I don't think anyone's doubting whether a law would be effective or not, obviously if the government made a law that people will not wear baseball hats on Monday and enforced it, the number of people wearing baseball hats on Monday would show a decrease. The question is whether the government has the right to make that law, not whether such a law would work.
The anecdotes were flying. I figured I may as well lay down something concrete.
First I'll address what I view as the most oft-given reason as to why the government shouldn't be able to legislate this: people have a right to not wear their seatbelts and/or the only person harmed is the one who doesn't wear it.
The problem with this argument is one runs into the reality of the fact that others have to clean up the mess and it costs more people money than just the person who dies. Rights are important, but one needs to be able to demonstrate why something is a right in the case that it's quite clear that doing the opposite confers much more measurable benefits.
There's a huge difference between rights to things like freedom of speech, press, and religion- things which overall can be very clearly argued to be beneficial to both society and the individual (the ideal situation)- and the right to be slightly more comfortable or something (I don't know it's rather nebulous exactly what the fuck you have some abstract right to here) at the trade-off of costing others time and money, something which has nearly zero benefit to society, a definite cost to society, and isn't even of any realistic benefit (actually it's almost assuredly the opposite) to the individual in any way, shape, or form either.
I would agree with the assumption that a priori one should not legislate unnecessarily, but once it has been clearly demonstrated that there is a benefit to some form of legislation and one can implement it at very modest and acceptable costs... I see no reason to not be pragmatic (obviously one must be very careful and treat these things on a case-by-case basis). Whether or not to adopt the law in the first place (before anyone had any rules about this or knew about possible unintended side effects) might be a bit more debatable, but a very slight level of comfort in a car for some people is a very low cost. Plus, once you have decent evidence of how it has worked out in some areas... there's no reason to regress or not adopt the law in other areas as if you had never gained a decent knowledge of the effects of the legislation. Common sense also ought to kick in to in this case; we're not talking about contract law, tariffs, financial disclosure rules, or some other policy that can clearly have unpredictable or unwanted repercussions.
Not to mention if you drive on a road there's a good chance it is government owned and maintained so it's not like you are even exercising some right on your own property by not buckling up.
EDIT: almost forgot
Anti-pot commercials are far far away from legal enforcement. They're a form of education and persuasion that only hope to encourage, not force, you to take certain actions, and thus are justified in using appeals for self-interest. Education is vital, even in a society with no laws restricting consensual action, because it tells us why even though we may be allowed to do things like not wear our seat belts or abuse drugs, it doesn't mean that it's a good idea, and hopes to do its best convince us not to make that choice. The difference is it doesn't force us to make that choice. This conception of education jives with even the most ardent libertarians. The problem is that people nowadays who end up getting the raw deal on a risk they took are too quick to shout "I got hurt taking this risk, so it should be illegal for everyone."
Wait, are you arguing that those in favor of legal enforcement would not also use the same argument to justify said laws? Because I was responding to this
Even the regulation and illegalization of hard drugs, for example, is justified in the United States not by the fact that it's bad for you, but because of the other illegal activity that sprout up in association with drug use.
Not that I necessarily agree with the argument I said was used, but it is indeed used despite what you say.
Unless you can definitively link not wearing a seat belt from a young age leading to a life of crime and disregard for the law later in life, I think that there is no more justification for the government to step in here than there is in the government making it illegal to punch yourself in the face.
Blatantly and utterly nonsensical. A) It would be very difficult and costly to monitor, deter, and catch people punching themselves in the face to the point where you would be very unlikely to have any effect whatsoever; there are already cops on the roads anyways. Someone punching himself in the face usually doesn't result in an emergency room visit, the cost of which is fronted by those others than the one who punched himself in the face. C) The frequency of an event matters. People punching themselves in the face isn't really an issue at all. I doubt there are even a dozen people each year who killed themselves by repeatedly punching themselves in the face. People who die due to not having a seatbelt is a number two or three orders of magnitude higher.
Edited by quanta, 06 August 2009 - 11:16 PM.