The other evening at dinner, I was complaining about yet another erosion of our freedom – I can’t recall which one; there are just so many these days – and my 8-year-old son said that laws that keep us safe are a good idea. In an effort to avoid the unpleasantness of a future liberal in the family, I asked him to give me an example.
He said that seatbelt laws were good because seat belts keep us from flying out of the window in a car accident.
I said, “Well, remember that commercial that says that kids should ride in a booster seat until they are 4′9″? Should they make that a law?”
“No. That would be stupid!” (He’s not yet 4′9″, but he is over 8 years old, the age up to which Vermont requires a booster seat.)
“Why? It would keep you safer, like the commercial said, and you just said that laws that keep us safe are good.”
“Yeah, they are, but that law would be stupid?”
“Why? Because you don’t want to have to sit in a booster?”
“Yes,” he reluctantly replied.
“So how do you decide what safety laws to make? If you don’t want someone telling you that you have to ride in a booster seat, why do you have the right to tell someone else what to do to keep them safe?”
At which point he brilliantly concluded, “I guess I don’t.”
We all talked about it for a while longer, including my husband and my 10-year-old son. The kids came to the conclusion that laws that keep us safe from other people hurting us are okay, but that we really don’t have the right to make laws just to try to keep people safe from getting themselves hurt.