Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Remember our founding principles

Commentary by Doug Ellsley

Doug Ellsley is a resident of Ketchum.

Your editorial Wednesday, July 19, chastising the Idaho House Transportation Committee for rejecting a mandatory motorcycle helmet law illustrates a fundamental problem in our community and, I believe, our current society. That problem is that principles have given way to interests.

A principle is a belief that endures even when it is not currently advantageous. Principles are not to be bent toward the convenient or cost effective.

Our country was founded on the principle of unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This implies a freedom from being told how to live by a tyrannical government that the founding fathers recognized could be more onerous than any other threat to society.

The freedom (a word which you recklessly put in quotes as if it was some triviality) for an adult to choose whether or not to wear a helmet should not be abridged by a law intended to protect me from myself, or to save money.

How easy it was for you to say, "These motorcyclists are making choices that are costing me money! Let's make them criminals."

The world is a dangerous place. How many of our other frivolous little freedoms would you be willing to dispense with to save insurance dollars or keep us idiots from hurting ourselves? Smoking kills roughly 1,200 people in America every day and costs an estimated $167 billion annually in health costs and lost productivity. Surely we shouldn't let these reckless individuals hurt themselves in this manner.

The NSA believes that wiretapping Americans will make us safer from terrorists. They are probably right. It will make us safer, but at what cost to our right to privacy?

Obesity is the number one health problem in the country, costing untold billions in health related expenses. How many of these people's freedoms should be appropriated for their irresponsible dietary choices?

Personally, I am not a smoker. It would be in my interests for smoking to be illegal in the Untied States. But regardless of my interests, I believe people have a right to smoke if they want, based on principles.

Freedom is a double-edged sword. The right to free speech entails fighting for the right of a person to shout at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours. Freedom is not easy.

But these principles should transcend our personal interests.

In this town, our community principles are constantly assaulted by interests. For example, the principle of creating affordable housing is quickly trampled by the interests of those neighbors that, God forbid, might have to endure some extra traffic, or the improbable actuality of reduced property values.

Newspaper editorials are meant for opinions of what is right or wrong in our little world. I would submit that the editorial board of this paper consider the principle of an adult's right to make their own choices as to how to live their life, else we find ourselves in a theater of constantly bickering interests and no freedoms at all.

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