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libertarian view on seat belt/ helmet laws

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Mike Posted: Tue, Jul 6 2010 5:00 PM

Please help me understand the libertarian view that seat belt/ helmet laws are an infringement on rights.  we sign a contract with our driver’s license to obey traffic laws etc. and the streets are not our private property. Are not seat belt / helmet and cell phone laws consistent with contract laws and the same as stopping at a red light? . Would not private roads have similar restrictions for safety reasons?

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Sieben replied on Tue, Jul 6 2010 5:04 PM

Libertarians think that in principle these kinds of laws make sense and would be strongly encouraged on a free market for roads. In order to reduce traffic accidents reasonable speed limits would be enforced. People might be required to have car/life insurance since driving is so dangerous to yourself and others, and the cheapest life insurance policies would require people to wear seatbelts since the minimize the insurer's liability.

But no. We would oppose going out and attacking the patrons of a private road, who for some reason, didn't have any rules of the road.

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My opposition, at the very least, comes a lot from the laws being almost universally applied, and enforced by threat of imprisonment, loss of wealth, or bodily harm to the offending person. I would care less if these policies were enacted on private roads, as I would not feel obliged to pay their fee and accept their services. As things stand now, we have the choice of either making the roads more universally liberal, or illiberal. Thus I say, less is more.

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DD5 replied on Tue, Jul 6 2010 5:16 PM

 

That roads should be privatized (off the hands of government completely) is the only view/position that is consistent with libertarian thought.  There is no freedom of contract when it comes to current government roads because it prohibits competition and compels all of us to become its "customers".

 In the free market, property owners of roads would set whatever rules they deem are necessary in order to maximize their profit.  End of story.  Personally, I think most of the current laws and regulations wouldn't stand the market test for one second.  On the other hand, there are probably many other types of more useful and efficient rules that entrepreneurs would discover.

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I don't think private roads would have different laws. I just don't think they'd have laws with the exception of a speed limit, if anything. The only time I wear my seatbelt (if I'm not driving, that is) is if I'm on the highway or something. Seatbelt laws don't really do anything. If parents don't teach their kids how to wear a seatbelt, they're fools.

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Joe replied on Tue, Jul 6 2010 5:57 PM

don't studies show that seat belt laws are harmful?  People feel more secure and actually drive more recklessly and get in more accidents.  Ok, because you have a seat belt on, maybe you wont get hurt as badly, but the same can't be said for pedestrians.

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Joe replied on Tue, Jul 6 2010 6:00 PM

Also, I think a lot of laws, or at least the enforcement of them is really for government income reasons not for safety reasons.  More reasons to pull people over, more ways to collect money.

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Wibee replied on Wed, Jul 7 2010 7:12 PM

Mike:

Please help me understand the libertarian view that seat belt/ helmet laws are an infringement on rights.  we sign a contract with our driver’s license to obey traffic laws etc. and the streets are not our private property. Are not seat belt / helmet and cell phone laws consistent with contract laws and the same as stopping at a red light? . Would not private roads have similar restrictions for safety reasons?

 

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Wibee replied on Wed, Jul 7 2010 7:13 PM

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I actually think private roads might have rules about seatbelt and helmet use, though it would probably be more of a suggestion that they don't really enforce (I doubt they'd have private police/security guards patrolling for drivers who aren't wearing their seatbelt).

Another issue that I think is interesting -- Lew Rockwell wrote an article a little while ago that was against anti-texting while driving laws. I understand the opposition to increased state control, but I don't get the point of opposing something that would probably happen with private road ownership anyway. Not wearing a seatbelt only hurts the person who chooses not to wear it -- texting while driving endangers others.

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texting while driving endangers others.

So does blasting the radio and singing along, eating an Egg Mc Muffin, or turning around to yell at your bratty kids. Each time someone does these while driving though, they aren't necessarily driving erratically, so I can't see them being banned. There could be an extra fine for having been doing something distracting attached to actually driving poorly.

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None of these prevents you from keeping the eye on the road.

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MaikU replied on Thu, Jul 8 2010 2:19 AM

It should be suggestional, not enforceable. It is even impossible to enforce so I think market will just leave it out for everyones' choice and well, there would probably be signs which would encourage to wear a seat bell or helmet.

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Merlin replied on Thu, Jul 8 2010 4:16 AM

Well said, Joe!

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What the hell kind of 'contract' is this?  The state steals your money, prohibits you from building other roads, then requires a 'license' to use the roads they forced you to pay for.  Then to get this contract, they make you agree to follow their rules. 

I see no reason, by the  way, that private roads would require seatbelts.

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Sieben replied on Thu, Jul 8 2010 7:43 AM

Health/life insurance would probably reduce your premiums if you did.

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Seatbelt laws and texting-while-driving laws are completely different.  Private roads may well choose to enforce texting laws, believing that it decreases the chance of accidents, and that its customers will value this safety measure and continue to pay to use the private road rather than a competing road which may charge a lower toll but does not enforce texting-while-driving ban.

Seatbelt laws, on the other hand, have nothing to do with the safety of others.  The only person being put in danger is the person who chooses not to wear a seatbelt.  Most libertarians believe that for someone to have commited a crime, another person must have been a victim.  Otherwise there was no crime.  Therefore not wearing a seatbelt cannot be considered a crime.  Now, private roads may choose to enforce seatbelt laws as a condition of the agreement with drivers to use the road, but this seems far less likely than a texting ban, simply because the road's other customers will not likely care whether or not other drivers are wearing seatbelts, so it would not be economical to devote resources to establishing and enforcing seatbelt rules.

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cporter replied on Thu, Jul 8 2010 8:16 AM

Mike:

Are not seat belt / helmet and cell phone laws consistent with contract laws and the same as stopping at a red light?

No. It isn't because of the content of the law. It isn't even because there are no alternative roads, which could certainly happen in a free market. It's because the government uses coercion to make itself the sole provider.

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Naevius replied on Thu, Jul 8 2010 9:06 AM

we sign a contract with our driver’s license to obey traffic laws etc.

You know, I cannot for the life of me remember EVER signing a contract that said anything like this. Even if I did, it would still be under duress--and therefore invalid--since I had a gun pointed to my head should I drive without a state ID card.

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