So this past weekend and weekend was especially long for me. Lots and lots of schoolwork, and I have just had my exam this evening that signals the end of that long week.
As a result, I haven’t written anything yet today but I want to keep up with this one-blog-post-a-day thing I am trying to do, so I’m going to write a quick one based on something that was on my mind today that I want people’s opinions on.
Tomorrow in Maryland a new law comes in effect fining people (any people) in a vehicle who are not wearing a seatbelt. Personally, it is at this point that I begin to wonder whether governmental paternalism starts to go too far. Yes, I get it, seatbelts prevent injury and even death in the event of a crash, and I understand why all cars should have them and even why children of a certain age should be forced to wear them. But why should full-grown adults, who are able to destroy their body in many other ways (smoking, drinking, fast food) not be allowed to make the decision that they don’t want to wear a seatbelt?
I understand paternalism in a sense where the danger can affect more than just the one person, like smoking bans inside public buildings. When you smoke in a public building you are not just hurting yourself but also all those around you who are breathing in your smoke. But while smoking in certain areas is banned, full grown adults are still allowed to smoke as many cigarettes as they like so long as it doesn’t infringe on others’ immediate airspace.
Why then are we legally required to wear seat belts? I assume it is a safety thing, and as far as I can tell it is primarily about the safety of the person wearing, or not wearing, a seatbelt. So, why can’t they decide whether or not to risk their lives by not wearing a seatbelt?
If we are going to be setting laws for people’s safety, then why isn’t smoking banned? Why aren’t people banned from eating foods that we know are harmful? Or why aren’t we even forced to exercise? Where is the line drawn? Right now it seems that there isn’t a line and it is a very haphazard set of rules. Let’s ban large sodas in NYC to protect people’s health but still sell them large quantities of alcohol.
What do you think? Should the government impose laws that are aimed at protecting an individuals safety only, or should it be up to the individual to decide what risks they want to take?