Walter E. Williams

Virginia's secretary of transportation sent out a letter announcing the state's annual "Click It or Ticket" campaign May 22 through June 4. I responded to the secretary of transportation with my own letter that in part reads:

"Mr. Secretary: This is an example of the disgusting abuse of state power. Each of us owns himself, and it follows that we should have the liberty to take risks with our own lives but not that of others. That means it's a legitimate use of state power to mandate that cars have working brakes because if my car has poorly functioning brakes, I risk the lives of others and I have no right to do so. If I don't wear a seatbelt I risk my own life, which is well within my rights. As to your statement 'Lack of safety belt use is a growing public health issue that . . . also costs us all billions of dollars every year,' that's not a problem of liberty. It's a problem of socialism. No human should be coerced by the state to bear the medical expense, or any other expense, for his fellow man. In other words, the forcible use of one person to serve the purposes of another is morally offensive."

My letter went on to tell the secretary that I personally wear a seatbelt each time I drive; it's a good idea. However, because something is a good idea doesn't necessarily make a case for state compulsion. The justifications used for "Click It or Ticket" easily provide the template and soften us up for other forms of government control over our lives.

For example, my weekly exercise routine consists of three days' weight training and three days' aerobic training. I think it's a good idea. Like seatbelt use, regular exercise extends lives and reduces health care costs. Here's my question to government officials and others who sanction the "Click It or Ticket" campaign: Should the government mandate daily exercise for the same reasons they cite to support mandatory seatbelt use, namely, that to do so would save lives and save billions of health care dollars?


Walter E. Williams

Dr. Williams serves on the faculty of George Mason University as John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics and is the author of 'Race and Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed on Discrimination?' and 'Up from the Projects: An Autobiography.'
 
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