You may remember that Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Rand Paul was interviewed in the New York Times Magazine earlier this month. There was a slight disagreement between the Paul and the interviewer:

But in light of your distrust of the federal government, where are you on an issue like seat belts? Federal legislation requiring people to wear seat belts could obviously save lives.
I think the federal government shouldn’t be involved. I don’t want to live in a nanny state where people are telling me where I can go and what I can do.

You shouldn’t trivialize issues of health and safety by calling them nanny issues.
The question is, do you want to live in a nanny state where the government tells you what you can eat, where you can smoke, where you can live, what you can do, or would you rather have some freedom, and freedom means that things aren’t perfect?

There’s no telling how many letters of support or complaint the Times got for that piece, but one response from a Kentuckian is printed in this week’s issue:

Dismissive statements by the Kentucky Senate candidate Rand Paul to Deborah Solomon on federal regulations concerning seat-belt use and public smoking are vacuous. It is simply irresponsible for anyone, least of all a physician like Paul, to tout personal freedoms at any cost. It is deplorable that anyone would openly advocate that the only thing that really matters is the personal choices of the indulgers of unsafe behavior. I’m shocked, really, that Paul would choose to make such ill-informed statements. If he can’t look at the human cost of rolling back seat-belt or antismoking legislation, perhaps he can take a look at the cold bottom line. It costs every citizen-taxpayer a fortune to support emergency assistance for traffic fatalities, and we all pay in increased health-insurance costs when smokers are ill.
GEORGE C. VILLARREAL
Lexington, Ky.

Villarreal’s argument–that it cost everyone money when one reckless person ends up in the emergency room–is often echoed in arguments for trans fat bans and other public safety measures. What are your thoughts?

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