by Luke Setzer
[Authors Note: This letter was written in response to AAA's defense against my first letter.]
Dear Ms. Weiss:
Thank you for taking the time to respond to my initial letter regarding seat belt laws.
I feel that I did not make my original questions pointed enough, so I am taking the time now to reply to your letter dated March 25, 1998.
I noted in my original letter that the "problem with loss of health and life would be individual problems and not 'social' problems if not for the Marxist-style collectivism that mars our nation today. Public hospitals, heavily regulated insurance industries, and other government meddlings have totally bollixed the system."
Following from this fact, I argued "that AAA should lobby for alterations in insurance and tort law that would decrease benefit payouts to those who fail to use such protections" as seat belts and motorcycle helmets.
You seemed totally to miss these points in your response, as you stated, "No society can afford to pay the cost incurred by risk takers. People who believe they should be free to decide for themselves fail to recognize that the decision not to wear safety belts affects everyone through higher insurance premiums, higher medical cost, and higher taxes." You further contended that "[w]e all pay for the costs of these crashes in the form of emergency medical services, police and fire rescue personnel, higher insurance premiums and the list goes on."
Beyond these factual arguments, you used the "populist" argument that "the most recent survey of AAA members in Florida [showed that] 77 percent indicated that they support standard enforcement of safety belts." You also resorted to the "emotionalist" argument by affirming, "Far more significant are the emotional costs to the victim's family and loved ones."
First, let me address the "factual" argument by asking a simple question: Does AAA support the forced collectivism of health care? In other words, does AAA support public hospitals, egalitarian health-care regulations, and other government compulsions that drag the healthy and self-responsible into the same cost pools as the unhealthy and irresponsible? If so, then it is quite logical for AAA to want to force irresponsible people to try to take better care of themselves. However, I maintain that AAA is not addressing the root cause of the so-called "high social costs" of accidents involving unprotected persons. Instead, AAA has let itself fall into the same concrete-bound, expedient, range-of-the-moment type of thinking that has ensnared so many people around the world. I insist that the root cause of all these "social costs" is the aforementioned government compulsion.
I invite you to imagine for a moment a world in which all health care and even emergency services were totally privatized. There would be absolutely no tax dollars forced from anyone's pocket to pay for hospital buildings, doctors' salaries, insurance premiums, ambulances, medicines, etc. People who wanted to visit a doctor would have to pay for that visit from their own accounts. Furthermore, medical insurance would also be totally private, and insurance companies would be allowed freely to discriminate based on whatever criteria they deemed profitable. Thus, people who demonstrated a lack of self-respect and self-care through dangerous lifestyles like drinking, smoking, sky-diving, and lack of seat belt usage would have to pay commensurably higher premiums than those who purposely lived safely. Likewise, the insurance companies could also discriminately not pay benefits to those who did not take necessary precautions to which the customers had originally agreed--such as the use of safety belts. Finally, tax laws would be rearranged such that employees rather than employers got tax breaks for health insurance premiums. This would give employers incentive to pay employees in actual dollars rather than subsidized premiums and would shift the burden of self-care onto the shoulders of individuals.
Along a similar line of thought, imagine a world in which lawsuit awards were curtailed by the lack of self-care practiced by the alleged "victim". I can hardly imagine a better motivator to take care of oneself than the knowledge that a lack of such care would result in impoverishment when rendered permanently injured and unable to collect damages from other parties involved.
I hope you can see that the root cause of these "social costs" is not the lack of laws, but the overabundance of them. The medical costs would be individual problems, not social problems.
Next, let me address the "populist" argument by asking another simple question: Is it not possible that, because of AAA's influence on its membership, that the membership fell into a lock-step vote for the policies that AAA itself advocates? Widespread respect and recognition surround AAA, so it should come as no surprise that the majority of the membership has a trust for what AAA says. Nevertheless, if a small minority can see through AAA's policies as superficial rather than fundamental, then that small minority might be able to start a campaign to sway AAA to alter its legislative policies.
Finally, let me address the "emotional" argument with yet another simple question: Who is responsible for managing the individual's emotional states? If the individual experiencing grief and sorrow is not responsible for managing those troubling emotions, then who is? The hard reality is that no one can legitimately own another person. Nearly each of us on this planet is involved emotionally on a daily basis with friends, family members, co-workers, and loved ones. Despite this involvement, the fact remains that every individual is morally an end in himself, not the means to others' ends. The relationships are the means to the ends of the involved individuals. Should one individual perish tragically, it is up to the other individuals to recover from their grief. Life is not fair. If we begin holding everyone responsible for managing the emotional states of his neighbors, then we relegate to the moral trash heap any notion of self-responsibility.
Please give these concepts some serious thought. I honestly believe that if you think this issue through to the hard essentials, you will see the logic and clarity of my philosophy. When you do, I hope you will share these ideas with the legislative policy makers at AAA.
For more information on this self-responsible philosophy of living, visit my "Attitude Adjustment" web site at http://ddi.digital.net/~setzerl/index.htm.
This page was last updated 07/02/00 01:50 PM