Sunday, 8 February 2004

Debating libertarianism

Will Baude and Tim Sandefur are engaged in a bit of a running battle with the Curmudgeonly Clerk over whether or not individual libertarians’ having moral positions constitute a betrayal of their commitment to not legislate on the basis of morality.

I tend to agree with Tim that the Clerk is confused on a number of points, and leave the detailed critiques to Tim and Will. My main, and unoriginal, observation would be that “societal acceptance” is something that is relatively independent of legality. (My second observation would be that Reason was a far better arbiter of libertarian thought under Virginia Postrel’s editorship, but that’s neither here nor there.)

Update: Tim Sandefur responds. Actually, after I wrote the above sentence, I realized that the word “arbiter” doesn't quite characterize my thought; I meant something closer to “exemplar.” Indeed, contra Jonah Goldberg (and his bloviation that National Review polices the boundaries of conservatism*), I don’t necessarily think libertarian thought needs an arbiter.

* That these boundaries apparently include the undeniably brilliant but transparently bigoted John Derbyshire within them speaks ill of either conservatism or NR (or perhaps both).

Culling the herd

I’m seriously considering a thorough cleaning of the blogroll in the next few days. Who won’t be going: people who have linked us, and people who have interesting blogs. Who will: people whose blog content I can predict before even clicking through the link.

Then again, I might actually do something vaguely productive like work on the near-mythical impeachment paper instead…

Optimizing Firebird

Buckling up

Today’s CA features an article on the latest effort to make Mississippi’s seatbelt law a “primary offense”, which would permit law enforcement officers to pull over vehicles whose drivers or passengers were not complying with the law. The article notes:

Nationwide, states that switch from secondary to primary seatbelt laws report a 10- to 15-percent increase in seatbelt use, according to the National Safety Council, an Illinois-based advocacy group. In Alabama, seatbelt use climbed from 52 percent in the year before the state passed a primary law to 79 percent two years later.

However, NHTSA data suggests that figure is overstated: their 2003 survey shows an 8% differential between states with primary and secondary laws. And the Alabama figures seem downright implausible—although, given that seatbelt use is trending higher in all states, not entirely outside the realm of possibility.

There are no fewer than six different bills that would make the seatbelt law a primary offense; they mainly differ in (a) whether or not the maximum fine per vehicle would be doubled* and (b) whether or not non-use of seatbelts can be considered contributory or comparative negligence.

* The current law essentially caps the fine at $25, no matter how many people in the vehicle aren't wearing their seatbelts.