It is tempting to feel that we can never be safe enough. Any measure that increases our security must be a god thing right? Well, not exactly. I suspect many if not most of us would like to keep some responsibility in our control – we need some real “thrill”. Think of this:
Absolute security would mean that it doesn’t matter what we decide and how we do things – we will never see serious consequences – so why care or be careful? Is this how we want to live or raise our children? Surely not – but where do we draw the line?
For example, today – in many countries, wearing safety helmets has become compulsory when riding a bicycle or downhill skiing. I am not saying wearing helmets is a stupid idea. I am just saying we have lost the freedom and the thrill to not wear a helmet at these occasions for whatever good or bad reason.
What’s next? When will we have to wear helmets when walking on the beach to reduce death by coconut ) or while driving?
Surely the safety equipment manufacturers would love it and a few hundred thousand dollars donated to politicians of both parties (some countries – like the US has only two!) would put some pressure on creating a law to increase our safety.
Here are 7 reasons we should believe to tolerate new freedom smashing legislation such as laws from wearing helmets when walking on the beach to forced vaccinations and more:
- Believe this: The new law allows for effective protection. In other words, the protection will rarely fail when needed. There will be sufficient funding for some universities to scientifically proof that wearing a helmet is safer than wearing no helmet. This will be the most cited argument for any security enhancing new law as it cannot be debated in one sentence.
- Believe this: The law addresses a significant danger/risk. Simple repetition of accidents with horrific pictures of broken skulls in the media would already create that impression. If it ‘s a bad year for coconut deaths, encouraging a coconut accident would require a relatively little “funding”
- Believe this: Most published scientific studies agree with the law promoters. A proper study would consider possible added risks by wearing a helmet and estimate the overall benefit of wearing a helmet.
No real problem to create such a favorable study.Here is how it is done: Law pushers finance 10 studies hoping that at least one could come up with the desired result. The others are simply not published or published in less known journals. This dependency on sponsors and type of self-censorship in science is a known problem but convenient for some.
It is also convenient that we are not encouraged to question authorities or think critically in most education systems. Therefore, few people would even think of any added significant risks e.g. attention affected through overheating the brain thereby causing more collisions with cars or cyclists, people testing their new limits, feel too safe, limited view etc. The majority of people can easily be convinced by diverting them on the reduction of numbers of “death by coconut on the beach”.
- Believe this: The small price is worth the enormous benefits. This is a well-known and only minor marketing challenge for a larger company.
- Believe this: You need a law, the liberty to choose is not enough for you . Critical thinkers could argue that educating the population about newly discovered risks and informing them how to prevent these may suffice. However, educating the population requires advertising expenses for the government while a little law with a significant fine would actually create income even for the helmet manufacturers.
The corporation or government would first ignore this inconvenient topic. If this does not work, we are told that our safety in this case is not our responsibility anymore but has now become the government’s responsibility.Us people cannot be trusted as there will always be people who do irrational things (especially in countries with hundreds of millions of people). Furthermore, why should others bear the hospital cost of some irresponsible individuals?
Something the new-law pushers don’t want to hear then is Benjamin Franklin warning the American people: “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
Every law reduces our civil rights & liberties and laws are rarely – if ever – removed. So laws are not unlike the accumulating remains of old software that eventually kill the effective operation of an old computer. Unfortunately, the freedom that true democracy once provided cannot be simply reinstalled like an overcrowded operating system.
- Believe this: The new law requires only a minor inconvenience compared to the benefits. Severe resistance here is rare and if necessary can be overcome by applying the new law, say helmets on the beach, at a young age. Parents have a natural tendency to be super-protective and feel bad easily if they don’t follow official protection guidelines.
- Believe this: Everyone or at least most people are ok with the new law – so why would you have a reason to be against it? A media favourite – as it is easy to create that impression on TV or in newspapers by simply repeating these messages and giving them authority by putting them into headlines. Most “new-law-receivers”, especially the otherwise more critical educated kind, are much too busy with more important things like long working hours, struggling relationships and abundance of free jaw dropping entertainment. Moreover, most people still trust authorities way too much as was shown in the famous Milgram experiment already in 1961. See the long version of it here and the short animated version below:
In addition to the authority effect, media abuse another, equally strong, effect in all humans: The conformity effect – the social pressure to go along with the masses even if we disagree. See the Asch experiment below or a more elaborate explanation here.
Here is one that combines both effects effectively showing how things become “traditionally correct”.
As our current global economic system only rewards those who increase profits every year, we see new “security” laws like these continue to pop into our lives:
- heavy promotion to use ineffective and largely untested vaccination against (not so) dangerous diseases like regular flu or H1N1 – swine flu. – done.
- humans going though x-ray machines or being sexually molested before boarding an airplane – done.
- “patriot” act and other freedom smashing legislature – stripping American people off many privacy rights including uncensored Internet and giving the current and future presidents dictatorial power – done.
- fluoridation of drinking water and toothpaste even for small children – done.
- voting for a president to continue terrorizing other countries to trigger more terror attacks – done. Probably again in 2012.
- perform cavity / anal / vagina searches of airport passengers – not yet done .
- enforcing helmets on bicycle (which leads to replacing bicycles with more profitable car sales and less healthy/fit people) – done in countries like USA, Australia – in progress in Europe
- helmets for “walkers” – not yet done.
References and notes (updated 24 Aug 2011):
Sources for information on freedom smashing legislation proposed, in force and bills to fight them
- Activities of freedom smashing legislation including proposed bills in the US http://www.activistpost.com/p/documentslegislation-research.html
- Congressman Ron Paul’s site up to date info on important proposed legislation discussed in the US Congress: http://www.paul.house.gov/#
 Trees must go as Queensland guards against death by coconut see The Telegraph (UK)
 It seems there is currently too little profit in selling plastic gloves compared to the revenue losses due to fed up passengers not flying. Also the currently perceived inconvenience factor along with some sexual and religious taboos may save us from this business project for the moment. However, once the people are accustomed to sexual groping and the fear / security factor is driven high enough there may be an expensive high-tech internal scanning probe available to scan our inner organs for explosive implants – from the inside.
 In addition to making driving more convenient than bicycles, that require helmets and have fewer “trendy” gadgets, in many apartment complexes people are not allowed to park their bicycles outside. They have to be taken upstairs as I have experienced myself. The first reason they gavewas that it was “unsafe”. When I volunteered to take the risk of deft, I was told it is actually not allowed, according to the “bylaws” of the complex. It soon became obvious the reason here is not to ban bicycles but to keep the views clean of bikes that could hurt the eye and its perceived property value.
Here are some questions to think about:
- Why do we not yet need to wear helmets when driving?
- Why is gambling and smoking legal in many states in the US and Australia if the government really cares about our safety and health?
Strange things humans do.