osewalrus (osewalrus) wrote,

How To Tell the Smart Libertarian From the Ideological Ignorant Idjit

Did a somewhat longer version of this on my professional blog. But here it goes.

Was reading the latest Darwin Awards collection and found the story of a die-hard against the government fella who refused to wear a seat belt because he opposed mandatory seat belt laws. He died when the car he was in hit a patch of ice and rolled over. The driver and the other passenger, who both wore seat belts, survived with minimal injuries.

It struck me that this was a splendid example of the need to differentiate between the process and the outcome and where too many folks (Libertarian or not) fall down. A smart Libertarian in our story may think the government has no business mandating seat belts, but will make an independent assessment of risk and may (I would say should) wear a seat belt voluntarily because it can be statistically shown to save lives for fairly minimal effort and discomfort. It is the ideological idjit like our Darwin Award winner who refuses to wear seat belts simply because the government (appropriately or inappropriately) says you must.

It is tempting to have the government pass laws that say "you must breath, eat food, and drink fluids" or -- perhaps better -- "you must urinate and defecate at some point in your life" just to further clear the pool of potential voters who find conditioned reflex a preferable substitute for reason. But in fairness, it's not only Libertarians who indulge in such vices. Search any ideological field and you will invariably find a subset of folks who will jump in front of speeding trains if they think liberals or conservatives are telling you not to jump in front of speeding trains. Indeed, in the modern world, given the complexity of information and the sheer number of critical places where voters need to make decisions, I must to some degree rely on trust of individuals and trust of principles or I become paralyzed. But as the Darwin Award winner in question demonstrated, you can take the matter too far.

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