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I feel a need to develop a coherent position on government intervention on self-inflicted/risked harm.  At the moment:

  • I have little to no problem with an outright ban on driving without a seatbelt 
  • I would have a problem with an outright ban on alcohol or smoking. 
  • I would have a problem with a ban on skiing, mountain climbing, (general risk activities) 
  • I do not have a problem with 'sin taxes' to discourage alcohol/smoking. 
  • I do not have much of a problem with user fees for rescue services for some clearly defined risk activities (mountain climing etc) 
  • I abolutely have a problem with any departure from no-fee medical services for any reason, self-inflicted injury, risk-taking injury or whatever. 


    I'm pretty sure I want to limit the governments ability to dictate my behaviour, short of behaviour that causes harm to others.  So I'm pretty sure I want to defend the proposition that the Government shouldn't limit/ban/impose costs on behaviours that have negative impact only on the individual doing the activities. 

    As against that three arguments
  1. Whole premise is wrong - there is a principled argument in favour of a democratic governnment taking steps to prevent citizens from harming themselves.
  2. Whole premise is wrong - there is no principled argument against a democratic government taking steps to prevent citizens from harming themselves. 
  3.  Facts are wrong - in a society with a publicly funded health care system, there are no truly self-regarding harms, because hospital/doctors/rescue etc all a shared tax burden therefore its always the governments business.


    aggh.. must do actual work.  I'll comb back to this later.

Date: 2006-11-04 01:04 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kmfda.livejournal.com
Scary territory. At its broadest level, this would introduce problems of who gets to define "risky" behavior.

It still astounds me that they're working on banning smoking here, on the grounds that it's polluting and hazardous to one's health. Wouldn't want to contaminate the air on that patio next to four lanes of traffic! YEAH! Morons.

Date: 2006-11-04 04:24 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fredsmith.livejournal.com
I got all interested in it but then ran out of time/thoughts. blah.

I think the thing that's really bugging me is that I really have no patients for people who rail agains the injustice of being 'forced' to wear seat belts, and yet I really don't think the government should be able to totally forbid me from smoking. And I can't come up with a relevant distinction. So that makes me think it's just the addiction talking. damme.

Date: 2006-11-05 02:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kmfda.livejournal.com
The main argument in this province is "seatbelts save lives" but I've heard it posited that seatbelts keep you alive, so you can waste time and tax dollars with injuries that are more infrastructure-reliant than just shovelling your corpse off the highway. They're trying to argue that smoking is a drain on the already-overtaxed health care system, but with the aforementioned patio as case study, I find that just doesn't wash.

What about the steps being taken (mostly in the US) to ban "fattening" foods? Or the school in Boston that outlawed tag? Someone's got "our best interests" in mind, but I always want to know which someone and who they really represent.

Date: 2006-11-10 02:34 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fredsmith.livejournal.com
The proposed trans-fats legislation was actually the kick-off for this whole debate, that started at lunch at my work.

with the trans-fats thing, it's actually even more complcated, because trans fats are typically found in really cheap food which is more likely to be consumed by low-income families with less access to health care insurance.. so maybe the gov't SHOULD step in to ensure that the poor have equal access to 'healthy' food than the rich.

Except maybe that's paternalistic bordering on fascism telling people what they can and can't eat based on income.

who the hell knows.

Date: 2006-11-11 12:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kmfda.livejournal.com
At the grocery store we used to go to in Houston there was a whole aisle of cheap food. I was like, "chocolate chips for $1.00!" and my friend was like, "put that back. There is no chocolate in those. This is where you come if you're on food stamps."

Remember that Wendy's ad where Dave says, "and two slices of cheese!" like it's a selling point, and the cowboy says, "American cheese?" "American cheese" meant food stamp cheese -- salt and oil and orange, but no actual cheese in it.

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