Car Guy

Thinking Outside the Helmet

Helmet laws are an insult, particularly to the helmet-wearer.

By 3.3.10

I oppose helmet laws, even though I would wear mine almost all the time, law or not. "Almost" meaning there are times when I'd like to, for example, take a leisurely ride on my antique bike, at low speeds, just cruising along, without a helmet on. I think that's my business and no one else's -- except perhaps my wife's!

People who support helmet laws usually do so on the basis of "more injuries and deaths." Well, that's properly the business of the individual affected and so ought to be his choice. Like eating a nice juicy steak (which we're still -- for the moment -- free to do) vs. eating salad.

Implicit in the opposing view is the notion that the government owns us, or is somehow our parent and thus has a moral right to exercise control over us, "for our own good." But what is government but force exercised by other people? And who are these other people, as Seinfeld might put it?

But what about the costs to society, the advocate of helmet laws will mewl? That's easily answered by rejecting the underlying premise: It is not "society's" responsibility to pay for the consequences of an injury arising from an individual's decision to not wear a helmet (or any other reason).

It is the responsibility -- indeed, the moral obligation -- of the individual.

This business of forcing some of us to provide material benefits to others, to be held responsible for their actions, has got to be challenged -- and stopped. It only empowers the government -- at the expense of our liberties and our pocketbooks. The only people who win are the people who make their living as government drones/enforcers -- and the Maggot Class who look to them to do the dirty work of stealing from others for their benefit.

In my judgment, people should be free to ride helmet-less or not, at their discretion. If injured as a consequence, the consequences ought to be born by them alone and whomever else wishes to voluntarily help out. If some guy busts open his head, hey, I feel bad for him. I hope he's okay. If he is my friend and if I am able to, perhaps I will help him out financially - assuming he needs or wants my help.

But his injury doesn't give him (or the government, acting on his behalf) the moral right to stick a gun in my face to force me to "contribute" to the cost of rehabbing his injuries. If no one steps up to help, if he can't afford to help himself, well, that's unpleasant and tough on him. But it's infinitely better than the alternative -- which is being tough on innocent people who had nothing to do with it. To do so is exactly the same as stealing your neighbor's car (or having government thugs do the deed for you) because someone just stole your car.

It's a form of buck-passing at gunpoint, nothing more. We evade talking honestly about it by speaking in euphemisms about "society" -- and all the rest of it.

But it's bunk.

The notion that the government has a moral right to force Smith to pay for the consequences of Jones' actions is as repellent as the notion that the government has the moral right to forcibly interpose itself between a man and his own best judgment. It is the most basic challenge to the foundation of a free society. A society cannot be free if it forbids the individual to exercise free will.

It assumes, further, that the government is smarter than we and possessed of better judgment. Anyone familiar with the caliber of the typical government employee ought to be severely insulted by this.

Bottom line, we, as individuals have both the moral right to judge for ourselves and we are better positioned to know our own best interests than any self-serving government bureaucrat or politician or "Moms Against This or That."

Prudence says: Wear that helmet.

But the decision is properly no one's to make but our own.


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About the Author

Eric Peters is an automotive columnist and author of Automotive Atrocities: The Cars You Love to Hate (Motor Books International) and a new book, Road Hogs.