Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Seatbelts and Personal Choice

An urban legend tells a story of an anti-seat belt law advocate ironically dying in an automobile accident. Some might find this funny or amusing. I would not.

I believe that there is a legitimate case against making seat belts compulsory. However, my argument is not from grounds of efficacy (which I am ill qualified to argue from), but rather, from grounds of personal liberty.

Indeed, seat belts save lives, and this is difficult to refute. However, this fact has no bearing over the issue of personal liberty. Ultimately, wearing a seat belt should be a choice left to the individual. The individual has to weigh the benefits and costs of wearing a seat belt against the benefits and costs of not wearing a seat belt, according to his own priorities. This final statement is of utmost importance, and is the key to my arguments.

Fundamentally, each person is different, and no two people will see eye to eye over every matter. Similarly, the weights each person assigns to different things will be different.

If someone, based upon his priorities, truly believes that the inconvenience of wearing a seat belt far outweighs the chance of death or disability, then he should not be forcefully compelled to wear a seat belt.

We might shout, "But a life is by far more important than convenience!". Indeed, most people would prefer life over convenience. But then, should the preferences of the majority dictate one's personal matters?

Indeed, the key concept of freedom is that each person is free to run his personal matters according to his personal preferences, no matter how queer and abnormal the preferences seem. We should not seek to make choices for others based on our own non-universal preferences.

In fact, I believe that the last statement is one which is extremely important. One of the major problems with humans is that we tend to believe that we know more than the next person. In our arrogance, we believe our non-universal preferences to be universal and seek to impose it on others. This ought to be corrected. Others should be left to their own devices, even if such devices are clearly idiotic.

Before I end, I would like to clarify a few items. Firstly, the paragraphs above are meant only to introduce the point of personal choice and liberty, and do not represent the entire case regarding seat belts. Secondly, the issue of seat belts is not entirely a personal matter, and does in fact involve other people (although, to a minor degree), hence the arguments from choice cannot be fully applied to the issue. Lastly, I would like to state that I personally do choose to wear seat belts.

The issue of seat belts is of considerable personal interest to me, and I might revisit the issue at a later time to more fully express my views over the matter.

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