Covid, Seat Belts and Cigarettes

by Bob Schwartz

If you watch old movies, you notice that nearly everybody smokes—sometimes one cigarette after another, sometimes two at a time—and that nobody wears seat belts in cars.

Around the 1960s, the link between smoking and cancer was being accepted and the movement to add seat belts to cars was ramping up. Smoking was never banned, but social pressure and evidence reduced it substantially. Seat belts became required.

Loud liberty activists then and now are quick to say that they are free to smoke 24/7 and are free to drive without restraint, and while we are at it, without speed limits.

One obvious comment is that if you live totally alone, and nothing that happens to you involves other people, that would be fine. But you don’t live alone and your choices do affect other people. Whether they are the people you care about and who care about you, whether they are the people you share the highway with, and those who rescue you and treat your bleeding body or bury it.

To make it more direct:

People you know, people you love, have been saved by the reduction in smoking and the use of seat belts. You may have been saved by the reduction in smoking and the use of seat belts.

That isn’t hard to understand. Advocates of Covid personal freedom can go ahead and write their erudite essays on the philosophy of liberty, if they can. They might not finish it before they take to their beds or end up in the hospital, or someone they know or love does.

Maybe they can’t write that essay, but I know someone who can. Kris Kristofferson is a great songwriter and performer. He was also an Oxford University scholar. Maybe the lyrics to his famous song aren’t Oxford worthy, but they are true:

Freedom’s just another word
For nothing left to lose
Nothing ain’t worth nothing but it’s free