New Braunfels Herald Zeitung (Newspaper) - February 15, 1985, New Braunfels, Texas
New Braunfels Hetald-Zeitung Friday, February 15,1985
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Hie Herald-Zeitung welcomes the opinions of its readers, and we’re happy to publish letters to the editin'.
Letters are published on the Opinions page as soon as they are received, unless delayed by space limitations.
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Send your letter to: Mailbag, New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung, P.O. Drawer 361, New Braunfels Texas, 78131. Letters may also be hand delivered to the newspaper offices at 186 S. Casted.
Columnist wonders about the validity of safety laws, see below
Deva Kraaaar, General Manager Hobart Johnson, Editor
Safety can't be made into law
Three states (New York, New Jersey and Illinois) already have adopted mandatory seat-belt laws. Thirty other states are actively considering such measures. Highway safety is a good cause, but it cannot justify bad law, and that is what we’re drifting into here.
This sudden surge of legislative activity is not the consequence (rf spontaneous combustion in the several capitals. It is the direct consequence of a federal regulation handed down by the secretary of transportation in July of last year. The regulation amounts to a form of blackmail. This is how it works:
Commencing in September 1989, ad cars sold in the United States must be equipped either with air bags or with automatic seat belts — unless. This is the “unless": Cars must be equipped unless states that together contained two-thirds of the U.S. population enact mandatory seat-belt laws by April, 1989. If enough states fad in line, the air-bag requirement wid be nullified.
What we have here is a choice of compulsions. Would you rather be compeded to buckle up, under threat of fine or imprisonment? Or would you rather be compeded to
pay several hundred dollars for an air bag?
Let us make distinctions. If we accept the evidence compiled by authorities on highway safety (and I know of no reason to chadenge these studies), seat belts do indeed save lives. State troopers and other officials have kept records on corpses as the bodies are dragged from wrecked vehicles. In perhaps 4 percent of the fatalities, the occupants were in fact buckled up, but these crashes were of such severity that no one would have survived anyhow. In the overwhelming majority of survivable collisions, the dead are found unbuckled. The government estimates that if even 70 percent of occupants fastened their seat belts, 6,800 lives could be saved every year.
These and other data make a compelling case in favor of buckling up. They do not make a compelling case in favor of making us buckle up. There’s the difference. These laws propose one more well-intended encroachment upon the right of free citizens to make their own choices about their own lives.
There is another objection: The government’s proposition amounts to heads we win, and tails we win too. It is one more manifestation of the discredited theory that Uncle knows best. Our union was founded on the federalist principle of leaving wide areas of responsibility to the states. The idea was to encourage variety in political experiment. To the extent that federal programs deny such opportunities to the states, we weaken one of the foundation stones of our system.
The people, and the states, must be permitted wide latitude. If people fail or refuse to buckle up, they may die because of their disregard for their own safety. But carry the argument a step further. Let us suppose that some harmless, non-addictive drug were discovered that would affect us in all kinds of good ways: Ole tablet before driving would sober the drunk, arouse the sleepy driver, heighten our reactions to traffic hazzards, improve our eyesight and enhance our judgement of road conditions. Then suppose that laws were to be proposed that would require all drivers to take such a tablet twice a
day. We would hear the same plausible argument: Such laws would save 20,000 lives every year! But it is unthinkable that state legislatures would enact them.
There are dangers in reducing arguments to absurdities, but the rhetorical device has its uses nonetheless. The question always must be: Where is the line to be drawn between freedom and compulsion? Historically we have drawn the line In terms of the danger that one person causes to another. We do not have laws that compel people to take baths, but we have laws of quarantine against contagious diseases. In historic districts, we leave a property owner free to do what he will with the interior of his house, but we insist that he do nothing to the exterior that will harm the property value of his neighbor’s house.
