David Stokes

At Combest this morning, we see reports of two bills being considered by the state legislature that go directly to how free we are, could be, should be or should not be?  Are we free enough to make our own desisions as to the safety of our own bodies?  Must we wear a helmet while riding a motorcycle?  May we drive a car, or ride in one, without a seat belt on?  Far too many legislators think it is their job to keep us safe from ourselves, and far too many citizens are happy to let others dictate those issues for us. 

The seat belt issues is moot for those of us in St. Louis County, as the County Council has already passed an ordinance mandating use of seat belts by everyone and giving authority for Police to pull you over and cite you for not wearing one.  I commend some legislators in the state house for resisting giving police the authority to pull you over for not wearing a seat belt.  I also commend those legislators who are moving forward with repealing the helmet law, although again local ordinances would still enforce that imposition here in St. Louis County.

Part of freedom is the freedom to make mistakes and poor choices.  I think not wearing a seat belt is a poor choice, but I don't want to force that view on others.  Supporters often pose these safety laws as economically necessary, because taxpayers pay for the medical expenses of those hurt without wearing helmets or seat belts.  As the very same people who argue that are often the ones who support more socialism in medicine and higher taxes in general, I applaud their impressive synergy in advancing their goal of more state control of every aspect of our lives, while I abhore those beliefs. 

People should be as free to do what they wish as long as they do not harm someone else.  That sounds easy enough, and most people would agree with that statement in simple form, but the catch is in how you determine 'harming' someone else.  Are you harming someone if their taxes go to pay to fix their mistakes?  Why not change the laws regarding others paying for your medical care if you get hurt without wearing a seat belt?  I would prefer that to imposing another mandate on everyone.  The list of issues that these questions apply to is a long one, and will likely be the subject of another post in the near future.         

About the Author

David Stokes
David Stokes was a policy analyst at the Show-Me Institute from 2007 to 2014 and was director of development from 2014 to 2016.