a fundamental tenet of conservative/libertarian thinking: engaging in risky behavior with serious social costs is an entitlement.I would've said, "a right," but that word carries little weight in categorically risk-averse America. Adler explains that Some Things Are For Our Own Good:
People who are injured by metal bats, or fall ill from smoking or fatty food, cost the rest of us money. We pay their emergency room bill, their Medicare bills or their Social Security disablity insurance. Only someone willing to forgo those benefits should have the right to also opt out of public health laws like those passed by the New York City Council, or pre-existing ones requiring that motorcyclists wear helmets and drivers wear seat belts.We'd forgo if we could, old boy! Now some people, including dear Jim, noted that there are plenty of human behaviors that one could categorize as "risky," and certainly plenty whose eventual consequences could potentially "cost the rest of us money." Like butt sex, for instance. (Let's pause to note that this is precisely the rationale that prevents "practicing" gay men from giving blood openly--that the downhill costs of screeing this risky group for The AIDS are too high.) Adler replies with a monumental liberal Humbug!
While [Philip Klein of The American Spectator] doesn't subscribe to the homophobic policy position, his comparison suggests an awfully backwards view of homosexuality. Since sexual orientation is part of one's intrinsic identity, banning sodomy is more analogous to banning a religious ritual than smoking in bars or swinging metal baseball bats. But apparently to the conservative way of thinking they are equally deserving of protection, at best.It will be difficult to argue with a man who thinks that biological desire and social ritual are commensurately "intrinsic," but we shall try, dear readers. Here is something interesting about the smoking ban: It is "totally unenforceable because of the infinite number of locations where the act can take place." Have you any idea how many bars there are in the five boroughs? Many people, likewise, drive without seatbelts, talk on cell phones in the car, and will go right on using aluminum bats, if not at the school ballfield, then at the park. If not at the park, then in the backyard. Should the city attempt to enforce the bat ban universally, to take just one example, the "costs" of enforencement will exceed the costs of the occasional emergency room visit by a pitcher with a broken nose.
Klein makes his criticism sound like a serious statement of consistent principle, but one would hope he's smart enough to realize the silliness of this comparison and is really just being facetious. First of all, a sodomy ban, unlike bans on smoking in bars and metal bats in high school baseball, is totally unenforceable because of the infinite number of locations where the act can take place. Secondarily, to enforce it would require invasions of people's personal homes, which none of the New York laws in question do, so the infraction on liberty is clearly an order of magnitude greater. I would not support a ban on smoking or consuming transfats in one's home for this reason.
That's the silly part of the argument. The specious part is the distinction between "one's home" and everywhere else when it comes to freedoms of personal choice. Eating in a restaurant is a private transaction. Playing on a ball team is a personal decision. Athletes risk injury voluntarily. People who eat donuts or, hell, corn bread and biscuits and comfort food of all types, at home or in restaurants, are not operating under the illusion that these foods are good for their arteries. Motorcyclists, helmets or no, get terrible injuries when they wreck. The argument in favor of public health and safety is that a society at a certain level of collective affluence can certainly afford the relatively minor costs of clearing wrecks from the highway and setting broken bones--hell, even giving heart transplants. Curiously, many "conservative/liberatians," from Uncle Milton to Johnny Rawls to Anarcho-IOZ, are basically sympathetic to this view, at least where the truly poor and indigent are concerned (though the gainfully employed ought to pay their own way, fer sher). To take that argument, though, and flip it as an excuse to regulate private behavior, to establish a nation rubric of risks and say that any behavior that may result in public expenditure can be outlawed as a cost-saving measure is positively Hellerian in the grandiosity of its absurdity.