By now, most will have heard that the young star quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Ben Rothlesburger, crashed his motorcycle and sustained head injuries in part because he was not wearing a helmet. You can bet that someone in the legislature will introduce a helmet law in the next week, since most nanny-state legislation of this type usually gets passed in reaction to one high-profile incident where some legislator can grab some press.
Here is what really upset me yesterday: Listening to a sports-talk radio station yesterday talking about this accident, I heard a number of people call in and say the following:
"I don't blame Ben for riding without a helmet -- that's legal in Pennsylvania. I blame the state for not having a helmet law"
Wow - you don't see the death of individual responsibility highlighted any more starkly than that. Much more on the topic here.
By the way, helmet laws are a particularly interesting bit of nanny-statism, since motorcyclers are such a small percentage of the population. In most states where this law gets passed, the votes of people who will never ride a motorcycle and for whom the law will always be irrelevant generally overwhelms the wishes of motorcyclers themselves. I wonder how many women who piously preach that the government can't tell us what to do with our bodies typically vote for helmet laws that tell people, uh, what they can do with their bodies.
Increasingly, you hear people justify helmet laws by saying "well, taxpayers have to pay the medical bill if someone gets hurt riding without a helmet." I addressed this argument that public health care justifies total control of our lives in this post on health care as a Trojan horse for fascism. (and here)