When we get into this business (rf air bags and seat belts, we are talking about preserving our lives. Fine! But we ought also to be talking about preserving our freedoms — including, if you please, the freedom to be
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Rep. Edmund Kuempel Texas House of Representatives P.O. Box 2910 Austin, Texas 78769 Rep. Mac Sweeney (Guadalupe County) U.S. House of Representatives Washington. D.C., 20515 Rep. Tom Loeffler U.S. House of Representatives 1212 Long worth House Office Bldg Washington, D.C. 20515
Sen. John Traeger Texas Senate Capitol Station Austin, Texas, 78711
Gov. Mark White Governor's Office Room 200 State Capitol Austin, Texas 78701
Sen. Phil Gramm United States Senate Washington D.C., 20510
Sen. Lloyd Bentsen United States Senate Room 240 Russell Bldg Washington, D.C. 20510
WASHINGTON - The United States has had little success enlisting the governments of narcotics-producing countries in the fight against the international dope traffic. These countries are terrified their economies aught colla pee if the drug dealers are stopped Now there’s a faint glimmer of hope that one of the worst offenders in this hemisphere — Colombia — is beginning to realize that the economic benefits of the dope trade may not be worth the political instability. This possible change of attitude is reported in confidential State Department cables seen by my associate Donald Goldberg Colombia is the source of a large share of
Colombia sees merits in drug control
the cocaine that is smuggled into this country. For years, the United States has been trying to get the Colombian government to crack down on growers, processors and shippers, who have been operating with virtual impunity to Colombia.
As recently as last year, the Colombians were clearly not enthusiastic about the antidrug war. Drug Enforcement Administration officials privately told several members of Congress that DEA’s offices in Bogota were actually being bugged by the government.
But the ugly turn of events in the past year has apparently been an eye-opener for the
government of President Belisario Betancur. Not only have U.S. diplomats and drug agents been threatened, causing the State Department to recall some for their own protection, but Colombians themselves have been targets of assassins believed to be paid by the drug dealers Betancur’s minister of justice was one of the victims.
But perhaps more important was Betancur’s realization that Colombia really doesn’t reap much economic benefit from the dope traffic. The big money is made after the dope leaves Colombia.
“President Betancur dismissed the theory (rf some people that drug money is beneficial
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to Colombia because of its external debt," one cable reports on a conversation with Betancur. “Moat of the drug money, he said, does not come to Colombia, but remains in the U.S. Only operating funds are returned to Colombia by the traffickers."
The clincher for Betancur, apparently, was the discovery of close ties between drug dealers and left-wing guerrilla groups. Though solid proof is difficult to get, the new Colombian justice minister, Enrique Pare Jo, gave this rundown to U.S. officials, according to a cable from the embassy:
"He said there appeared to be two schools of thought in the narcotraficantes* (drug dealers’) ranks. One group held that money ami arms should be supplied to insurgents in order to distract- .security forces from their anti-drug efforts. Another group allegedly held that the government of Colombia would eventually lessen the intensity of its antidrug struggle in any case, and nothing need be done to encourage the insurgents.
“PareJo said the first theory was worrisome, but dismissed the second theory as wishful thinking."
Betancur has asked the Reagan administration for more patrol helicopters and for photographic intelligence from UJS. satellites on airplane flights within Colombia to help mil the smugglers.
A management seminar the Office of Personnel Management will conduct for the Defense Mapping Agency has caused grumbling among the 20 mid-level officials who will attend.
What has riled is a "Temperament Survey" the OPM experts have instructed the seminarians to fill out before the confab.
The survey has 300 questions intended to reveal the respondent’s temperament by evaluating such provocative statements as these:
—"You daydream a great deal."
— "You take the lead in putting life into a dull party.”
— "Moat people are stupid."
—"Odors of perspiration disgust you."
After answering the forms, the officials will discuss their responses with a professor. Defense officials said that any identifying information will be destroyed, and insisted that the questionnaire is strictly voluntary. But a cover memo accompanying the survey says quite dearly, "You must complete and return..."
One statement that might have given a strong clue to the reepoodsnts’temperament was unaccountably left out: "You think surveys like this are a blankety-blank invasion of privacy."