Yahoo News reports the death of a motorcyclist during a protest ride against New York’s helmet laws. While it is certainly tempting to simply cite this as a case of someone “asking for it” and getting it, consider the specifics of this case: Philip Contos was riding without a helmet at this place and at this time specifically because he was protesting against the state. Whether or not he normally wore a helmet, even, is irrelevant. He would not have been riding there and then if not for the state. The sad truth is that protesting laws against risky behavior unfortunately requires actually engaging in risky behavior. I, a nonsmoker, despise anti-smoking laws. How could I protest against these laws, however? By engaging in the banned behavior is the most obvious way. So, too, with helmet laws. At minimum, Contos’s death, whenever it would have happened, would not have happened at that time at that place, under those circumstances, except for the meddling of the busybodies who claim the right to decide what is best for a 55 year old man.
Reason’s Matt Welch criticizes Rand Paul for Paul’s assertion that the right to healthcare implies slavery. While it is true that in minds of many, the term “slavery” specifically refers to chattel slavery as practiced in the United States prior to the end of the American Civil War, the term itself is not so limited. And this is not the first time that a prominent person has used the term in regard to employment restrictions: Curt Flood was well known for saying “A well paid slave is nonetheless, a slave.” The same applies here. Indeed, I have compared modern attitudes and events to slavery myself, more than once. Of course, there are critical differences between Rand and Flood and myself, with melanin levels likely being the most important one. But just as Flood’s comparison in the past was apt, so to is Paul’s comparison in the present an accurate description. It is easy to see that there have been far worse tortures in the past than waterboarding, or even beatings, but I would certainly still call the latter “torture.” So, too, would I call forced labor of any sort “slavery.” Wearing a smock rather than rags does not change the name.
Gizmodo reports on a story from New Zealand about a supermarket which accidentally opened with no employees inside the store. People shopped and checked out using the self-checkout lanes. Half of the people actually paid, but note the explanation as to why the other half did not (emphasis mine):
In fact, after reviewing the tape, a religious studies professor said it seemed like everyone was going to pay until they got stuck at the self checkout machine waiting for an employee to approve an alcohol purchase. Once they couldn’t find an employee, they left with their groceries in tow.
Here we have a case of the government actually incentivizing theft and costing the store money through its moral policing. Without state laws against underage drinking, it is unlikely that stores would require employee approvals for any purchase.
Good’s Cord Jefferson asks: “Should an 11-Year Old Boy Go to Jail for Life?” Read the account. It is horrifying that a boy could do something so evil. My own daughter is 11. I could simply not imagine her doing anything like this. I am sure many of you feel the same. Indeed, the sense that this boy is completely alien to our own experience is one of the reasons it is tempting to support locking him up and throwing away the key. Despite this, however, such a move would do far more harm than good. This is not simply a matter of him being too young to punish. That is perhaps true, perhaps not. Rather, it has to do with the evils inherent with the state monopoly on justice and punishment, and the particular evils introduced when we combine that monopoly with a child offender.
The state, through taxation, separates the consumer of goods, such as roads and schools, from the buyer of those same goods. None of us are customers of a public school in the sense of being able to take our money elsewhere if we get bad service. This causes people to lobby legislators and other public officials and causes a lot of the aggravation that people express when they need the state to do something. But it also, through the criminal justice system, separates the recipients of justice — the victims and families of victims — from the criminals and tortfeasors. This separation has some very significant evil effects of its own.