Believing in responsible adults

I’d like to challenge Hawaii lawmakers to believe that we are responsible adults and trust us to make the best decisions for ourselves.

It seems that every time there is an accident, people call for a new law to save us. But what happens when the laws are trying to save us from ourselves?

Why should the government get involved if reasonable adults choose to disregard their safety, as long as children are not present or involved? Each of us must take responsibility for our actions, and in most cases we should not rely on government to tell us how to live safely and responsibly.

In some cases, public safety laws take away our freedom to choose – or rather, take away our freedom to be irresponsible and live dangerously. These laws redirect police resources away from more urgent safety and criminal matters. Even worse, these laws makes us all feel a little paranoid whenever a police car drives by, instead of feeling a sense of safety because of police presence.

“Libertarianism is the view that each person has the right to his life in any way he chooses so long as he or she respects the equal rights of others,” according to Charles Murray, political scientist and author of “What It Means To Be a Libertarian.”

If we apply the standard of libertarianism to our law-making, we could reduce the number of laws, reduce the role of government in our everyday lives, and reduce the costs of government. We would still educate the public about health and safety, but we would limit the number of laws that use the threat of prison or fines to change our behavior.

For example, these four laws don’t harm anyone except the individual who chooses to engage in that activity:

* Trans-Fat and Sugar Bans: If adults want to eat high-fat and high-calorie foods, even knowing that excessive consumption could affect their health, why should our government force them to eat healthier?

* Helmets Required: If adult bicycle and motorcycle riders choose not to wear a helmet, even knowing that helmets could save their lives, why should our government force them to wear a helmet? Helmets should absolutely be worn by children, but adults should be free to choose.

* No Jaywalking: If adult pedestrians choose to walk across the street, without regard for cars or street signals, why should our government force them to use a crosswalk? Children should always use a crosswalk, but adults should be free to choose.

* Seatbelts Required: If adult drivers or passengers choose not to wear a seatbelt, even knowing that seatbelts could save their lives, why should our government force them to wear seatbelts? Children should ride in car seats or wear seatbelts, but adults should be free to choose.

One last thought: Does law-breaking in small ways, especially ways that don’t make a lot of sense for responsible adults and cannot be fairly enforced, just give us a higher tolerance for law-breaking in other ways? What do you think?

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