by Robert Arvay, Contributing Writer
You may never have heard of John and Alicia Nash, but they were celebrities. The 2002 movie, A Beautiful Mind, told their story.
In brief, John Nash, a mathematician, devised a method of analyzing data in a way that helps lead to optimal decision making. It’s called the Nash Equilibrium. That may not sound very important at first, but it is one of those innovations that nobody notices, yet everyone depends upon. It is really a big deal.
Unfortunately, and perhaps with tragic irony, John and Alicia Nash made a decision that proved to be fatal to both. On May 23 of this year (the day before I wrote this), they were killed in the crash of the taxi in which they were riding. Riding in the back seat, according to reports, neither fastened their seat belts.
This was a terrible tragedy, and a great loss for the world. It was also possibly avoidable. Many people are alive today because they made the wise decision to buckle up before riding. That might have been the outcome had the Nashes made that choice.
This brings us, as a society, to a decision point, one which perhaps the Nash Equilibrium might help us to make correctly. It is this: should a federal law be passed, requiring people riding in the back seats of taxis, to wear seat belts?
That is what Joe Concha advocates at
Many people will quickly agree with him. If the passage of a new federal law would save lives, then by all means, let’s do it right away. Who could possibly oppose such a law?
Oh. I could.
I always wear a seat belt when in a vehicle, and I always insist that all my passengers do also, front seat and back. Should they exercise their right to refuse, then I exercise my right not to start the engine. Such a dictator I am!
What I object to is not the wearing of the safety belt, but rather, the intrusion of the federal government. Those intrusions have, over the years, brought us to the point where disagreement with controversial government policies can cost one his livelihood, even when issues of safety are not at stake.
I happen to disagree with a law requiring Moslem bakers to bake cakes for same-sex weddings. Forgive me for clouding the issue, but if I say Christian instead of Moslem, the accusations of bigotry are instantaneous, whereas if I say Moslem bakers, then there is at least a moment of confusion and hesitation that at least delays the reflexive anti-Christian bigotry.
I also state, for the record, that Moslems who work in food establishments – and who refuse to handle pork – should be given the same protections afforded to Christians who work in pharmacies, and who wish not to dispense abortion-inducing drugs.
How we got from seatbelt freedoms to religious freedoms may seem convoluted, but the road of freedom does not twist and wind. It is straight and narrow. It is not the role of government to make good ideas mandatory. That’s what people are for. We decide for ourselves. It’s called liberty.
I’m not an absolutist on this. I recognize that there are necessary restrictions on our freedoms. Even those restrictions, however, should be the minimum necessary to bring about a compelling social need, and the greatest of all social needs is freedom itself.
Whereas seat belts are a good idea, making a law requiring their use is a bad idea, very bad. Making it a federal law is a terrible idea. There are other, less intrusive ways to encourage people to make wise decisions without imposing the threat of fines or perhaps even to impose jail time.
How about a federal law forbidding the passage of federal laws that unduly restrict personal freedoms to promote a good idea?