People say America is a free country. But what if you want to drink, have a cigarette or make a bet? Government often says "no" to protect us from ourselves.
It's as if the government is still run by the Puritans who settled this land four centuries ago. They said pleasure and luxury are sinful.
Today's government has a better argument when it seeks to restrict activities that might harm others, but I notice that even then, it often focuses more on things that upset modern-day Puritans.
Drinking and driving can be fatal. But government data show that sleeplessness and driving are just as deadly. Having kids in the back seat, looking at GPS map instructions, fiddling with the radio and eating while driving are often deadly, too.
But sleeplessness doesn't seem as decadent and irresponsible as drinking. Nor is there an easy way for police to test for such discretions -- no breathalyzer test for excessive radio tuning.
Why is the DUI test all about alcohol level, rather than behavior? Government keeps lowering legal blood-alcohol levels -- recently from .10 to .08 -- and now they want to lower it to .05. But some people are good drivers even after a drink or two. It would be better to punish people for "reckless" driving.
Alcohol-related driving deaths are down. Groups like MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) credit tougher DUI laws, but it's not clear that they are right.
Maybe people are simply more aware of the dangers, thanks to publicity from groups like MADD. Safer car designs helped, too. Non-alcohol-related driving deaths are also down.
Stats that some cite to claim alcohol is the cause of a third of highway accidents are misleading. That just means that a third of the people had alcohol in their systems; it doesn't necessarily mean alcohol caused the accident.
I don't suggest that drinking and driving is safe or smart. But the puritanical obsession with drinking distracts us from other ways we could make driving safer.
At least DUI laws seek to protect people from others. But government puritans go well beyond that, banning activities that harm only the individual engaged in them -- like gambling.
Polls show 70 percent of you support the current ban on Internet gambling.
Why? It's true, for some people, gambling becomes addictive. Some wreck their lives. But for most people, gambling is entertainment, practice in using strategy and an excuse to socialize. A little risk is fun. And the laws don't stop the activity. They drive it underground, where it's run by criminals.
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