Friday, June 17, 2005

Where I conclude with a rhetorical question

Next time you roll your eyes when Jay Jardine talks about lethal force underlying everything the government does, think back to this story:
The province's civil-liberties director is condemning a three-day jail term served by a Kelowna man for not wearing a bicycle helmet

Michael Hein, 19, got out of jail Tuesday after he was arrested Saturday for riding his bike downtown without head protection. A judge sentenced him to time served and fined him $35 for breaking the city's helmet bylaw.

I realize that many Canadian adults, when polled, cannot distinguish between, "Do you think it's a good idea to wear a bike helmet?" and "Do you think there should be a law requiring people to wear bike helmets?" - which is obviously the only reason why helmet laws ever gain popular support. I wonder what the results would be if the question was, "Would you support a bike helmet law if the penalty for multiple infractions was jail time?"
Judge Wilf Klinger said he was concerned about Hein's "attitude and unwillingness to abide by this bylaw."

No comment. Worth noting also, since it's been a hot topic these days, that this story also contains the best non-economic argument for the complete privatization of health care I've seen in ages:
[Bylaw enforcement officer Kurt] Szalla argued wearing helmets saves tax revenue because the health costs of treating a head-injured cyclist can be huge. He pointed to a homeless cyclist struck by a car at Harvey Avenue and Abbott Street last year who is "still in a vegetative state."

Set aside for now whether this is actually true; Andrew Coyne has written frequently that helmet laws discourage some people from cycling at all, many do not replace this physical activity with anything else, and thus become less healthy, with all the attendant pressures on the health care system.

What we have here is a bylaw enforcement officer, pretty much the lowest incarnation of state power, justifying locking someone up for three days because of a higher moral imperative: maybe saving the public health care system some money. How far can that logic extend, I wonder?


At 6:51 a.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting post. As far as I know we do not have helmet laws for motorcycles in Manitoba, and none for bikes. I have no problem with that except for one thing. If you make the decision to ride without a lid, and you do get hurt, you should have to bare the cost of treatment. That way you get to make all of the important decisions on your health and welfare. If you had to pay, you may be more likely to consider protection then not, I think. And it would not be stupid state sponsored nanny-ism!

At 11:27 p.m., Anonymous Blue Cross of California said...

Great blog I hope we can work to build a better health care system as we are in a major crisis and health insurance is a major aspect to many.


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