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Worldview Watch

periodic commentary and analysis on news items from a worldview perspective

 previous issue                                               issue #35  posted 11 /17 / 2013                                           archive of all  issues

 Freedom and Motorcycle Helmet Laws

in the news:  As reported by The Economist in its November 16 2013 issue, American state legislatures are increasingly thinking about the true costs involved before caving it to pressure to repeal motorcycle helmet laws. With respect to head injuries suffered by helmet-less riders involved in accidents, the article notes, "Such patients typically run up $1.3 million  in direct medical costs. Fewer than a third work again." In summing up the opposing sides in this debate, they write, "Libertarians often demand: “Let those who ride decide,” says Jacqueline Gillan, who heads Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, an insurer-funded lobby group. Her retort is: “Let those who pay have a say.”

commentary and analysis (by Stephen P. Cook, project Worldview, I view this issue in terms of freedom vs. restraint. Many years ago Lynton T. Caldwell, in characterizing American beliefs, wrote, "The most pervasive and invalid belief of all is that 'freedom' is free--that is it exacts no price, that freedom exists when each individual does whatever he pleases..." Here the issue involves the freedom of motorcycle enthusiasts to enjoy the feel of the wind in their hair and avoid the hassle of putting on a helmet vs. the legal restraint that government would place on their activity, given the costs to taxpayers of accidents associated with the exercising of this particular freedom. 

In terms of valuing particular worldview themes, those advocating that motorcyclists be free to decide for themselves whether or not to wear a helmet might be motivated by  #19A Economic Individualism, #28A Hedonistic Orientation, #35A Self Reliant Nonconformity, and #50A Libertarianism. They might put down those in government pushing for helmet laws for their  paternalistic #2B I Know What's Best for You orientation and argue that they are capable of making their own decisions. It seems that many freedom loving people I know are also independent, rugged individualists who don't want the government, often with its "one size fits all approach", telling them how to live their lives. 

Ideally, issues involving freedom vs. restraint are resolved by individuals exercising "the freedom to choose responsibility" --meaning they make choices that go beyond their own self interest and factor in society / the common good. If individuals are repeatedly unable to make wise choices--perhaps guided by aspects of #29A The Self Restrained Person where appropriate--then many would argue legislators should pass laws to impose restraint. In economic terms, it seems the unrestrained economic freedom that laissez faire free market capitalists would prefer has long since (to one degree or another) been reigned in by government--some with leaders valuing #49A Social Welfare Statism--looking out for the welfare of everyone. Given the article's tone and the caption beneath the accompanying photo of an unhelmeted motorcyclist--"Born to be wildly irresponsible"--it seems the authors of the article in The Economist leave little doubt as to their position on this issue! 

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