Liberty and the illusion of safety
Look, ma, no hands!
In a previous blog entry over down KDC way, I mentioned that human being simply aren't risk-averse creatures. We maintain a well-developed system for balancing potential gains against potential losses and coming to some sort of conclusion. Mostly.

Of course, we live in a system that by its nature is geared towards the lowest common denominator and the squeakiest wheel. We also live in a society where people like to bitch a lot. This I can sympathise with; "bitching a lot" is pretty much my modus operandi. The difference is, however, that while I would like for people to behave exactly as I want, I'm not arrogant enough to try to force them.

Others are not so kind. The New Yorker's cover debacle is a case in point here. As of when I write this (I'm on the train, so god knows it could change by the time I get home), they're sticking to their guns. I imagine, however, that widespread moaning and pissing will compell them by week's end to enter into the grovelling, dick-sucking mentality that seems to afflict many would-be controversialists when directly challenged. Doubtless they will also issue one of the non-apologies ("I'm sorry you took what I said the wrong way") that are now de rigeur for those forced to appear contrite.

The mentality that it's a good idea for us to think for others is what motivates a lot of counter-liberty laws and edicts. "I can't police my children, so let's force the government to do it for me". "I can't be arsed to watch what I eat, so it must be time to litigate and/or legislate". "I'm too much of an idiot to wear a bike helmet, and/or I'm so much of a cock I think other people need to behave exactly as I do "for their own good", so let's pass a law." Sure. To a libertarian like me, in a nanny state like California, this is anathema.

California's hands-free cell phone law took effect July 1st, along with those in a number of other states. This is, of course, a stupid law. The evidence seems to be lining up that it's the phone conversation that kills you, not how you're carrying it out. Can you seriously imagine anybody trying to pass a law saying Russian Roulette could only be played with a .22 because it was safer that way? No.

My roommate occasionally SMSs while he's driving, which is about as elegant proof as you need that extremely bright people can nonetheless do extremely foolish things. I'm sure if you asked, he would say that he knew what he was doing and was either "perfectly safe" or "willing to take the risk". Who gives a fuck? That's what drunk drivers say, too. But of course people continue to do it.

This comes back to that risk-benefit analysis thing I talked about earlier. The logical thing to do would be to ban all phone conversations. The reasonable thing to do would be to just leave people be--the same as we let them speed, or run red lights, or roll through stop signs--and bap them across the muzzle when their fuckishness exceeds some standard of douchebaggery or they get someone killed. But of course laws are neither logical, nor reasonable, so we wind up with this schizophrenic mess, which accomplishes nothing productive while adding yet more restrictions on what people can and cannot do.

"Yes, Uncle Klis," you may say, while wagging a finger, "but at least they're doing something. Would you prefer they do nothing at all?"

Sometimes I hate people. I have never properly understood this sentiment, which amounts to saying "it's not as important to do something as it is to look like you're doing something"--a pervasive attitude in politics as well as in large bureaucracies. And of course laws pick up their own inertia, such that I doubt any hands-free laws are going away anytime soon.

So just grow a pair, legislative bodies. If you give a shit about freedom, then give a goddamned shit about freedom. If you want to turn America into a fascist state, then by all means go ahead and do it. But stop this talking out of both sides of your mouth crap. It didn't work for Harvey Dent and it doesn't work for you.

La Chevre
17.07.2008 - 2h30
Comrade Alex
17.07.2008 - 7h13

You can use this form to add a comment to this page!




You will be identified by the name you provide. Once posted, comments may not be edited. For markup, use 'bulletin board' code: [i][/i] for italic, [b][/b] for bold, [ind][/ind] to indent, [url=][/url] for URLs, and [quote=Author|Date][/quote] for quotes (you can leave the date blank but you need the pipe). HTML is not allowed. Neither is including your website :)