Thursday, May 19, 2011

A Letter to Constituents from Miss Nanny State

The last major item in Issue 18 is titled, “A Letter from the Governor of Connecticut.” This piece includes - you guessed it - a letter from the Governor of Connecticut. This letter begins with that most endearing of endearments - Dear Constituents.

Now, you're probably thinking that anytime a government official sends a letter addressed in this manner, it can’t be good.

And you're right.

In this letter, dated July 29, 1985, Governor William A. O’Neill is rationalizing his state’s recent seat belt legislation. His arguments generally focus on what he considers to be his responsibility: ensuring the safety of the state’s citizens.

I’ve always thought it was kind of odd when an official says they want to ensure someone’s safety, while at the same time pointing a government gun in their face.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against seat belts. I always wear seat belts. The point is whether or not government should create laws mandating such actions.

And in this piece a fellow by the name of David Solan replies in detail to the letter, giving his reasons why the Governor is misguided. The Governor rattles off various statistics in his letter and Mr. Solan responds back with some statistics and questions of his own.

While that may be useful and important, I have found this sort of response only leads to a "my statistics are better than your statistics" game and generally doesn’t get anywhere, which is why I always try to focus on principles. And Mr. Solan must have felt the same because his closing paragraph hits upon principled points:

I have a question for our good governor. By what moral right do you propose to treat people as if they were children, attempting to protect them from themselves? Liquor and cigarette smoking and crossing the street can also be shown to be dangerous, under certain conditions — would you ban these along with non-seatbelt wear¡ng? And if you wouldn't, dear governor, then pray tell us what principle you would use to determine where you would stop? Try to get a straight answer from O'Neill on that one. But don't hold your breath.

I think the part about cigarettes is interesting considering the changes that have taken place since with smoking laws. (Although I do understand the the justification that is used is the potential harm to others in second-hand smoke, it still seems relevant here, considering how the laws force the private business owner to not allow smoking rather than letting him make a decision for himself whether or not to allow smoking inside his business.) Solan writes this like he can’t imagine that happening and yet here we are with quite a lot of changes around smoking.

I guess once Miss Nanny State starts working, she just doesn't know when to stop.


A couple more notes on this issue:

  1. “By Way of Explanation,” is merely a message from Carl explaining why it has been more than 6 months before this issue was published. For one thing he became engaged. So I guess his readers could excuse the tardiness.

  2. Finally, Carl writes a follow up to the “Freedom as Self-Control” article. It’s short enough that I just decided to reprint it here:

    In my article in Issue #17, the point was made that there is a direct relationship between the fact that each individual is a self-controlling entity and the voluntaryist insight that all human organizations and institutions require the consent and cooperation of their participants to function. The purpose of this short note is to elaborate on this idea.

    In examining Rose Wilder Lane's The Discovery of Freedom, her statement — that some people could be physically coerced into giving their consent did not alter the fact that submission to authority is always voluntary — was highlighted. At first glance this seems contradictory because if coercion has been used or threatened, how could the subsequent behavior be termed voluntary? This is what I wish to explain.

    Ms. Lane reasoned that submission to authority is voluntary because individuals control what they do (even when they are coerced). I accept her use of the word "voluntary" but it leads to the tautology that all human action is, by its very nature, voluntary. To distinguish between what a person does willingly (without the threat or use of violence) and what that same person does when confronted by the use or threat of violence, I think it is important to introduce the qualifiers "coerced" and "uncoerced" to differentiate between human action which is freely taken and human action which is only undertaken as a result of duress. When a kidnapper threatens to kill your wife, unless you ransom her for $10,000, you voluntarily turn over the money; but your consent has been coerced because of the kidnapper's threat to kill her. When you purchase a car for $10,000, the car dealer has obtained your uncoerced consent because there has been no use of, or threat of, violence. In both cases your tender of the $10,000 was a voluntary act, but in the first instance your consent has been coerced, while in the second instance your consent has been uncoerced.

    The parallel between these example arid our acceptance of the State should be obvious. Although our consent may have been coerced by State threats, ultimately our submission to the State is voluntary because we are self-directed and self-controlled individuals.
    I would like to extend my thanks to Pat and Kevin Cullinane for helping me clarify these ideas. •—Carl

1 comment:

Paul said...

When the Feds, via the states, wanted to shove the mandatory seat belt laws down our throats they promised that the seat belt law would not, and never would be 'primary'. That is they would never stop you to see if you were wearing your seat belt, but they would only enforce this law if they stopped you for a primary offense, like speeding. They lied. They now set up 'click it or ticket' Soviet-style checkpoints and use the seat belt pretense as a law enforcement fishing expedition to check for insurance, guns, etc.
How can you tell when a politician lies? His / her lips move.