We cannot outlaw stupidity

I often hear the argument that we should not try to regulate people’s lives so much. They should be free to choose behaviors or actions that a more reasonable person may not make. That is all well and good, but there is one major stumbling block to this thesis – we cannot outlaw stupidity. And, to the extent behaviors or actions are taken that will either cost others to repair or that might impact or be harmful to others, then we need to have some regulations to not only protect people from themselves, but also protect others from the unwise actions of a few.

Seat Belts and Motorcycle Helmets

I have paired these two items together as they are related. I think some may not like the requirement to use seatbelts, but it is more universally understood that this saves lives. Yet, some still don’t wear them.The same could be true for motorcycles helmets, but some states have relaxed this requirement. That is poor stewardship at the state level. Why do I say this? If you are on a motorcycle and crash, you will either die or be so severely injured, that medical costs will be significant. And, you may still die. First, if you are without insurance the cost of your medical care is borne by taxpayers and insured patients through allocated indigent costs. Second, if you have coverage, you are leaving the added cost to your family to take care of you and pay for deductibles, co-insurance, etc. The same holds true for seatbelts. For a good discussion on the topic check out http://diatribesandovations.com/2013/05/12/0512-sun-diatribe/ for her post last week called “Diatribe: Six (Sad) Reasons People Might Not Wear Seatbelts.”

Texting while Driving

Some states have begun to intervene on limiting texting while driving. It is long overdue. A statistic this week said more teenagers are now killed in car accidents while the driver is texting than when the driver is inebriated. Also, more teenagers are injured as a result in the same comparison. Being a parent, seeing the devastated parents share the final important words that had to be texted by their child before he or she died breaks your heart. When your child does something very foolish and lives that is one thing, but when your child does not live as a result, it leaves you so distraught over “what if I had said not to do it one more time?” Teenagers are impulsive and will act foolishly. That cannot be stopped. But, we can make it illegal and maybe, just maybe, that will save a car load of seventeen year olds.

Payday Lending

This is a predatory lending practice that should be outlawed. Payday lending is very close to usury and we know how Jesus felt about usury and money handlers. And, If you like Dante’s Inferno, there is a special level in Hell for these folks. Yet, they persist and our conservative and error prone legislature in NC wants to allow them back into the state. Last December I wrote a post on the vagaries of payday lending which you can go to with this link: https://musingsofanoldfart.wordpress.com/2012/12/02/pay-day-lending-there-is-a-reason-they-spam-you/. The problem is the average Joe does not know how bad these arrangements are and they can get over their head very quickly. Hence, regulations are needed to prevent them from loaning to people or they need to be severely, and I mean severely restricted and subject to the same limits as banks allowing for an acceptable margin for riskier loans. You should also note, payday lenders have a habit of preying on our military families setting up shop en masse outside of a base taking advantage of one spouse, while the other is overseas.

Gun Ownership

Let me close with a discussion on this topic. Since guns are part of our culture, we are never going to outlaw guns in our country, yet we need tighter controls than we have. This is not a fishing license and when you get outside of a NRA rally, the majority of gun owners and most Americans concur that tighter restrictions are needed. As evidence to my argument and in support of the theme of this post, note the following three stories all of which occurred in the last three weeks.

– Five-year old child kills two-year old sister with rifle made for kids and sold as such.

– Eight-year old child kills five-year old cousin with a 22 Rifle.

– Eighty-eight-year old man kills eighty-year-old female roommate over an argument over his beer drinking on Sunday morning when she returned from church.

Unfortunately, these stories are not a surprise or that unusual in the US. We lead the civilized world in child gun deaths and all gun deaths by far. In fact, 87% of all child gun deaths of the top 23 countries in the world occur in the US. That means 87 out of 100 occur here, with 13 out of 100 occurring in the other 22 countries.

Gun ownership is serious business. We should require background checks on all gun purchases with no exception. And, if someone downloads this plastic gun and uses a 3D printer, then they need to register that purchase or go to jail. I would go further and require training as it is obvious from the above the parents owning these guns are akin to a monkey with a hand grenade. They will live with their tragic mistakes for the rest of their lives, but to be frank, they should be tried with involuntary manslaughter for leaving a loaded gun around. Our society owes it to these kids to protect them from irresponsible parents or parents who made a horrible, but preventable mistake. I would ask a jury to decide their fate between the two.

We need regulations as we cannot outlaw stupidity. Also, many services and product sales are complicated, so we need governance over these sales. That is a key reason we have consumer protection laws as many less than financially astute people may be wooed by promises of more money, better returns, better results, etc. and make a very foolish choice. In truth, many of us make less than informed choices. We trust the commercials, we trust the words of people in suits and ties, we trust more than we should. We need to ask more questions and, if we don’t feel comfortable, we should find someone we trust to ask them for us. In short, we all have varying degrees of stupidity, even the smartest people among us. Since we cannot outlaw stupidity, we certainly need to protect us from ourselves and each other.

20 thoughts on “We cannot outlaw stupidity

  1. I’m especially passionate about not texting while driving. Yesterday, a driver here hit three school girls in a cross walk after school. He was texting! They are all expected to be okay, thankfully.

  2. Studies have just recently come out where even hands off interface with other objects cuts the drivers awareness by at least 50%. Calif is considering a bill to outlaw all moving conversations, etc. I so go for it!

    • I agree, but conversations restriction may be tough. Thinking about other things or listening to the radio, also can cause that 1/2 second distraction.

  3. Where would we be without stupidity? Pure intelligence, or, a kind of intelligence that operates on empirical evidence, or, on the direct experience of incoming facts and information alone would surely lead to madness. Our ability to believe the unbelievable and create a reality to suit our needs at the time is as human as opposable thumbs. Beyond that… how much of what we do even comes out of our conscious minds? How much is totally unconscious processing?
    Sorry btg, but, short of moving to the planet Vulcan, and I don’t think you would like it, you are stuck with (and in) a species that likes its reality as rock solid as Silly Putty. The good simply comes with the bad Old Boy.

    • Mrs. N!!! I have missed you. I hope you are OK. I wrote a post based on a book called “Habits.” To your point, we do many of the things in life based on habits. Some are good habits and some are bad habits. I think if we can help people break some bad habits, even if by law, then we can be better for it. Look at the significant compliance with the seat belt law. Yes, we have people making stupid decisions, but it is now a habit for many. But, you are right, it is an uphill climb for many. Welcome back. BTG

  4. i had not even thought of accidents caused by texting. i did see someone riding a bicycle down a (quiet) street a few weeks ago. i snapped his photo, to the amusement of friends standing nearby, but the boy never saw any of us! i remain amazed at how hypnotized people seem when they are staring at their phones.

    • It is indeed scary. Then, downtown or in parking lots the pedestrian texters jaywalk without knowing and here comes traffic. At least the drivers know they are driving a car. This is a bad trend. Have a great weekend.

      • Years ago I would say to my family about the television, “It’s a drug! You’re watching drugTV!” I see the same thing happening with the telephones. People stop interacting with each other, and they zone out. With GPS devices, they’re also losing their sense of direction – or never developing one!

      • You right on both counts. I was in a city that I knew some the other day, but turned off my GPS to purposefully navigate and learn the directions and feel of the city.

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