OPINION – Beware the slippery slope. A slippery slope argument is an informal logical fallacy in which it is claimed that if a particular event happens, then it will open the door to another specific event that will inevitably happen later. Therefore, the first event should not be allowed to happen.
A classic example of this fallacy is the way some individuals argued against the relaxing of Utah’s concealed carry law in 1995. If average citizens were allowed to carry guns, we were told, pistols would be brandished every time there was a disagreement. Shootouts would erupt over parking spaces. Blood would run in the streets. Consequently, it would be better to not allow people to legally carry a concealed firearm.
And yet, 18 years and hundreds of thousands of permits later, the hysterical predictions never materialized. But those who invoke the slippery slope aren’t always wrong.
This can be seen in the current push to make not wearing a seat belt a primary offense in Utah. When Utah’s seatbelt law was first enacted, opponents expressed concern that the law would eventually become a pretext to allow law enforcement to stop motorists. But legislators were adamant that the law was only to promote safety behind the wheel and would not become a primary offense.
SB114 seeks to make not wearing a seat belt a primary offense on Utah roads where the speed limit is higher than 55 miles per hour. Currently a person can only be ticketed or warned for not wearing their seatbelt as a secondary offense after being stopped for some other reason.
It turns out that some slippery slopes really are slippery after all.
The problem with seat belt laws is that they are a gross misuse of state power. To illustrate the unreasonable nature of such laws, we must answer a couple of questions. If an adult chooses not to wear a seatbelt yet arrives safely at their destination, has a crime been committed? If so, who is the victim of this crime?
When collectivists claim that a crime requiring state intervention has occurred, yet no one has been objectively injured, their claim is blatantly false. Laws that purport to punish non-crimes are nothing more than coercive dictates that exist to increase the state’s power over us.
While fearful children may prefer living under the watchful gaze of the nanny state, responsible adults don’t need a bureaucratic overseer whose violence can only be prevented by the forced payment of tribute.
Making a seat belt violation into a primary offense sidetracks police officers from actual crimes involving real, not imaginary, injured parties. It invites the state into our lives for reasons that have nothing to do with protecting our rights or promoting justice. Given the increasingly intrusive nature of the state, the less contact we have with members of its extractive branch, the better off we are.
Sadly, there is little that lawmakers won’t attempt to regulate once they’ve succumbed to the siren song of “safety” as justification for their meddling.
The irresistible urge to meddle, appeals to both liberals and conservatives who are willing to embrace petty statism. For example, it was state senator Evan Vickers, who ran as a self-styled “Reagan conservative” in District 28, who helped advance Democratic senator Luz Robles SB114 in committee. Both senators fail to see the faulty logic in their support for this so-called safety measure.
C.S. Lewis perfectly described this quirk of human nature when he wrote, “Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victim may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated, but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”
Seatbelt laws are bad. But that doesn’t mean that seatbelt use is unwise.
Those who use their seatbelts are utilizing a safety device that may very well save their lives, though even safety devices are not a panacea. It’s not unusual for police officers to have to unbuckle dead bodies from car crashes.
On the whole, choosing to wear a seatbelt measurably improves our chances of surviving a crash. But that choice should be the result of an adult voluntarily exercising responsibility for his or her own well-being. It should not be a decision made under duress for the sake of humoring the well-meaning busybodies leading us further down the slippery slope.
Bryan Hyde is a news commentator and co-host of the Perspectives morning show on Fox News 1450 AM 93.1 FM. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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