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Mandatory use of seat belts has saved lives. Some estimates put the number of lives saved at 255,000 since 1975. Objectivists tend to oppose any government safety/commercial regulations a priori and so I wonder how would they think about this issue?

If human life is a value, then mandating the use of belts has clearly had some value. Before mandatory laws, hardly anyone buckled up and some cars had belts and others did not. In fact, in highly enforced states, seat belt use (and therefore the safety benefits that accrue) is several points higher than in states where there is little enforcement. The bottom line is people's lives have been saved and maimings/injuries have been averted.

If Objectivists believe that government involvement in safety issues like seat belts is bad, I'd like to understand what they think a more desirable state of affairs is? While I am uncomfortable with the use of legal force on matters of personal choice, I do wonder whether seat-belt laws are really all that odious in terms of the devastating injuries they prevent? I certainly don't mind being forced to wear seat belts. Is the personal freedom of the ignorant to happily maim and destroy themselves a value exceeding that of saving their lives/preventing their being crippled? If there is a small, fairly cheap safety device that could help 90% of people not die/be crippled, why should government not mandate its use? Why suffer through years of deaths and maimings to prove a philosophical point about freedom of choice?

asked May 12 '13 at 12:47

Danneskjold_repo's gravatar image


edited May 12 '13 at 14:40

Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

Greg Perkins ♦♦

I wonder if the amount of seatbelt use would go up or down or stay the same if 1) government dropped the $30, $40, $50 fines for not wearing them; and 2) government allowed auto insurance companies to retroactively drop insurance coverage of anyone who got in a car accident without wearing one (if that was clearly spelled out as part of the policy the person signed).

Government shouldn't mandate the use of seatbelts, because doing so constitutes the initiation of force. But it's silly to think initiating force is the only way, the best way, or a way, for those who value life to promote it.

(May 13 '13 at 00:36) anthony anthony's gravatar image

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Asked: May 12 '13 at 12:47

Seen: 540 times

Last updated: May 13 '13 at 00:37