Slavery - the idea that one man can own another man - was supposedly abolished by the 13th Amendment in 1865. But laws continue to be passed that, in effect, assert the ownership of the state over our persons. We're not picking cotton or being whipped - but we are being harassed, fined - and even jailed - for defying laws which, at their core, are based on the idea that the state has a claim over our hides.
Consider seat belt laws that empower the police to pull you over and issue you a ticket for not being buckled-up. You haven't harmed anyone - or even threatened to. You might hurt yourself, it's true. But so will being 50 pounds overweight and (for now) no one's being pulled over for that.
It's pointless to deny the merits of wearing a seat belt - just as it is equally pointless to deny the benefits of eating a low-fat diet, maintaining ideal body weight and exercising regularly. The point is not whether a given action or decision is "good for you." It is who should have the final say - you or some busybody with a gun and a badge whose time might be better spent looking for, you know, criminals.
When we turn 18 we're adults as a matter of law and are supposed to be masters of our own destinies. The right to choose (for good or bad) the course our lives will take is the bedrock basic principle of independent adulthood; take that right away and we are reduced to perpetual training wheels - no matter our chronological age.
Not wearing a seat belt may be "unsafe" - but it's not nearly as bad as the suffocating state-enforced infantilism that we get when cops are used not to protect honest citizens from the violence and fraud of dishonest citizens - but to make us do things "for our own good," as if we were little kiddies and they our parents. Even worse, this "for our own good" (or "safety's sake") stuff is purely arbitrary. It all depends on whose ox is being gored.
Not wearing a seat belt can be attacked and punished - but there are far greater threats to safety and well-being. For example, how come it's ok to exercise choice when it comes to diet and exercise - but not when it comes to seat belts?
Perhaps it's because so many of us are overweight, sedentary - and eat like Elvis did during his "husky" period. So, it's ok to be an arteriosclerotic, pre-diabetic, massive health care cost incurring tub of lard - but it's a violation of modern PC orthodoxies not to "buckle up for safety."
It's funny - but the example reveals the hypocrisy and arbitrariness of the way our system works. And how it decides who gets hassled.
After all, there is a clear and definite link between obesity and a steady diet of greasy fast food and an early death from heart disease or cancer. It is an objective "safety" issue with clear ramifications for the general public - since we all get to pay more for health care/insurance and so on because of the totally unnecessary costs imposed by unhealthy, self-destructive fatties who insist on eating themselves into angioplasty.
On the other hand, there is only a potential risk - and a small one, on individual terms - involved with not buckling up. The odds are you won't have an accident - in which case, the seat belt is irrelevant. But when you eat and live like The King - the physical repercussions are much less theoretical. Twenty years of soda pop, french fries and double cheeseburgers will absolutely leave their mark on you; not wearing a seat belt for 20 years may not cost you a thing. No wreck, no problem. And millions of people go their entire lives without ever being involved in a serious accident. Not many people make it through a lifetime of overeating and abusing their bodies without definite consequences.
So, if the measure is going to be "societal costs" - shouldn't we be ticketing weighty waddlers? But I don't support that. The core issue - whether it's what you eat or whether you want to wear a seat belt - is simple: Who owns you?
If my person is my property, then it follows I have the right to use it as I please - so long as no direct harm to others is involved. Not wearing my seat belt falls into that category - doesn't it?
Some might say not wearing a seat belt means I won;t be able to control the car in an accident-type situation where evasive driving maneuvers are necessary. Ok. But the truth is the skill set of the average driver in this country is so low that the concept of "evasive driving maneuvers" is laughable on its face. The typical low-skill American driver is much more likely to freeze, scream - and await the inevitable. Or do the wrong thing. Very few drivers in this country have had professional driver training and are capable of executing accident avoidance maneuvers. It'd be nice - but it's just not there. So that issue's a non-sequitur.
There is the legalistic argument that the roads are public property - and driving a privilege subject to regulation. Fair enough. But so are sidewalks - and fat people can be seen lumbering down them in cities and towns all across the country, brazenly wolfing down their Angus triples and 64 oz sodas without fear of being ticketed. How come the overfed are permitted to flaunt their self-destructive behavior in public, on public sidewalks free of any fear of being ticketed - but it's open season on unbuckled motorists?
The answer is: We're a land of self-deluding busybodies and hypocrites. So long as our sacred cow isn't gored, we don't mind lancing our neighbor's cow. As with the so-called "war on drugs" - which targets some drugs (pot) but not others (alcohol) - it is a matter of laws blowing with the winds of whim. Being fat and unhealthy - or jabbering on a cell phone - is considered ok ... nowithstanding the demonstrable threat to the safety and well-being of "society" both those things represent. But fail to buckle up for safety - and it's a $100 fine.
My first hope is we can repeal all this lifestyle enforcement nonsense - and leave the cops to fight crime. But if we can't have that, I'll settle for fairness. If I have to buckle up for safety - for my own good - then I want to see every person who is sedentary required to show proof of working out at least three days a week. And every person who is carrying more than 20 pounds of lard issued a piece of paying' paper for each pound of excess blubber.
In addition to radar guns and handcuffs, we should issue each cop a set of body fat calipers and a blood pressure/cholesterol meter that could be used at roadside health checkpoints.Fair is fair, after all.