Where is the Line?
Although there are many different ideals in the United States and around the world today, it is not a stretch to say that the government is in place to make the environment we live in better for the whole. Where the political theorist John Locke believes that the end of government should be in its protection of peoples right to life, liberty, and property, how do we know how far this should be taken? Mentioned in the following video are some examples of the grey area associated with establishing just what these limits should be. If the government’s main goal is to save lives, then moving the national speed limit to 25 miles/hour will also do the trick. Road traffic accidents account for approximately 2.09% of all deaths per year [Wikipedia], a lower speed limit would, without a doubt, reduce the number of lives lost on the road. Why do we not push for this then? My opinion is that, even though it may seem crude, there are benefits to being able to quickly get from point “A” to point “B” that outweigh the increased risk of death. Some may argue that the seat-belt laws or smoking bans do not affect the routines of our day-to-day lives such as that of the theoretical speed limit law, but consider where the differences are made. Is it the government’s job to promote life or is it its job to promote the right to life? If we consider the seat belt law, when a person does not wear their seatbelt, they are putting only their own life at risk. This law is then claiming that it is the government’s responsibility to promote life because they are not allowing the passenger to chose whether or not they want to accept the higher probability of dying in an automobile accident that goes along with not wearing seat belt. Now, considering the smoking ban on the University of Michigan’s campus, we can observe where this would fit in. Second hand smoke is bad but in the outline of the smoking ban, it appears as though the new restriction is for the health of the smokers as much, if not more, than that of bystanders. If this is so, we see another case of a governing body promoting peoples life and not their right to life. Smoking is a nasty habit but people accept these risks every time they light up.
According to a CBS article, 14 percent of all deaths in the United States were caused by problems stemming from obesity. If the government were to require all people to eat only carrots and peas, this number would fall and lives would be saved. Why wouldn’t we do this? Because this doesn’t allow us to live a life that would best fit our desires. I will note that it would not be easy to determine this line. People that are for or against either side are that way because they believe that their stance is what is right. However we believe though, we should consider where the trade-off is between life and the good life. Socrates could have lived after facing trial but he chose to die because the life in his future was one that he did not want. There are many things that the government can do to protect more lives, but is it really worth it? Does this allow us to live an enjoyable life that we want to live?