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Canada’s "Blacklock Principle" soon to be the US’s?
Posted by: McQ on Tuesday, March 11, 2008

In the past I've made several attempts to point out that once government has control over your health care, it will use all sorts of justifications and excuses to exert more and more control over your life as a result.

As libertarian, I don't wear seat belts because the government says I should. I wear them because I think they are a critical safety device for any rational human being who drives an automobile. I feel the same way about a motorcycle helmet and would wear one even in a state which doesn't require them.

In both of these cases I think the choice to do so should be mine, not government's. But as you'll see in the following story, the rationalization for taking those choices away from you once government pays for your medical care is quite easily done. From Canada's National Post:
The Ontario Superior Court on Thursday rejected a Sikh man's claim to a religious-freedom exemption from the province's law on mandatory motorcycle helmets. Supporters of safety as the holiest of political principles upheld the ruling as a triumph of reason; Sikh organizations denounced it as an act of naked discrimination against their faith. Few stepped forward to defend the idea that an adult in a free society should be able to wear what he wants and take the risks he wants where only his own body is concerned.
Of course the last sentence could be written about any number of laws in this country as well. However, as you'll see, the possibility of even more restrictions are only a court hearing away when government "health care" is put into the mix:
For 60 years or more, libertarians and conservatives have been arguing that government programs intended to promote the public welfare inevitably end by restricting freedom more and more: as the state does more for you, it finds itself doing ever more to you. Who would dare challenge that premise now, in the face of Judge James Blacklock's decision? The man made no secret of the chief pretext for his ruling. Motorcycle riders who don't wear helmets are more costly to the medicare system; therefore, in the name of reducing those costs, the government is free to require the wearing of helmets, even if that conflicts with a fundamental Charter right and interferes with the most personal and intimate sort of decision-making conceivable.
You already see signs of this happening here. I've mentioned the various obesity laws state legislators have tried to pass. Then there is the transfat banning in NYC and many other legal attempts to regulate your life with an eye on saving future health care dollars. The question isn't whether government will try to pass these sorts of laws, it is only to what depth and detail they'll go to control you life.

In the case cited here there are obviously a number of people who will support the court's finding as a "common sense" verdict, whether medical costs were cited as a reason or not. But that misses the point. Whose life is it? And if this is reasonable, why, as the author asks, wouldn't the following be as easily rationalized for the very same reason?
And if you are a so-called liberal, and you consider yourself satisfied that Mr. Badesha has lost nothing that society is obliged to regard as important, you had better be sure you can win the same argument when it comes to the goring of your own prized oxen. Are there any public health consequences to unrestricted marijuana use? The manufacture and sale of pornography? Cheap no-fault divorce? Your next cup of fair-trade coffee with double cream and sugar? Anyone want to apply the Blacklock Principle to legalized gay sex and see what the bottom line says? Do you want a full risk accounting made of your next weekend ski trip to Whistler?
The Blacklock Principle - unfortunately it is a principle I forsee coming to a court near you sometime in the not too distant future.
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I agree with the libertarian viewpoint, that the government should not be regulating things like helmets. However, this gentleman’s fight was not one about individual liberty to make his own safety choices but rather, one which centered around religious freedom to be exempt from the law which the rest of us must follow. Most of the commentators I heard were in support of repealing the law altogether, but objected to making an exemption for Sikhs.

If the man had been fighting to get the law repealled outright, he would have found a lot more support for his cause.
 
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