Statewide liberty issues

I’ve been occupied this past week with winding down my current job, and with the fact that my S.O. has spring break this week. In fact, I almost forgot my commitment to a weekly post, whether you want it or not.

There was a lot of action at the state capitol these last two days, though; some good, some bad, from a liberty perspective. In no particular order:

The House voted to ban sending text messages or otherwise typing while driving. The New Hampshire Liberty Alliance gave this a score of ‒11; however, I don’t have a serious problem with banning patently unsafe behavior. (Unsafe to others, that is.) That said, I really wish that we could boil down a whole set of laws into a simple reckless endangerment law. If you are weaving all over the road and jeopardizing your fellow drivers, I don’t really care whether you are drunk, high, tired, texting, talking on the phone, talking to your passengers, putting on makeup, shaving, reading, or slapping your kids. If witnesses can convince a jury that you were endangering others on the road, possibly provoking them to engage in unsafe driving in order to dodge you, then you should be punished. Being drunk or sending a text message should be circumstances that weigh into your reckless conduct, but it is the reckless driving that is the problem and should be the legal standard.

The House also rejected a ban on smoking when children are in a car. And once again, I love this state; the reasons for rejecting the ban were not that smoking around kids is a great idea, but that “refraining from smoking around children is common sense and should not be legislated.” Although New Hampshire is no libertarian paradise, I have heard more sanity and common sense coming out of politicians’ mouths here in a a few months than in nine years in San Francisco.

Speaking of San Francisco, I was sad to see the marriage equality law come out of committee with a 5–5 vote. I understand that people don’t want their government (and it is their government, just as much as it’s mine) to endorse a lifestyle they find reprehensible. But until we get government out of marriage, it must treat all citizens equally. If a given two adults can enter into a contract with each other, then any two adults must be able to enter into an identical contract. And from a government perspective, that is all a marriage is.

A medical marijuana law also passed the House, which is good news. Drug prohibition is utterly inane, and as evidently counter-productive as alcohol prohibition was. But to further deny terminally ill people medicine prescribed by a doctor is just perverse. Some critics allege that this is a slippery slope to decriminalizing recreational marijuana. They’re right, but that’s a reason to be happy with this step.

And finally, the House voted to repeal the death penalty. A death penalty is one of the most odious things any government can have. I do believe there are some people who are so bad that they should die, and that society would be the better for it. But if I don’t trust the government to regulate banks, care for the poor, or educate children, how can I trust them to decide who lives and who dies? And as more and more people on death row (or already executed) are found innocent, the notion of keeping a death penalty is more and more intractable. This news made me quite happy.

Next week, with any luck, more local Portsmouth issues again.