cell-phone (non hands-free, no less), blare the radio, and eat a burger at the same time all while staying in their lane and avoiding an accident.  Contrarily, we also know those who could have hands at 10 and 2, no superfluous noise, no passengers, and no controlled substances in them and still manage to hit a parked bus while going the wrong way down a one-way street.  The behaviour of the second driver is much more conducive to good driving, but the actions are not.

Now, does a cell phone distract someone while they are driving?  Of course, to a greater or lesser degree.  So does the radio, a passenger, the events of your day, billboards, a passing S-10 slammed with 24" rims, and a three hundred pound man in spandex trying to jog.  With all of these distractions (and more), how do we ensure that people are being safe while driving?  Do we institute a law that bans looky-loos from rubbernecking at accidents or joggers?  Ban eating in the car?  Outlaw car radios?  Ban cell phone use?  Limit vehicles to the driver only to avoid distractions from passengers?

The answer is what we've already done.  You can't (or, at least, shouldn't) legislate behaviour; only actions.  We implement laws stating how one must drive; stay in your lane, speed limits, the person on the right at a four-way stop has the right of way, etc.  If you can follow all of those while playing pong on your modded DS, so be it.  If you can't follow them even while doing everything you learned in driver's-ed, prepare for tickets, insurance claims, and friends always offering to drive.

Smoking in Restaurants
But, but second hand smoke kills!  Think of the poor waiters and waitresses that are dying just because they went to work!  The children; think of the children!!!!!  You don't hate children . . . do you?

Here's a novel idea for all those (including me) who don't want to dine or work in a dingy, smoke-filled restaurant or bar: don't.  Go somewhere else.  Do you know what happens to businesses that have people that won't patronise them due to a policy of theirs?  They change the policy or go out of business.  It's called "voting with your feet," and it's even more effective than real voting.

But don't you, the waitress, and the children have a right to not smoke if you choose not to?  Of course.  At the same time, the owner of the restaurant has a right to allow smoking in their property.  Should you refrain from dining there, both sets of rights remain intact.  Should you be forced to dine there, or the owner forced to ban legal smoking there, one or the other's rights have been infringed.

If you infringe upon another's rights to life, liberty, and their pursuit of happiness, you have crossed the line from simply exercising your rights to outright bullying.  Laws that infringe on one person's rights to stave off the possibility of having another's violated (and not the imminent possibility, like traffic laws) are merely state-sanctioned bullying.  This is why so many people are against cell-phone laws, seat-belt laws, smoking bans in restaurants, and the like.  (Disclaimer: follow the laws, people.  Just because you disagree doesn't get you off the hook from following it.  But, we do have a system in place to change the laws.)

The bottom line in all this is that you have the right to be an idiot.  You have the freedom to be dumb.  You can't (constitutionally) legislate someone out of being stupid, but you can legislate against things stupid people do that affect the rights of others.  No, talking on a cell phone while driving does not affect anyone's rights.  No, smoking legal substances on private property does not affect anyone's rights.  But banning them does.

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